Thurles Sarsfields (Tipperary) 0-17 Ballygunner (Waterford) 0-16
By Michael Moynihan, Semple Stadium
Drama in this Munster club SHC quarter-final in sunny Thurles, with Pa Bourke’s late, late 65 providing a winner for Thurles Sars over Ballygunner.
Sarsfields defended the town end goal in the first half, with Young Hurler of the Year candidate Ronan Maher picking up Ballygunner dangerman Pauric Mahony.
Padraic Maher, playing as a sweeper, hit a lot of ball early on for Sarsfields, but Ballygunner’s patient build-up play - and Mahony’s accuracy - helped them to a 0-4 to 0-3 lead on twelve minutes.
Sarsfields then hit four on the bounce, including two beauties from midfielder Stephen Cahill, to edge ahead, while wayward deliveries upfield from Ballygunner gave possession back to their opponents.
Two Mahony frees made it 0-7 to 0-6 by the 23rd minute, when Sars’ keeper Patrick McCormack saved smartly from Peter Hogan as Ballygunner sniffed a goal; when the ball went downfield Stephen Lillis hit the point of the first half. A late Mahony free made it 0-9 to 0-7 at the break.
Immediately on the resumption Conor Lanigan won a Sars’ penalty but Bourke fluffed the lift completely and his shot trickled harmlessly into Stephen O’Keeffe.
Stephen Cahill and Harley Barnes swapped points but Ballygunner dropped three shots in a row into Patrick McCormack’s hands before Mahony landed a free on 40 minutes. Ronan Maher answered instantly - 0-11 to 0-9, Sars ahead.
The O’Sullivans, David and Brian, cut Sars’ lead to one going into the final quarter, and the game was there for either side.
Denis Maher’s fine strike and a Bourke brace sparked Sars to a four-point lead, however.
Ballygunner rallied with two Mahony frees to stay in the hunt, and Hogan cut it to the minimum with three minutes left.
Bourke nudged the home side two ahead and Mahony hit an uncharacteristic wide before pointing another free in injury time: 0-16 to 0-15, two minutes on the clock; David O’Sullivan equaliser, one minute left. In that time Bourke made himself the hero with that late, late 65.
P. Bourke (0-7 frees, 0-16); S. Cahill (0-4); R. Maher (0-2); L. Corbett, A. McCormack, D. Maher, S. Lillis (0-1 each).
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).