Two goals in the opening quarter were decisive as Nenagh Éire Óg ended the SHC challenge of Loughmore-Castleiney with a 2-17 to 0-18 win at Dolla yesterday.
Marginal outsiders Nenagh made the running all the way. Philip Hickey got their first goal after five minutes and Tommy Heffernan added a second ten minutes later to give them a 2-4 to 0-4 lead. By half-time Nenagh were 2-9 to 0-8 ahead with Jake Morris their key man and Michael Heffernan, Paddy Murphy and Daire Quinn also prominent.
John McGrath had a penalty saved after 25 minutes as Loughmore sought to play catch-up.
Loughmore’s heavy schedule of games in both hurling and football looked to be taking its toll. Key attacker John McGrath was carrying an injury and after 40 minutes they were 2-13 to 0-11 adrift. But they showed their battling qualities with a strong last quarter as Liam McGrath, Tomas McGrath, Ciaran Connolly, John McGrath and Noel McGrath were all on target, cutting the deficit to three points with five minutes to play.
Killian Gleeson’s point eased Éire Óg nerves but in injury time Aidan McGrath had a great goal chance for Loughmore charged down by Conor McCarthy as the Nenagh boys held out for their spot in the semi-final. Jake Morris crowned a fine personal performance with his eighth point.
It was a disappointing end to the Loughmore campaign with John Meagher, Brian McGrath, Noel McGrath, Ciaran Connolly and John Ryan their key men. Jake Morris was Nenagh’s star performer but Paddy Murphy, Michael Heffernan, Daire Quinn, Conor McCarthy and Barry Heffernan also shone.
In the opening game at Dolla, Clonoulty-Rossmore booked their place in the semi-finals with a hard-earned four-point win over Kiladangan, 1-19 to 1-15. In a contest that was stop-start due to injuries, Clonoulty opened impressively to go 0-8 to 0-2 clear, Fiachra O Keeffe, Dillon Quirke and Timmy Hammersley their main marksmen. Kiladangan had the better of the second quarter and by half-time were level, 0-9 each, Paul Flynn, and Tadgh Gallager leading the way for them.
A goal from a penalty by Cathal Bourke for Clonoulty after 40 minutes, followed quickly by points from Conor and Timmy Hammersley, put Clonoulty ahead 1-13 to 0-9 and looking winners, but in the last quarter Ciaran Kelly, Tadgh Gallagher and Johnny Honan rallied Kiladangan with points. With five minutes of injury-time played Clonoulty were 1-18 to 0-15 ahead but Ciaran Kelly’s goal after 66 minutes had their supporters on their feet hoping to salvage their championship ambitions.
Three points down, Kiladangan’s Darragh Egan’s blast for a levelling goal from a free was beaten away. Fiachra O Keeffe had the final word, a point to ensure Clonoulty’s victory.
Clonoulty deserved their win as they set the pace most of the way with John O Keeffe, Ciaran Quirke, Sean O Connor, the Hammersleys and Fiachra O Keeffe all having big games. Kiladangan were not at their best but Paul Flynn, Tadhg Gallagher, David Sweeney and Ciaran Kelly worked very hard for them.
The pairings for the county semi-finals to be played on Sunday next in Semple Stadium are: Thurles Sarsfields v Nenagh Éire Óg and Toomevara v Clonoulty-Rossmore.
In the county SFC quarter-finals, there were big wins for Clonmel Commercials over Kilsheelan-Kilcash(0-17 to 0-4), and Ballyporeen over Ardfinnan (0-22 to 0-9). They join Loughmore-Castleiney and Moyle Rovers in the semi-finals.
Cashel King Cormacs and Thurles Sarsfields qualified for the county IHC final with wins over Borrisokane and Shannon Rovers respectively.
Dramatic Maher goal saves Sars’ drive for five
County star Ronan Maher scored a super goal two minutes into added time to keep holders Thurles Sarsfields on track for a record-equalling five Tipperary SHC titles in-a-row as they saw off the challenge of Kilruane MacDonaghs by 2-14 to 1-16 in a thriller at Nenagh on Saturday.
It was a result few would have predicted at half-time after Sarsfields struggled to find a rhythm against a very combative Kilruane who led 0-10 to 0-7 after playing into the breeze in the first half. Brian ‘Buggy’ O’Meara and Cian Darcy were key for Kilruane who looked in a commanding position when Buggy netted after 40 minutes for a 1-13 to 0-9 lead. Sarsfields however, turned up the heat in the last quarter. Ronan Maher moved to attack and his goal after 55 minutes brought Sarsfields to within two points, 1-13 to 1-15. Conor Stakelum then pointed for Sarsfields on the hour but Jerome Cahill’s point after 61 minutes looked to have clinched the win for Kilruane.
But Maher came up trumps again for Sarsfield after 62 minutes as he fielded a high ball into the goalmouth, burst past two defenders, and unleashed an unstoppable shot to the net for as dramatic a winner as you’ll ever see.
It was heart-breaking for Kilruane who appeared to have done enough to end the champions’ reign. Their cause was not helped by a hamstring injury to Buggy which forced his retiral ten minutes from the end after he had been a constant threat.
Jerome Cahill, Niall O Meara, Cian Darcy and Darragh Peters were others to be very influential for them.
Sarsfields’ experience of winning tight games was crucial as they hung in when things were not going well and had the ability to hit vital scores when they were needed. Ronan Maher’s two goals when moved to attack were match-winners with his brother Padraic, Michael Cahill, Aidan McCormack Stephen Lillis and John Maher also leading by example. Lar Corbett was an absentee through injury.
In an equally thrilling finish, Toomevara’s goals were decisive as they held on for a 3-15 to 1-20 win over 14-man Drom-Inch in the opening quarter final at Nenagh. Drom-Inch opened well but goals from Jack Delaney and Mark McCarthy in the space of two minutes had Toome ahead 2-5 to 0-5 after 12 minutes and in the driving seat. At half-time they led 2-8 to 0-7 as an underperforming Drom relied on Seamie Callanan (0-5) to keep them in the hunt.
Things got worse for Drom-Inch inside a minute of the resumption after they lost Michael Campion to a red card. And when Jack Delaney got his second goal off Benny Dunne’s mishit effort, Toome were in front 3-9 to 0-11 and looking winners with 20 minutes to play.
But Drom really got going in the last quarter. Johnny Ryan, subdued until now, led the charge with three points. James Woodlock, David Butler and Kevin Hassett added points and though Mark McCarthy and Benny Dunne eased the pressure on Toome with points, Drom kept coming. Benny Dunne’s point after 62 minutes put Toome four clear and looked to have secured the day but a minute later David Collins whipped home a Drom-Inch goal to leave only a point in it.
Time was against Drom however as Toome held on for their place in the semi-final thanks largely to the efforts of Mark McCarthy, Conor O Meara, Jason Ryan, Benny Dunne, Jake Ryan and two-goal hero Jack Delaney.
Seamie Callanan hit 11 of the Drom points, six from frees, and was Drom’s most influential player. James Woodlock, Kevin Hassett, David Collins and Johnny Ryan late on were others to shine for them.