Clinical forward play, the game’s dominant personality in captain Padraic Maher, and a professional attitude from start to finish combined to give them an easy win over inexperienced challengers Borris-Ileigh.
Conor Stakelum’s opportunist goal on 45 minutes — the very definition of a poacher’s score — was the nail in the Borris coffin, but Sars’ name was on the trophy long before that.
“It’s not now, it’s in years to come that these lads will remember,” said Sars coach Paddy McCormack afterwards.
“We’re delighted, it was probably our strongest performance of the year. We’ve struggled a few times. As I said last week, Upperchurch put us to the pin of our collar, Kilruane could have taken us out, we weren’t that impressive the last day, but from start to finish today we were on top and pushed on.
“Naturally, we’ll want to smell the flowers now. County finals are hard to win, and we’ll enjoy this one.”
The game was slow to kindle, not helped by a lengthy hold-up for medical attention to Padraic Maher early on. After 10 minutes, it was two points apiece and challengers Borris looked like they’d settled.
A fully recovered Maher and Pa Bourke nudged Sars two ahead by the quarter-hour mark, however. The Blues also withdrew Lar Corbett to pick up Borris talisman Brendan Maher, who was sweeping behind his side’s half-back line.
Sars then hit seven points on the bounce, Lar Corbett’s long-range effort making it 0-9 to 0-2, saw the champions cruising.
Borris put in a spurt to cut the deficit before the break, with Kieran and Brendan Maher (a free) to the fore and, when Dan McCormack hit a fine score from distance, it was, improbably, a four-point game. Pa Bourke had a sight of goal just afterwards, but Borris turned him back, leaving it 0-11 to 0-7 at the break.
That brief rally didn’t survive half-time: Early points from Aidan McCormack (a free), Stephen Cahill and Denis Maher pushed Sars ahead by double scores, 0-14 to 0-7, on 35 minutes, and Brendan Maher’s free-taking was Borris’s only response.
Sars twice came close to the goal that would have killed the contest, through Lar Corbett and Conor Stakelum, before the latter had the score that put an end to the Borris challenge. When keeper Jack Bourke batted down a ball in the Borris square, Stakelum was on hand to goal for Thurles and leave it 1-17 to 0-9.
Thurles tacked on another seven points before the finish, and even a late Brendan Maher close-range free for Borris was saved.
Afterwards, Brendan Maher stated the facts of the case: “We were beaten by a better team, I thought we were doing well against them in the first half, but we didn’t seem to be getting anything out of it.
“In fairness, they stopped our threats up there and we only had two points after 17, 18 minutes. We had a little bit of a run before half-time and we said we’d give it a go in the second half, but they’re not four-in-a-row champions by chance. They’re an excellent team and, as a Tipperary man, now you’d hope they’ll go on. They’ve been close in other years, but haven’t gotten over that final hurdle. I hope they do this year.”
It was a mark of Sars’ dominance in this decider that that was the key question being asked as the crowds streamed out of Semple Stadium. They face the Waterford champions in the Munster club championship, with many observers tipping Ballygunner to emerge from the southeast.
That’s a contest to whet the appetite of any hurling fan, with both sides boasting plenty of intercounty talent and a wealth of experience. To judge by the ease with which Sars cruised to victory yesterday, it will take significant opposition to derail their latest campaign.
B. Maher (0-5 frees); D. McCormack (0-3); L. Ryan (0-2). K. Maher (0-1)
A. McCormack (0-9, 6 frees, 1 65); C. Stakelum (1-2); B. McCarthy, D. Maher (0-3 each); P. Bourke, L. Corbett (0-2 each); S. Cahill, R. Maher, P. Maher (0-1 each)
J. Bourke, T. Fahy, P. Stapleton (c), M. Stapleton L. Ryan, C. Cowan, S. McCormack, B. Maher, S. Burke, N. Kenny, D. McCormack, J. Kelly, J. Hogan, C. Kenny, K. Maher.
J. Harkin for M. Stapleton (inj, 16); K. Ryan for Hogan (48); V. Stapleton for K. Maher (55); M. Ryan for Fahy (58).
P. McCormack, S. Maher, C. Moloney, M. Cahill, R. Maher, P. Maher (c), S. Lillis, J. Maher, S. Cahill, B. McCarthy, A. McCormack, P. Bourke, C. Stakelum, D. Maher, L. Corbett.
M. O’Brien for Bourke (inj., 34); T. Doyle for Stakelum (blood, 49-51); T. Doyle for D. Maher (52); C. Lanigan for S. Maher, R. Purcell for Moloney (both 58).
F. Horgan (Knockavilla).