Speedy start puts Sars on road to 33rd title triumph

Thurles Sarsfields 2-22 Loughmore-Castleiney 3-11
A triumph for tradition? Thurles Sarsfields collected a 33rd Tipperary senior hurling title yesterday in Semple Stadium, impressing the 5,751 in attendance with a fluent display, overpowering a Loughmore-Castleiney side which never got to grips with a slow start.

During the week in these pages Eoin Kelly, well acquainted with the dramatis personae on both sides from his years with both Tipperary and Mullinahone, differentiated between Thurles and Loughmore on the basis of football influence. Loughmore, Kelly pointed out, have enjoyed enough football county success in Tipp to try some tactical tricks from that code in hurling, and he instanced their tendency to track numbers back towards the D in football style, cutting space for opponents.

Thurles, by contrast, Kelly saw as less interested in footballing tactics, and so it proved yesterday.

The men in blue and white shifted the ball fast and long into their forwards and enjoyed the benefits: by not allowing their opponents time to withdraw their midfielders to support their defenders, Thurles created one-versus-one situations which suited their accurate forwards. Five of their attackers got on the scoresheet before half-time, and wing-forward Denis Maher helped himself to four points from play.

It might have been different. In the first couple of minutes John McGrath of Loughmore made good ground and shot for goal, only for Patrick McCormack to save well.

Thurles rattled over five points before Loughmore’s first, a Liam McGrath free, and the town side were nine points to three ahead on 19 minutes and looking comfortable. But Loughmore struck for goal. Liam McGrath emerged from a scrum with the ball in hand 20 metres out and shot low and hard to the corner: 1-3 to 0-9.

For all that, Loughmore could never put together a period of sustained supremacy. Thurles’ work ethic up front meant they pressed every short puck-out their opponents tried, and that had an adverse impact on the quality of ball to the Loughmore attack.

At the break Thurles were only 0-13 to 1-6 up, but within a minute of the restart they had a seven-point lead, the crucial score coming when Michael O’Brien touched home the rebound from a Pa Bourke shot.

Credit Loughmore, John McGrath managed a second goal in response, but Thurles then tattooed six points to Loughmore’s one, and the game was over. Bourke goaled late on to underline the town side’s superiority and Evan Sweeney’s last-minute goal for Loughmore pushed their tally into respectability, nothing more.

Thurles selector Paddy McCormack identified their bright beginning as crucial: “We got the start. In the last couple of weeks we didn’t get that, and we watched our intermediates in the curtain-raiser and they didn’t get a great start, so we said, ‘there’s a lesson here’.

“We decided to try to build up the momentum from the start, and it worked out. We have a great tradition in the club and that’s what you’re judged by – there are lads in the club who won ten in a row, so that’s what you’re compared to. Some of our lads have played in seven or eight county finals now and have won four or five medals.”

An overwhelming win like yesterday means attention turns to the provincial championship almost immediately.

Even as the celebrations cranked up in Semple Stadium, McCormack addressed next week’s appointment against Cratloe.

“We were beaten here by Newtownshandrum by a point a few years ago and we learned from that, we lost to De La Salle one frosty day down in Páirc Ui Chaoimh another year and we learned from that. We won the Munster in 2012 and we’d like another crack at it, but Cratloe are a team that don’t mind going week to week either, hurling or football, they’re a very good team and an example to everyone.”

Cratloe – much like Loughmore-Casteliney – have an ~impressive football pedigree and, after their win over Ballygunner in the Munster Club championship, the Clare side’s coach noted that made them comfortable retaining possession. Thurles’ slashing directness yesterday will offer an entertaining contrast if produced in Clare next week.

Credit their captain for some directness in his speech, too. Pa Bourke remembered Eddie Connolly of Loughmore, fighting a serious illness, when he accepted the Dan Breen Cup, and wished him well.

The class wasn’t confined to the field of play yesterday in Tipperary.

Scorers for Thurles: P. Bourke 1-3 (0-1 f); D. Maher, A. McCormack 0-5 each; R. Ruth 0-4; M. O’Brien 1-0; L. Corbett, S. Cahill 0-2 each; C. Lanigan 0-1.

Scorers for Loughmore: N. McGrath 0-5 (fs); L. McGrath (f) and J. McGrath 1-1 each; E. Sweeney 1-0; T. McGrath, A. McGrath (f) C. Hennessy and L. Treacy 0-1 each.

THURLES SARSFIELDS: P. McCormack; S. Maher, M. Cahill, D. Maher; R. Maher, P. Maher. M. Gleeson; S. Cahill, B. McCarthy; D. Maher, A. McCormack, C. Lanigan; M. O’Brien, P. Bourke, L. Corbett.

Subs for Thurles: R. Ruth for O’Brien, 40; G. O’Grady for A. McCormack, 55; J. Maher for B. McCarthy, 58.K. O’Gorman for D. Maher 59.

LOUGHMORE-CASTLEINEY: S. Nolan; L. Egan, D. Bourke, J. Hennessy; A. McGrath, D. Kennedy, T. King, C. McGrath, T. McGrath, J. McGrath, L. Treacy, N. McGrath, L. McGrath, E. Sweeney, C. Hennessy.

Subs for Loughmore: J. Nyland for T. McGrath, 55. J. Ryan for L. McGrath, 59; T. Maher for Treacy, 59.

Referee: J. Ryan (Boherlahan-Dualla).


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