ON the Clonoulty-Rossmore team facing Thurles Sarsfields in Sunday’s Tipperary SHC final in Semple Stadium you have Tom Butler, and then you have Big Tommy Butler.
When you consider that Tom Butler is a strapping six-footer, with all the natural strength that comes from being born and bred to the farm, I’ll leave it to your imagination as to the size and power of his first cousin, Big Tommy.
Suffice to say, it’s not one of those ironic Irish nicknames – “Ah sure he’s 6’4”, and a bit heavier!” laughs Tom.
Both of the Butlers form part of a very potent Clonoulty forward line, Tom at wing-forward, Tommy inside on the edge of the square where his size and catching ability will cause problems for any full-back.
And it’s that forward unit, says Tom, that gives the underdogs hope.
He said: “Tommy is a great man in the air, a good man to have on the edge of the square if you can get enough ball in to him. We have a few lively forwards – John O’Neill, Fiachra O’Keeffe, Timmy Hammersley, they’re all well capable of moving off Tommy and getting scores. We maintain we have as good a forward line as any team.”
All of those mentioned above played key roles in Clonoulty-Rossmore’s semi-final win over battling Kildangan. O’Keeffe had the decisive Clonoulty goal, the fantastically skilful O’Neill hit five points while free-taker Hammersley nailed six. But the cats among the pigeons, creating many of those scores, were the big Butler boys. Little wonder then that Clonoulty have been the big team in the west division after capturing their fourth title-in-a-row.
“It’s still a very valued title, in Clonoulty. It’s there to be won, and we go out every year to win the west championship first and then take things from there. We had a few bad years but we regrouped, and we’ve put in a serious effort. A lot of us started out together in 2007, and the aim was to get to a county final and try to win it. We’ve taken the first step now; we’re in the final.”
The last three years have been frustrating, but a learning process, for Clonoulty. “In 2007 we were beaten by Drom-and-Inch by two points in the county quarter-final, and they went on to reach the final that year. In 2008, we were beaten after extra-time in a semi-final replay by Sars. Last year we under-performed hugely when Toomevara gave us a nice hiding. We came back this year with a lot to work on, a lot of areas to improve on if we were to get to the county final, and we did that.”
Now they are one game from glory but accepting of their underdog tag. “Sars will be hot favourites, and deservedly so as champions. They’re at the top of the tree every year in Tipp hurling – we’re going to have to put in a big performance if we’re to come out on top. But we took them to a replay in 2008. People say they’ve improved since then, but so have we. We’ve been pushing so hard for the last few years to reach a county final, we’re not just happy to be in it now — we’re coming to win it.”
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