'We’re in a stronger position than ever': All-Ireland title next on St Thomas' agenda

The four-in-a-row Galway champions have flattered to deceive in recent All-Ireland campaigns
'We’re in a stronger position than ever': All-Ireland title next on St Thomas' agenda

St Thomas' Evan Duggan and manager Kenneth Burke celebrate. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

St Thomas’ manager Kenneth Burke believes the team are in a great place to make an assault on the All-Ireland senior club hurling championship.

The four-in-a-row Galway champions have flattered to deceive in recent All-Ireland campaigns, although the cancellation of the competition last year deprived them of the chance of representing the county.

However, Burke, who had been playing in the red and blue up until last year, is confident the club can grasp this opportunity with two hands when the All-Ireland semi-finals take place in January.

“(We were) probably disappointed with a few performances in the last few years,” he admitted. “There was no championship last year but these guys have matured again and we have a few new guys in, so I think we’re in a stronger position than we ever were but we’ll enjoy this and regroup in the next week or two and see what’s ahead of us.” 

Indeed, the four-in-a-row in a championship as cutthroat as Galway should be celebrated and it was achieved with a professional performance against a Clarinbridge team on the rise.

“A massive achievement for the team,” said Burke of the first four-in-a-row in the Galway SHC since Turloughmore in the 1960s. “It just shows the determination and the drive and they’re just hungry to play hurling and as best as they can. For me and the boys in the backroom, it’s just steering them, the players are driving it themselves. Thankfully, they’re well able to hurl so the results usually follow after that.

“The middle third was a war zone. There were big hits going in, big turnovers so they (Clarinbridge) have massive work there.

"They’ll definitely be back, they’re young guys well able to hurl and well able to tackle. We got a few scores when it mattered and maybe had that bit of know-how maybe got us over the line.” Burke acknowledged the man-of-the-match display by Conor Cooney, two of his five points from play helping to put the game beyond Clarinbridge in the final stretch. “Conor was unbelievable all year. He doesn’t speak much but when he does the guys listen. He does his leading hurling on the field every day he goes out but everybody at different times of the year put in massive performances.

“I know we got some big wins but those big wins are down to hard work, getting to the turnovers, getting the scores when they’re needed. You might think it’s an easy game but it’s not an easy game until they come off.” Cooney was one of many who should exemplary touch in wintry conditions, a hallmark of their play throughout the championship. Burke remarked: “We put a lot of things down to the fundamentals. You have to have your skill level right and if you don’t you’re going to struggle straight away so you need to catch and strike a ball well.

“We don’t have to do that much with them because they’re natural hurlers so it’s just about honing that, keeping them fresh, keeping that drive in them, which they’re doing it themselves.”

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