Thurles Sarsfields on guard as Gunners wait in ‘Munster minefield’

Thurles Sarsfields coach Paddy McCormack is full of praise for his side’s Munster club SHC opponents on Sunday, Ballygunner of Waterford.
Thurles Sarsfields on guard as Gunners wait in ‘Munster minefield’

No, not the usual plamás. McCormack was identifying similarities between the Tipp champions and the Gunners. Both of them big beasts in their own counties, both of them on a mission in the provincial series, both of them sprinkled with inter-county talent.

“You could see how impressive Ballygunner were last weekend in their own county final, but there was huge credit due too to their county players for standing up to the mark when they were needed.

“That’s why they’re county champions, and we’d like to think that that would apply to us and our team too. Both clubs would probably say that their county players do it for the county, but they also do it for the club.

“Between the Mahonys for them and the Mahers for us, these are great county men but great club players as well, and you have to admire them for that. It’s a long year for all of them, particularly the Waterford lads given the run they had, and they’ve all got a lot of work done at this stage.”

McCormack’s men have vast experience, and he acknowledges the benefits of that nous — see the Tipp county final win over Borris-Ileigh, when Sarsfields displayed all the benefits of appearing in those previous deciders.

“There’s no point in hiding, it has to count for something. We’ve had close calls ourselves in the Tipperary championship this season — Nenagh and Loughmore challenged us, Upperchurch led us with quarter of an hour to go, Kilruane brought us to extra-time and we were lucky to make it to extra-time. If we played Borris again that game would be a lot closer, no doubt about that. The experience stood to us on the day - we had a good start and stayed ahead, but the Tipp championship is a hard one to win.

“And the Munster club is a very difficult competition to win — look at the county champions who are in it. It’s a minefield, but it’s one we’re delighted to be in. Ballygunner have four counties in a row won, we’re looking forward to it and we’d expect the game to come down to a puck of the ball.”

McCormack pointed to Ballygunner’s recent run of wins as evidence of their class, but there’s more recent history between the sides. Last year just one point separated them at the same stage of the competition.

“Fair play to Ballygunner, they’ve been out six weeks in a row, which shows how good a team they are. They were convincing against De La Salle last weekend but they had to fight hard to beat Lismore before that, for instance. They came up to us here in Semple Stadium last year, and it was a 50-50 game right to the last puck of the game. We were lucky to win it with a 65, the very last puck of the ball.

“There’s a lot of similarities between the two teams, when you look at it — we’re both after winning four county senior titles in a row, both teams have a fair share of county men, and former countymen, and both have been around in the Munster club for a couple of years.”

Sarsfields make the reverse journey this Sunday — not that the venue will decide the game, McCormack added.It’s a big challenge. We’re looking forward to the trip down to Walsh Park, but it’s a very hard place to go to. You only have to see down the years how hard Tipperary teams at all age levels have found it to win there, senior as well, and we’re not expecting any difference in that this weekend.

“Munster club hurling takes place at a certain time of the year, so the venue does stand for something but it won’t be an excuse come Sunday. The weather, the field, the conditions, none of that will be put forward after the game. We’re looking forward to representing Tipperary to the best of our ability, to give it everything and seeing where that takes us.”

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