Upperchurch-Drombane scored the final eight points of this Tipperary SHC quarter-final to stun a previously dominant JK Brackens, who failed to score in the final 14 minutes of play.
Trailing 1-21 to 2-13 on 52 minutes, Church never stopped chipping away at Brackens’ lead to complete a unique double; Upperchurch putting back-to-back quarter-final wins over Brackens together in the space of eight days. Senior football last week, hurling this time.
They have never won divisional or county senior honours in either hurling or football (at least since the club’s predecessors Drombane took the county hurling title 128 years ago). They now find themselves in the county semi-finals of both for the first time.
The Loughmore-Castleiney playbook is spreading across Mid Tipperary. For Noel and John McGrath, read Paudie Greene and Paul Shanahan.
Of the 36 players who played on Sunday, 33 of them saw game-time last weekend (16 for Church and 17 for Brackens) and Brackens seemed to feel the exertion of that week-in, week-out action the more. Three times in the final minutes, Upperchurch were able to claim uncontested puck-outs, twice on Brackens restarts, and launch attacks.
Luke Shanahan and Jack Butler got on the scoreboard, Gavin Ryan added a long-range free, and Greene slotted five placed balls in that final stretch, including the three winning scores. He ended with 1-13 in all.
Church may remain massive outsiders in both codes but that billing won’t trouble them one bit. They face Loughmore in the football next weekend, then Kilruane MacDonaghs a week later.
“It's probably 90% plus of a crossover, with guys even playing in the same position, believe it or not,” said manager Liam Dunphy. “When you're picking from a small country area, a rural parish, you don't have the abundance of numbers.
“You've just got to work with what you have and guys just put on the gloves one week and put on the helmet the week after.”
Upperchurch struck for the game’s opening goal on 12 seconds, Greene getting a run on the Brackens defence and blasting to the net.
From there on in, a stop-start half was level six times. Lyndon Fairbrother’s frees gave Brackens their first lead on 16 minutes but Upperchurch had wrestled back control by the half.
Ger Grant, glued to Andrew Ormond, and Gavin Ryan controlled the centre of defence, while Butler created points for Paul Ryan, Paul Shanahan, and Greene. 1-9 to 0-11 at the break.
The game ignited on the restart. Brackens took the lead, a huge Ormond point followed by Fairbrother’s sixth free. Upperchurch snatched it back, Colm Ryan whipping to the net on 34 minutes after Neil Quinlan had hooked his initial effort.
Brackens hit back to lead, and this lead appeared a decisive one. They hit 1-4 without reply, Ormond latching onto a break to goal in the 36th minute – the first and only goal Church have conceded in six games. Tom Murphy blocked a Greene effort on goal before points from Paddy Cadell and Fairbrother (two frees) extended the advantage to five.
It was still a five-point lead after 52 minutes but Brackens failed to score after David O’Shea’s superb point. Upperchurch, again, outlasting the best Brackens had to throw at them.
P Greene (1-13, 0-10 frees, 0-1 s/l, 0-1 65); C Ryan (1-0); G Ryan (2 frees), Paul Ryan (1 s/l), J Butler (0-2 each); P Shanahan, L Shanahan (0-1 each).
: L Fairbrother (0-12, 10 frees); A Ormond (1-1); J Moloney, D O’Shea (0-2 each); P Cadell, D McEnroe, C Scully, S Bourke (0-1 each).
: C Shortt; M Lavery, M Ryan, G Grant (capt); K Ryan, G Ryan, A O’Donoghue; D Grant, A Ryan; Paul Ryan, C Ryan, P Shanahan; L Shanahan, P Greene, J Butler.
Subs: D Carew for D Grant (42), S Ryan for Paul Ryan (42), N Grant for C Ryan (52 inj).
J Kennedy; L Ormond, T Murphy (capt), M Delaney; C Scully, N Quinlan, J Moloney; P Cadell, C Cadell; D McEnroe, A Ormond, S Doyle; S Bourke, L Fairbrother, D O’Shea.
Subs: É McBride for Quinlan (41 inj), L Egan for Moloney (58 inj), L Roche for McEnroe (60+1).
: K Jordan (Thurles Gaels).