A second ever senior title is 60 minutes away for Nenagh Éire Óg after they dethroned Thurles Sarsfields and denied them a fifth consecutive Dan Breen Cup.
Nenagh were excellent throughout — Michael Heffernan in mean form up front — and it was a Paddy Murphy 45th minute goal with Philip Hickey assisting (as he did for Andrew Coffey’s first) that sent them on their way to victory.
Watched by 5,346 in Semple Stadium, Sarsfields looked out of sorts, as they have done for the majority of the year, but nothing could take from the sharpness of this Nenagh display.
From the quick-thinking of Hickey to set up the goals to the effortless class of Heffernan, Nenagh were the superior force. Thurles didn’t go without a fight. Murphy’s goal sent Nenagh 10 points up but the next score was a Denis Maher goal at the other end and it was followed up by Rory Purcell and Aidan McCormack (free) scores. Nenagh goalkeeper Shane Hennessy made a great save from Conor Stakelum in the 53rd minute but Thurles kept coming and Ronan Maher and McCormack sent over frees to make it a three-point game.
When Jake Morris sent a free short, the Nenagh nerves were evident but Heffernan stepped up to give them a cushion in the 57th minute.
Another McCormack free followed, yet Heffernan matched that score when he took over free-taking duties. Points from substitute James Mackey, from a well-worked quickly-taken free, Hickey and Morris allowed Nenagh to enjoy the final few minutes. Ronan Maher found the net from a free at the end but it served only as a consolation score for Sars.
Thurles, relying on a clearly unfit Lar Corbett from half-time, availed of the let-off to cut a couple of points off their half-time deficit — 1-10 to 0-5 — but it wasn’t long before Nenagh were on top again with three unanswered scores from the 36th to 39th minute.
Nenagh’s Michael Heffernan was off the mark in the opening 30 seconds and the move for their goal a minute later was a sign of things to come, with a perfect hand-pass from Hickey superbly converted by Coffey.
Sarsfields were firefighting with Cahill to the fore but even he was struggling with the relentlessness of the Nenagh attacks.
Sarsfields had to rely on shots from distance and the scoreline was 1-3 to 0-0 before
Pa Bourke opened their account in the sixth minute. After a converted Heffernan sideline, Bourke found his range again and a McCormack free followed, which might have settled Thurles only but the next score to come from Nenagh’s Heffernan.
The margin was four points for a stretch and Sarsfields were just about coping but their attacks were relatively toothless and Ronan Maher notched three wides.
Nenagh, on the other hand, were efficient and were able to isolate Heffernan on Cahill while pulling off some fine distance strikes such as Pearse Morris’ in the 23rd minute.
Tommy Heffernan added to it and while Stephen Lillis replied, the end of the half belonged to captain Heffernan who picked off his second sideline and then added a rapid brace of points from play. It left Nenagh seven points up and on their way to toppling the champions.
: M. Heffernan (0-9, 2 sidelines, 1 free); A. Coffey (1-1); P. Murphy (1-0); J. Morris (0-3, 2 frees); C. Ryan, P. Morris, T. Heffernan, J. Mackey, P. Hickey (0-1 each).
A. McCormack (0-6, frees); R. Maher (1-2, 1-1 frees); D. Maher (1-0); P. Bourke (0-3, 1 free); R. Purcell (0-2 each); S. Lillis, S. Cahill (0-1 each).
: S. Hennessy; C. McCarthy, N. Maloney; D. Quinn; B. Heffernan, H. Maloney, P. Morris; C. Ryan, K. Gleeson; P. Murphy, J. Morris, A. Coffey; P. Hickey; M. Heffernan (c), T. Heffernan.
: J. Mackey for A. Coffey (54); A. Gratton for N. Maloney (56).
: P. McCormack; S. Maher, M. Cahill, C. Moloney; P. Maher (c); S. Lillis, M. Purcell, D. Maher; T. Doyle, J. Maher; S. Cahill, A. McCormack, R. Maher; P. Bourke, C. Stakelum.
: L. Corbett for T. Doyle (h-t); R. Purcell for J. Maher (40); D. Corbett for M. Cahill (inj 42).
: F. Horgan (Knockavilla-Donaskeigh Kickhams).