Yesterday it was the turn of another Tipperary minor star, but this time from a different code and with a different school; Jason Forde, last year’s Tipperary minor hurling captain, notched 1-5 of Nenagh’s 1-7, thus inspiring his side to do what they failed to do last week, and close out the deal.
Conditions at The Ragg were terrible, no fault of the local club who had the pitch in as good a condition as you’ll find anywhere at this time of year. No, this was down to the rain, which fell incessantly. That such a massive crowd still turned up (the stand was packed, hundreds more following proceedings from their cars on sloping banks of the uncovered side) was testimony not just to the enduring interest in hurling in Tipperary, but to the talent in these two schools, to the fare they served up in the drawn game.
They did it again here, defying the conditions to produce another enthralling encounter. With players struggling to hold their feet, struggling also to hold onto their hurleys, the ball like a bar of soap, this was always going to be a low-scoring affair, advantage very much with the defenders. Thus it proved, the teams tied at two points apiece at the break.
Thurles were very quickly off the mark, a pointed free in the opening minute by corner-forward Conor Lanigan, but it was 14 minutes before we saw another score, the skilful Forde equalising for Nenagh with his first point of the game.
The powerful Kennedy then hit a long-range point for Thurles but it was Jason Forde again replying for Nenagh, making it 0-2 each.
As in the drawn game Thurles had plenty of possession but were having problems finding their range. A total of 16 wides they shot last week, seven more they had in that opening half here, wides that would ultimately prove costly. They also had a couple of goal opportunities, Nenagh keeper Will Power (what a great name for an athlete!) fumbling two balls, but on each occasion he recovered well, the chances lost.
In the second half Thurles again began well, two points inside the opening three minutes, both by Lanigan, but Nenagh then reeled off three-in-a-row (Forde with two, sandwiched around an opportunist point by James Mackey) to take the lead for the first time in the game, 0-5 to 0-4, 40 minutes gone.
That advantage didn’t last very long, however; points from Lanigan, midfielder Pat Ralph and Clonoulty’s Sean Maher had Thurles back in front by two points as the game headed into the final quarter, and they looking set for victory. Then came the game’s decisive score.
A high centre into the Thurles danger area by Jason Forde was won by Paudge Shanahan, leaving full-back John Ryan with little choice but to bring him down. Inside the area — penalty, said referee Paddy Russell, and Jason’s well-struck bouncer gave the three-man wall no chance; 1-5 to 0-7.
Again Thurles came back to tie, again Lanigan doing the honours, but two late points (Forde — inevitably — and Shanahan) saw Nenagh home.
A rare win for them over Thurles CBS, and their reward? A semi-final date with the reigning champions, Limerick city powerhouse Árdscoil Rís — hold off on those celebrations!
Scorers for Nenagh: J Forde 1-5 (1-0p, 3fs), P Shanahan, J Mackey 0-1 each.
Scorers for Thurles: C Lanigan 0-5 (4fs), S Kennedy, P Ralph, S Maher (Treacy’s) 0-1 each.
NENAGH CBS: W Power; D Quinn, J Flaherty, S Cleary; E Hynes, J Peters, K Gleeson; J Loughnane, T Gallagher; S O’Brien, J Forde, P Shanahan; P Fogarty, C Delaney, J Mackey.
Subs: S Geaney for Delaney (51), C Leo for Cleary (inj. 59).
THURLES CBS: J Maher; J Bourke, J Ryan, B Troy; R Maher, S Kennedy, C Quirke; P Ralph, S Cahill; Sean Maher (Clonoulty-Rossmore), P Hayes, Sean Maher (Sean Treacy’s); C Hammersley, K Slattery, C Lanigan.
Subs: J Maher for Slattery (30), E Moriarty for Hayes (58), D Burke for Ralph (inj. 60+2).
Referee: P Russell (Tipperary)