Borris-Ileigh manager Johnny Kelly hailed the character of his young team as they overcame their nerves to see off St Thomas’ in style.
Seven points was the difference in the end but it was bloated by James Devaney’s goal with almost the last puck of the game and two Brendan Maher points in additional time.
Still, Kelly fancied his team would pull away. “It was coming all day,” he said of his side’s explosive finish. “After a nervy start, St Thomas’ got the goal after 10 minutes - and that’s the threat they have. We tried to shut that down, work from there. We asked the guys upfront to put in a big shift for us, and they did.
“St Thomas’ didn’t get any joy from their long clearances so they tried to go short and change their game. We tried to set traps and it worked out okay. I can’t say with any authority how the stats racked up, but I do know that our work rate was one of the key elements there (in achieving victory). Getting over the nerves too was key; you have to remember we have a very young forward line, two 18-year-olds, one 20, and another 21.” There was teenage Ray McCormack too who put in a major shift from wing-back and yet again Kelly was happy to sing the praises of Brendan Maher, who fired over 10 points including two wonder scores from play.
After Maher’s heroics against Ballygunner in the Munster final, yesterday was another example of his class. “To be honest, Brendan is one of the greatest hurlers I’ve ever seen anyway. He’s a pleasure to coach. There’s no airs or graces about Brendan, he’s a Borris-Ileigh man first, a Tipperary man second, and he doesn’t need any words of mine today to recognise how great a player he is.”
St Thomas’ manager Kevin Lally knew his team’s finishing proved their undoing. “That was the key factor in the game probably. We have 15 or 16 wides and our scoring efficiency wasn’t where it should have been and that was our downfall.
“Stages of the game probably didn’t flow for us. When we had our purple patch we probably weren’t getting enough scores and any mistake we made off turnover ball Borris-Ileigh seemed to punish us. We just didn’t seem to get a foothold in the game.”
As for the daunting prospect of facing Ballyhale Shamrocks in the final, Kelly knows what his Borris-Ileigh players must do. “Underdogs, we will be, on the basis they are All-Ireland champions, the players they have, and the youth they’ve brought through over the last year, we’re very aware of that.
“If we don’t set up properly, bring up our intensity levels in two week’s time, Ballyhale will hurt us, and hurt us badly.
“We also have to deal with the tension that comes with the final, and if we do that it gives us a chance anyway.”