TIPPERARY SHC FINAL:
Thurles Sarsfields v Loughmore Castleiney
To discuss tomorrow’s Tipperary county final, who better than a man who knows both teams inside out?
In his time with the county team and his Mullinahone club colours Eoin Kelly has seen Loughmore-Castleiney and Thurles Sarsfields up close.
He and his clubmates were well beaten by Loughmore in the championships semi-final last month, and he rates them, but there are caveats.
“Loughmore I give a good chance to,” says Kelly.
“But there are a couple of things that might come against them.
“They’re down John Maher and Eddie Connolly out of their defence from last year, though Eddie came on the last day and might make it for the county final.
“But John is a big loss because for me if the Thurles defence, which is very good, could hold the Loughmore forwards, then that could swing it. Loughmore could do with the likes of John back there to help their defence.”
Kelly points to plenty of quality in the Thurles rearguard.
“You only have to compare Loughmore’s defence with Thurles – they have Michael Cahill at two, Ronan Maher at five, Paudie Maher at six. There are three county men for you straight away, so you’d say they have the quality of players that could certainly curtail the Loughmore attack.”
On the other hand, Loughmore have a distinct style of play: “One thing about Loughmore is they’re very economical, very good to keep possession and to use it.
“They’re certainly not a team that would have 16 wides at the end of a game, put it that way. Everyone knows they’re a good football team as well, and you’d notice that when you play against them.
“They hunt in packs when they’re after you and you’d also notice that they’ll all track back to protect the D in front of their own goal, which is classic football play.
“Compare that to Thurles, where a lot of them don’t play football, and they wouldn’t play that way and maybe wouldn’t be used to playing against it, so that could be a help to Loughmore.
“It’ll certainly be something they’ll try to exploit tomorrow, I’d say.”
The county players on both sides are well known. It’s often the so-called lesser lights who can tip the balance in a club decider, and Kelly sees a couple of diamonds in both sides’ supporting casts.
“Aidan McCormack seems to be Sars’ go-to player this year, he’s getting eight or nine points in the last few games from centre-forward, which is his preferred position. He’s a great man to get scores, always has been – I saw him get ten or 11 from play in a minor county final a few years ago and he did something similar in an U21 final a couple of years after that.
“All the Loughmore lads can score, but one guy who impressed me the last day was Liam Treacy their wing-forward, he did a lot of donkey work for them but chipped in with 1-3 as well – he’s a big player.”
Tradition is also a factor, and few clubs have the tradition of the men in blue and white in Semple Stadium, as Kelly points out.
“I don’t think Loughmore have beaten Thurles at this stage of the championship, the knockout stage, in the last five or six years.
“Could that be a factor? I know Thurles would probably say, ‘wait until we get into the Stadium’, because all the Mid-Tipperary games would be played in Holycross or Boherlahan, these places.
“That could be a big psychological thing for Loughmore, because while they won their championship last year they didn’t beat Thurles along the way in the knockout stages.
“Going on that I’d probably fancy Sars to get over the line. Factor in that Lar (Corbett) didn’t play the last day and will probably come in, and then you have the fact that John Maher is missing for Loughmore.
“Thurles probably have the experience, and they have the depth as well – their intermediates are in the county final as well, and some of them would be subs on the senior team, so they’d have good match practice – subs who can come in and do a job.It’s probably Loughmore’s teamwork versus Sarsfields’ individual brilliance – which will shine out on the day? I’d have a slight fancy for Sars.”
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