Pa Bourke nails Ballygunner with Thurles winner at the death

Thurles Sarsfields (Tipperary) 0-17 Ballygunner (Waterford) 0-16: Yesterday’s Munster Club SHC quarter-final came down to one play in injury time, when Thurles Sarsfields’ free-taker, Pa Bourke, stood over a 65 that would nudge his side one ahead against Waterford champions Ballygunner.

Pa Bourke nails Ballygunner with Thurles winner at the death

His team-mate Padraic Maher gave this evaluation after the full-time whistle: “He showed great guts there but he’s cool, he’s practising those every day of the week. That’s no bother to him, and he showed great guts — straight over the black spot.”

On the money from the big Sars centre-back, who dominated proceedings and ended the game with the ball in his mitt.

Bourke nailed that 65, which was a fair reflection of the game.

Ballygunner ended it one point adrift but were chasing their opponents from midway through the first half, when Sars hit four points in a row and found their range from well out the field. Their ability to hit points from long distance gave them a marked advantage over the Waterford side, who relied heavily on Padraic Mahony’s accuracy from dead balls.

Late in the game they dropped three consecutive efforts into the hand of Sars keeper Patrick McCormack from long range, a sin their opponents weren’t guilty of.

With Maher mopping up plenty of ball in his own half and Stephen Cahill accurate from distance, Sars were two up at the end of the first half, but they might have made it a lot more comfortable had they converted a gilt-edged chance just after half-time.

In a game that finished goalless, Conor Lanigan won a Sars penalty at the start of that second half. The fact that Bourke fluffed his lift completely with the penalty, and ended up striking a weak ground shot harmlessly into Gunners’ keeper Stephen O’Keeffe, made his match-winning strike from 65 metres all the more laudable.

With Ballygunner hot on Sars’ trail all through that second half, extra time looked inevitable when yet another Mahony free and a superb long-range effort from David O’Sullivan made it 0-16 apiece as the clock went past 60 minutes. Cue Bourke and his nerves of steel, though.

Ballygunner boss Denis Walsh wasn’t making excuses at the final whistle, though his charges had, as Padraic Maher pointed out, been going week on week for the last month or so.

“We couldn’t use that (as an excuse) because in fairness they took it handy on Sunday night and came back training on Wednesday.

“There wasn’t a word about last weekend — we had a few niggly injuries, but you wouldn’t have said our lads were out on their feet. If it had gone to extra time we looked the stronger.

“Even in our last two plays, though, we pumped the ball down on top of Padraic Maher, which we did quite a bit of in the first half as well. The players knew that wasn’t in our mindset coming into the game.

“We still did it, though. We needed to work the ball, and we did that very well at times in the second half, but that’s what happens when you’re under pressure, trying to find something extra.

“I did it myself plenty of times, so I couldn’t fault anyone on that.”

Walsh clearly shared the unhappiness among Ballygunner supporters with the performance of referee Johnny Murphy: “The referee didn’t have his best game today, being straight about it. That’s all I could say, really — I couldn’t over-elaborate. That’s not to take away from Sars, it was put up to them today and they came out the right side of it.”

For Maher, the prospect of next week’s Munster semi-final against the Clare champions was already looming large.

“The last 10 or 15 minutes the legs started to drag alright, but we’re blessed with the weather conditions, it’s great to have gotten through, but it’s no good getting through this weekend when next weekend is around the corner.

“We’d always be confident but fair play to Ballygunner, we knew they’d been playing week in, week out there for the last six or seven weeks.

“We needed everything near the finish. We wouldn’t be happy - we drove a lot of wides in the game and we seemed a little uneasy on the ball in the first half, we had a few balls 60 yards out that the lads would usually be banging over.

“We’ve plenty to work on next weekend, we know that. We were down in Ennis two years ago against Cratloe and we didn’t do ourselves justice. We’ll get ourselves right and go from there.

“We’ve been here six or seven times before, and we’ve been beaten by one or two points, and we’ve won games by one or two points. There’s nothing in these games. Today proved that.”

Denis Walsh chipped in on that next game, too: “If Sars think the Munster final is there for the taking . . . there’s nothing going to be soft. But that game will stand to them.”

Scorers for Thurles Sarsfields:

P. Bourke (0-7, 5 frees 1 65); S. Cahill (0-4); R. Maher (0-2); L. Corbett, A. McCormack, D. Maher, S. Lillis (0-1 each).

Scorers for Ballygunner:

P. Mahony (0-9, frees); D. O’Sullivan, P. Hogan (0-2 each); S. O’Sullivan, H. Barnes, B. O’Sullivan (0-1 each).

THURLES SARSFIELDS:

P. McCormack, S. Maher, R. Maher, M. Cahill, S. Lillis, P. Maher (c), D. Maher, R. Dwan, S. Cahill, B. McCarthy, A. McCormack, P. Bourke, C. Lanigan, R. Ruth, L. Corbett.

Subs:

J. Maher for Dwan (16); T. Doyle for Ruth (inj., 29); D. Kennedy for Cahill (inj., 46); M. O’Brien for Langan (50); C. Moloney for Corbett (58).

BALLYGUNNER:

S. O’Keeffe, E. Hayden, B. Coughlan, I. Kenny, W. Hutchinson, Philip Mahony, S. Walsh, H. Barnes, S. O’Sullivan, D. O’Sullivan, Pauric Mahony, C. Power (vc), P. Hogan, B. O’Sullivan (c), T. O’Sullivan.

Subs:

S. Power for C. Power, B. O’Keeffe for T. O’Sullivan (both 48) Referee: J. Murphy (Limerick).

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