THE Tipperary senior hurling championship final ended on a sour note in Semple Stadiumyesterday when Drom & Inch and Tipperary midfielder James Woodlock was stretchered off the field deep into injury time with a suspected fractured ankle.
Woodlock became entangled with Sars full-back and inter-county team-mate Pádraic Maher, went down very heavily, and the seriousness of his injury was immediately obvious when players from both teams began calling to the sideline for the stretcher. “James clashed with my leg – it was a horrific injury,” said an upset Maher. “I feel so sorry for him – hopefully he’ll be okay. It’s not a nice thing to see.”
It was a terrible end to what had been a terrible game, most especially for Drom & Inch. All last week, and even from several galaxies away, the tactic to beat this Drom & Inch team was obvious – hold Seamus Callanan and you deprive them of their scoring lifeline.
Callanan was the main man for Drom in the semi-final win over championship favourites Toomevara, scoring 12 of his side’s 19 points and weighing in with 1-9 in the quarter-final win against Borris-Ileigh. Hold Callanan, and where were the Drom & Inch scores going to come from? Easier said than done. What do you do, then, double-team him? Bring recently crowned All Star full-back Pádraic Maher from the edge of the square to do a man-marking job on his inter-county colleague, and risk disrupting your stability inside? Neither of the above option were used. Instead the man delegated to shadow Seamus was another youngster, 20-year-old Mickey Cahill, and it worked a treat. Two points was all Callanan managed, one of those from a free, and other than that, barely a sniff of the posts. “Mickey did a great job on him,” said Maher, “He stuck to him like glue and didn’t give him an inch.”
Look at the final scoreline above: two points from one man, three from the rest combined – how do you win any match, but especially a senior hurling final in Tipperary with that kind of return? Mind you, with their own total of just 14 points against a badly-beaten team, Sarsfields didn’t exactly set the world on fire either.
Okay, and though we didn’t really know it at the time, the match was more or less over as a contest as early as the 12th minute, at which stage Sars already led by five points (0-5 to 0-0). Drom & Inch made something of a ‘fightback’ before the break, if you could thus term three points in 18 minutes, but Thurles had four themselves, to lead by six at half-time (0-9 to 0-3) free-taker Pa Bourke and captain Johnny Enright hitting three apiece for Sars.
Bad as that was, however, the second half was even worse; five points Thurles added, former captain Ger ‘Redser’ O’Grady with two of those, enthusiastically celebrated, captain Enright with two more after Pa Bourke’s free-taking radar went on the blink; two points was all Drom & Inch managed, and both of those came from frees as the well-disciplined Mickey Cahill and his Thurles team-mates kept their tight grip on Callanan and thus, on the game.
Winning captain Johnny Enright had no argument about it being a poor final, but there was no apology either.
He said: “It was, but I still felt our work-rate was phenomenal, we closed them down. We missed chances, they missed chances, but it’s all about getting that cup and taking the next step forward. We lost enough good finals – I remember one that finished 3-19 to 3-16, played great and lost. You win whatever way you can, and I thought our attitude and our work-rate was fantastic today. We felt if we could match them on work-rate we had the hurlers to come through, and that’s how it turned out. This one was huge for Thurles; everyone was talking about Drom & Inch having lost in 05 and 07, no title won yet, but we lost six finals this decade, four-in-a-row early on and then last year again, so this was as important to us as it was to them, though I know the pain they’re feeling now.”
Scorers for Thurles Sarsfields: J. Enright 0-5 (0-1 free); P. Bourke 0-4 (0-2 frees); G. O’Grady 0-2; R. Ruth, D. Maher, M. Gleeson, 0-1 each.
Scorers for Drom & Inch: S. Callanan 0-2 (0-1 free); Johnny Ryan 0-2 (0-1 free); J. Kennedy 0-1.
THURLES SARSFIELDS: P. McCormack; K. O’Gorman, P. Maher, B. O’Dwyer; S. Lillis, L. Cahill, M. Cahill; M. Gleeson, A. Kennedy; P. Bourke, L. Corbett, D. Maher; R. Ruth, J. Enright (c), S. Ryan.
Subs: D. Kennedy (Ryan inj. 17); G. O’Grady (Ruth 48); J. Lawlor (L. Cahill 60+2, also blood sub for A. Kennedy 54/55); D. O’Dwyer (A. Kennedy 60+2); M. Collins (O’Gorman 60+2).
DROM & INCH: D. Young; Martin Butler, E. Costello, M. Costello; D. Kennedy, P. Stapleton, Micheál Butler; S. Butler, J. Woodlock (c); S. Callanan, E. Woodlock, J. Kennedy; D. Butler, M. Long, Johnny Ryan.
Subs: E. Buckley (Stapleton 28); D. Ryan (Long 30); M. Ryan (E. Woodlock 44); D. Collins (D. Ryan 54); James Ryan (J. Woodlock inj. 60+6).
Referee: S. Bradshaw (Knockavilla Kickhams).
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