Clonoulty 'replay' winning formula

KEEPING Lar Corbett scoreless — it’s a winning formula.

Four weeks after Kilkenny deprived last year’s hurler of the year of a score in winning an All-Ireland title, Clonoulty-Rossmore followed the same script on their way to avenging the heartache inflicted upon them by Thurles Sarsfields in last year’s final and the 2008 semi-final games.

They now meet Drom-Inch, another team that has felt Sarsfields’ sword in recent years, in what has the makings of a captivating county final.

So frustrated was Corbett with Joey O’Keeffe’s tight-marking, by the end of yesterday’s contest he was sent to the line for a second yellow card offence. Just minutes earlier, Sarsfields’ substitute David Kennedy had been shown a straight red card for an off-the-ball incident.

The dismissals were symptomatic of just how hard Clonoulty-Rossmore made life for them in Semple Stadium.

John O’Neill was the embodiment of their steeliness, going down with a serious leg injury in the first-half but managing to offset a hobble to score a point and contribute right until the dying minutes when he retired as a blood substitute.

Even with four casualties from their quarter-final win last weekend, Clonoulty-Rossmore refused to relent here, extending their half-time lead of three to eight points in the 40th minute and retrieving it five minutes later before Sarsfields staged a late fight-back.

Five points in succession, two coming from Pa Bourke frees and the others from Sarsfields’ substitutes, brought them back to within three but Clonoulty-Rossmore weren’t for wilting.

In the five minutes of injury-time, it was they who rose to the occasion, substitute Martin Sadlier taking a pass from Sean Maher after an exquisite fetch to score his team’s first point in 16 minutes.

Timmy Hammersley then delivered the deadly blow to Sarsfields after John O’Keeffe, showing no signs of last month’s All-Ireland final disappointment affecting him, won a free.

The scenes of jubilation that followed John Cleary’s final whistle are usually kept for after finals but anyone who knew the west Tipperary club’s pain against yesterday’s rivals would appreciate their unbridled joy.

“Sarsfields beat them in 2008 after a draw, a replay and extra-time,” outlined admitted Clonoulty-Rossmore manager TJ Ryan.

“Last year we came in here and we weren’t focused properly. John O’Keeffe was outstanding marking Pa Bourke, Joey O’Keeffe also did a great job on Lar. It just shows you what can be done. It was something similar to what Kilkenny did to the Tipperary forwards in the All-Ireland.”

Clonoulty-Rossmore’s 2-5 to 0-8 half-time was a deserved one, their first goal coming in the fifth minute from a wickedly-struck Hammersley free which deflected off a Sarsfields’ hurley and rocketing against the stanchion.

Sarsfields recovered to level matters but they found themselves behind on 18 minutes when Conor Ryan overcame a slip to feed Ciaran Quirke who fired the ball past Patrick McCormack.

With three points, Denis Maher kept Sarsfields within touch but he was stifled after the break. Three frees from Hammersley combined with points from Conor Ryan and O’Neill in the opening five minutes put Clonoulty-Rossmore eight ahead.

Michael Gleeson and Michael O’Brien’s points threatened a Sarsfields rally only for Hammersley to register his first from play and Tom Butler to follow suit.

Four of Thurles’ five subs scored but too many of the starters were foundwanting with inter-county players Padraic Maher and Michael Cahill a couple of the exceptions.

Scorers for Clonoulty-Rossmore: T Hammersley 1-8 (1-6f, 1 65); C Quirke 1-0; J Moloney, S Maher, C Ryan, J O’Neill, T Butler, M Sadlier 0-1 each.

Scorers for Thurles Sars: P Bourke 0-4 (3f); D Maher 0-3; A Kennedy, R Ruth, A McCormack, M Gleeson, M O’Brien, J Enright, D Kennedy, J Maher 0-1 each.

CLONOULTY-ROSSMORE: D O’Dwyer; Joey O’Keeffe, J Heffernan, K Horan; P Heffernan, J Devane, John O’Keeffe; S O’Connor, T Butler; S Maher, C Ryan, J Moloney; J O’Neill, T Hammersley, C Quirke.

Subs: F O’Keeffe for Ryan (49); M Sadlier for Butler (57); M Coen for Moloney (59); A Kearney for Horan (60).

THURLES SARS: P McCormack; David Maher, K O’Gorman, M Cahill; S Lillis, P Maher, T King; S Lillis, A Kennedy; P Bourke, Denis Maher, A McCormack; R Ruth, G O’Grady, L Corbett.

Subs: D Kennedy for O’Grady (h-t); M O’Brien for McCormack (41); J Enright for Gleeson (47); B O’Dwyer for King (51); J Maher for Ruth (53).

Referee: John Cleary (Knockshegowna)

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