This Munster club SHC semi-final came with a late Thurles surge to win the battle of the Sars. Right from the start it was a contest of the highest calibre, two teams taking advantage of a break in the recent rainy weather to serve up a quality contest, a game garnished with several sumptuous scores.
The Cork champions were fastest from the traps, two points on the board in the first three minutes courtesy of freetaker Cian McCarthy and wing-forward Daniel Roche.
Tipperary inter-county colleagues Pa Bourke and Lar Corbett were soon into the fray for Thurles, however, first Pa with two points, then Lar with a trademark virtuoso goal. Grabbing a high Pádraic Maher clearance around midfield, Lar took off at pace, directly down the throat of the Cork side’s defence. Everyone backed off, waiting for the lay-off. It never came, Lar instead opting to go it alone, finishing with a fierce drive to the net.
That goal was the difference between the teams in the 11th minute but it could have been more, Alan Kennedy making a brilliant point-blank save to deny Bourke, who had stolen in behind the defence, the shot deflected over for a point – 1-4 to 0-4.
Not for long. At the other end of the field Wexford county player Eoin Quigley started and finished a move that resulted in the first goal for his adopted side and this score gave his side a boost, Cian McCarthy and Gavin O’Loughlin adding points to put the visitors two ahead in the 17th minute, 1-6 to 1-4.
Entertaining fare for a disappointing attendance of just 2,934, but it was to get even better. Thurles Sars went on a run, the most sustained period of dominance by either side in the game, hitting seven points without reply in an 11-minute spell to lead by five as the game headed into time-added-on. A couple of points before the break, however from McCarthy and Quigley had the game back in the melting-pot, 1-11 to 1-8, and given there was no breeze to speak of it was still all to play for.
The third quarter was won by Thurles, and well won, veteran midfielder Johnny Enright making his presence felt from long-range frees (two) and general play as the Tipperary champions stretched their lead to six. It wasn’t over, however – far from it.
Back came the Cork Sars and again it was a Quigley goal, a duplicate of Lar Corbett’s first-half effort in style and execution, followed by points from the lively Ronan Murphy and Cian McCarthy. Suddenly what had been a six-point lead was down to one. The Cork champions did tie it up, 2-15 to 1-18 as the game entered the three signalled minutes of added time but that’s when Thurles really exploded.
First it was wing-back Michael Cahill with a great burst up the middle before parting to sub Richie Ruth for the decisive goal, then two clinching points from Aidan McCormack and big-hitting Johnny Enright.
Tough on the Cork Sars but overall, a fair result.
“There are no medals or cups given out today,” Thurles manager Seamus Quinn pointed out.
“For us to get back to that stage, regardless of who we were meeting, was a battle. We’re here now and it’s 50-50.”
Scorers for Thurles Sars: P Bourke 0-7 (2fs), A McCormack 0-5, L Corbett 1-1, J Enright 0-4 (3fs), R Ruth 1-0, G O’Grady, M Gleeson, M O’Brien, 0-1 each.
Scorers for Sars: C McCarthy 0-8 (6fs, 1 65), E Quigley 2-1, G O’Loughlin, R Murphy 0-2 each, D Roche, T Óg Murphy 0-1 each.
Subs for Thurles Sarsfield: R Ruth for J Corbett (41), J Maher for Gleeson (inj. 41), G O’Grady for J Maher (51), S Cahill for A McCormack (60+1).
Subs for Sars: E O’Sullivan for D Kearney (inj. 30), K Murphy for O’Driscoll (39), G O’Kelly-Lynch for Leahy (inj. 53), W Kearney for R Murphy (57).
Referee: M Wadding (Waterford)