Lucky number seven for captain McGrath

NOEL McGRATH ended his underage hurling career in the best possible style by captaining Loughmore/Castleiney to their first Tipperary U21A HC title when they defeated Burgess in Templederry yesterday.

It was the seventh time of asking for the Tipperary senior star to win an elusive U21 county title with his club, having played in the grade first as a 14-year-old in 2004 prior to the introduction of the current age restrictions.

The St Stephen’s Day success completed a remarkable record for the famed Mid Tipperary dual club as it was the only title in either grade or age group that had eluded them up to yesterday — and what a belated Christmas present it was.

“It is a great success considering the club had never won it before,” admitted a beaming Noel McGrath.

“It is a nice way to finish off at U21 level, it is one I have been looking for for a long time and at my last chance to get it, I got it.

“To win anything with your club, especially winning a county final like that, is huge achievement and is something I am very proud of. I was lucky to win a senior medal a few years ago and to add this makes it a very proud moment,” added the Loughmore captain.

The victory was achieved in a more comfortable style than many had expected with a big crowd descending on the Templederry venue for the eagerly anticipated tie, with Loughmore favourites against a Burgess side that had beaten fancied opposition in Nenagh Eire Og and Clonoulty/Rossmore en route to the final.

Loughmore put themselves in a great position at half time when they held a narrow 0-6 to 0-5 lead despite having played against the stiff wind which Burgess failed to take full advantage of.

Chief score-taker Stephen Murray was closely marked in open play and was restricted to efforts from placed balls, of which were two well-struck sideline cuts.

Two superb saves by goalkeeper Paddy Looby kept Burgess in touch but within seven minutes of the restart, Loughmore had struck five unanswered points with Noel McGrath and brother John, who won an All-Ireland minor football medal with Tipperary in September, leading the procession.

Burgess only managed one second-half score through a Stephen Murray free as Loughmore marched on relentlessly with All-Ireland minor football-winning captain Liam McGrath top-scoring with six points. The lead was out to 10 points when Paddy Looby was finally beaten by a crisp, low shot from Cian Hennessy in the 49th minute.

The Burgess goalkeeper was unfortunate to concede a second goal in injury-time after pulling off another blinding save from John McGrath but the Tipp minor sent the rebound to the net to seal the historic success.

Scorers for Loughmore/Castleiney: L McGrath 0-6 (3f); J McGrath, C Hennessy 1-3 each; N McGrath 0-4; L Treacy 0-2; A McGrath (1f), B McGrath 0-1 each.

Scorers for Burgess: S Murray 0-5 (3f, 2 sl), E Hogan 0-1.

LOUGHMORE/CASTLEINEY: C Cleary; P Moynihan, W Eviston, L Egan; J Hennessy, A McGrath, H Maher; N McGrath, J McGrath; E Connolly, L Treacy, T McGrath; C Hennessy, L McGrath, P Egan.

Subs: T Maher for Egan (56); B McGrath for Connolly (59)

BURGESS: P Looby; W Ryan, J O’Dwyer, D O’Donoghue; J O’Flaherty, J Mulqueen, K Ryan; M O’Flaherty, P Gill; T O’Halloran, J O’Brien, S Murray; E Hogan, K Seymour, D Eyan.

Subs: K O’Flaherty for Seymour (ht); V Kearns for O’Brien (44); T Hogan for K Ryan (50); J Coady for O’Halloran (60); B Carroll for J O’Flaherty (60).

Referee: P Kelly (Ballinahinch).

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