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County Senior Hurling Final- Fancied Sars Clinch Two-In-A-Row With Ease

posted 5 Nov 2010, 18:11 by Unknown user

County Senior Hurling Final- Fancied Sars Clinch Two-In-A-Row With Ease

By Staff Reporter

Thurles Sarsfields 1-16

Clonoulty-Rossmore 1-7

By John Guiton

Thurles Sarsfields are truly the dominant hurling force in the Premier County. The defending champions fully justified their raging favourites tag when they mastered the challenge of West champions Clonoulty-Rossmore in the 2010 final at Semple Stadium on Sunday last, in the process clinching back to back titles for the famed Blues for the first time since 1965.

At the end of a special year for Tipperary hurling Sunday’s decider wont rank among the classic county finals played in the ‘Field of Dreams.’ However, Sars wont lose any sleep over that after they delivered on the huge expectations placed on their shoulders with a comprehensive and richly deserved win. On a day when Clonoulty-Rossmore, playing in the club’s first final since 1998, failed to reach their potential Sarsfields were by far the more incisive side and led from trap to line. With the exception of a brief spell before the interval when a goal from a 21 metre free from John O’Neill brought Clonoulty back to within two points of them at the break (0-9 to 1-4) they were in command, and the outcome was almost a foregone conclusion after 2010 All-Star and ‘Hurler of the Year’ Lar Corbett banged home a trademark 45th minute goal to give them 1-14 to 1-5 in front. Typical of Clonoulty they battled with fervour against the odds, but try as they did they were unable to breach the water-tight Sars defence as they searched for a goal to revive their chances. All-Ireland U/21 medal winner Kevin O’Gorman was the first to deny them with a fabulous block on a goal attempt by John O’Neill in 49th minute, the ball subsequently flying over the bar for a point. A goal at that stage in response to Corbett’s cracker would have been a tonic to the West side who trailed by eight points. And as the champions headed towards the winning post, their goalie and captain Patrick McCormack covered himself in glory with two marvellous saves, the first in 57th minute from industrious Thomas Butler, with county star the very solid Michael Cahill on hand to make a relieving clearance, and the second as the game moved close to ‘stoppage’ time from John O’Neill. Indicative of Sarsfields first class teamwork over the hour was the fact that Lar Corbett was back in the heart of his own defence to make a clearance just before referee Keith Delahunty sounded the full-time call.

The Moyle Rovers official was kept busy handing out yellow cards in a game of intense rivalry that had an edge to it from the start and was played on a greasy sod (after heavy rain in the forenoon) in a tough uncomprimising fashion. Clonoulty entered the final on the strength of victories over Burgess and Kildangan, and were determined to avoid a slow start that marked their previous clashes. However, the pattern continued for them and they found themselves six points in arrears after twelve minutes, without a reply.

County panelist Pa Bourke, who went on to convert some excellent long distance frees, opened their account with a first minute score (free), and that great servant of the Blues Johnny Enright followed up with a point from a close in free. Stephen Lillis who marked his comeback to the starting fifteen following injury with an impressive performance cut over the bar a spectacular point from a line ball, and he scored from play after former Clonoulty-Rossmore player Alan Kennedy, gave him a perfect pass in 12th minute. In between Richie Ruth epitomised Sarsfields confidence on the ball when he popped over two nice points.

Clonoulty struggled to establish a pattern to their game, but, two lovely points from busy right-half-forward Tom Butler breathed new life into their challenge. John Devane and Timmy Hammersley did the spadework for Butler’s first score, and one of their best players Padraig Heffernan supplied the pass to him for his second. Pa Bourke (free) and Denis Maher restored Sars initiative, but, the champions wasted some scoreable chances at this stage and Clonoulty stayed in touch (0-9 to 0-4 after twenty one minutes). Sean O’Connor nicely set up Tom Butler for his third sweet point in 19th minute. County panelist Timmy Hammersley had moved out to the half-forward line now to good effect for Clonoulty and James Heffernan, John Devane, John O’Keeffe, Thomas Butler, Fiachra O’Keeffe, and sub Anthony Kearney were busy. Hammersley was in hard luck to miss two frees in 28th and 32nd minutes, but O’Neill’s goal from the 21 metre free, after Thomas Butler was fouled, made for a very interesting second-half 0-9 to 1-4.

Perhaps half time came too quick for Clonoulty who had built up a head of steam and when they came out for the second-half they were hit with two quick points from young Denis Maher. The county U/21 panelist, now operating on the 40, excelled in the second half and finished the game with four great points from play to his credit. He is a young player whose future will be watched with interest. 2009 All-Star Padraic Maher at centre-back was also a leading light. The towering No.6 was a torment to the challengers from the very start, his high fielding and repeated clearances a feature of the game, and the fact that he should clinch the ‘Man of the Match’ award in the county final for the second year running speaks volumes for his status as one of the game’s greatest. In the last twelve months he has captured an All-Ireland senior medal, All-Ireland U/21 medal, two county senior medals as well as captaining the county U/21 team in this year’s All-Ireland success.

Further proof of the abundance of young talent in the Blues ranks was the vital role played in the victory by minor Aidan McCormack. Introduced as a 36th minute substitute he fired over two beautiful points in 39th and 42nd minutes, before Lar Corbett, quiet by his lofty standards, pounced for the goal that, in effect, marked the end of Clonoulty’s hopes.

Richie Ruth, and Michael Gleeson who had another impressive outing at midfield in keeping with his outstanding championship campaign combined to set up Corbett, and with typical alertness and craft the county star slipped behind a defender and tore through the open space before crashing home an unstoppable 45th minute shot (0-14 to 1-5). Timmy Hammersley, so capable of scoring long range points from play, blasted a beauty over the bar in 46th minute in quick response, and John O’Neill saw his goal effort deflected over the bar by O’Gorman. Clonoulty continued to take the game to their rivals right up to the finish after losing James Heffernan to a second yellow card in 54th minute, but, their return of just three points from play was poor reward for their second-half efforts. Pa Bourke tagged on points from two late frees to round off a telling performance on his part-he having brought his side back from the jaws of defeat in the semi-final with his sensational late goal from a 21metre free against Toomevara.

Sarsfields work ethic manifested itself throughout the field. Apart from those already mentioned, county star Michael Cahill was his usual reliable self in their defence, and David Maher and Barry O’Dwyer did their share. David Kennedy, lining out against his former club, also got in a lot of work. So, after stuttering somewhat early in the season and never quite delivering to their potential in any game Sarsfields are back as champions. Certainly, under the shrewd guidance of Manager Michael Gleeson, selectors Paddy McCormack, Tom Barry and Johnny Bourke, and the backroom team, they navigated their way through a hard route and can now boast of having taken the scalps of last years Mid champions and beaten county finalists Drom-Inch, and other strong contenders for the county crown, Loughmore-Castleiney and Toomevara on their way. Granted, they looked dead and buried against Toome before Bourke’s goal, but, having survived that scare they knuckled down to their final task and showed the stuff of champions in taking full advantage of their chance at the ultimate hurdle last Sunday. To win convincingly without the services of one of their stalwarts Ger ‘Redser’ O’Grady who was dismissed in the semi-final is all the more praiseworthy and is further proof of their strength in depth. As the club celebrates back to back titles it will remember the contribution Ger O’Grady made to the champions semi-final win, his three great points from play were crucial to the outcome. A great day for that great servant of the Blue Johnny Enright, he clinched his third county senior medal and was the recipient of heartiest congratulations form team mates and rivals alike. And a very special occasion too for the McCormacks, goalie Patrick McCormack captaining the team, and his father Paddy in the coaching role.

For, now the Blues can bask in the glory of being the top club in Tipperary with the county minor ‘A’ trophy and Junior ‘B’ titles also to its credit, before it turns its attention to the Munster club championship (against Kilmallock on Sunday week) and the county U/21 championship. They have now claimed three county senior titles in six years.

Bearing in mind that they almost defeated Sarsfields in the championship two years ago-the Blues eventually pulled clear in extra time of a replay- Clonoulty were expected to put it up to the champions. Reaching the final, albeit in not too spectacular fashion was a big achievement for the team who have dominated the West championship for years. Granted, they dont have the same resources as Sars- few teams have- but they will find it galling that they never managed to get their game off the ground to mount a more serious challenge to the titleholders. They only managed five points from play-three great scores came from Tom Butler- and their failure to make a quick impression at the start of the second-half left them with too much ground to make up after Sars got into their stride again. It is a case of back to the drawing board now, their first priority come 2011 will be to try and achieve a brilliant five-in-a-row in the West, but they wont be content to concentrate on that feat alone, the relatively young side will want to build on the experience of their first county final appearance and be right up there again with the top contenders chasing the Dan Breen Cup. Goalie Declan O’Dwyer handled some tricky situations with confidence on Sunday, and Joey O’Keeffe Kevin Horan, Padraig Heffernan, John Devane, John O’Keeffe, Timmy Hammersley, and John O’Neill battled earnestly in an effort to change the pattern of the game in the second-half.

Thurles Sarsfields- P McCormack; M Cahill, K O’Gorman, D Maher; B O’Dwyer, P Maher, D Kennedy; A Kennedy, M Gleeson; L Corbett (1-0), D Maher (0-4), S Lillis (0-2, 0-1 line ball); R Ruth (0-2), P Bourke (0-4 frees), J Enright (0-2 frees). Subs- A McCormack (0-2) for Enright (36th minute), J Corbett for A Kennedy (51st minute) J J Bourke for Ruth (60th minute) M O’Brien for D Maher (61st minute), P Leahy for O’Dwyer (62nd minute).

Clonoulty-Rossmore- D O’Dwyer; L Devane, J Heffernan, K Horan; P Heffernan, J Devane, Joey O’Keeffe; John O’Keeffe, S O’Connor; Tom Butler (0-3), M Heffernan, T Hammersley (0-3, 0-2 frees); F O’Keeffe, Thomas Butler, J O’Neill (1-1, 1-0 free). Subs introduced- A Kearney for L Devane (23rd minute), P White for O’Connor (28th minute), C Ryan for M Heffernan (37th minute), S O’Connor for F O’Keeffe (49th minute).

Referee- K Delahunty (Moyle Rovers).

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