Published Date: 28 October 2010
By noel dundon
3-11 Toomevara 1-14
By Noel Dundon
Thurles Sarsfields bridged an eight year gap to land the County Junior B hurling title in a tight, hard fought encounter with rivals Toomevara at The Ragg on Saturday afternoon last.
A game which went right down to the wire – they all seem to these days between the clubs –the Sarsfields lads were forced to hold off a stern second half revival by the North champions as they came in search of the scores to get their noses in front. However, they found the Thurles defence resilient and were simply unable to get through in the closing stages – Sarsfields having done enough in a wind assisted first half to claim the title.
Indeed, it was the second quarter really which did the damage from a Toomevara viewpoint. They had started by trading scores – Sarsfields Brian Stakelum with Toome’s Alan Kineally. And, eventhough Sarsfields went in front thanks to midfielder Paudie Duggan, Toome’ hit back with a Kineally goal in the 8th minute to give them the initiative.
Sarsfields knew that they had to get scores on the board if they were to have any hope of landing the silverware. They were hurling with the breeze and they made it count with two Brian Stakelum frees leveling the game. Centre forward TJ O’Dwyer was causing all sorts of problems for the Toome’s defence and was central to the Sars revival as he tossed the ball about with real purpose.
The Mid champions received a real shot in the arm in the 16th minute when a long range sideline cut from Brian Stakelum went all the way to the Toomevara net having deceived keeper James McGrath. Sarsfields followed up with two more Stakelum points and when John Hussey goalled in the 21st after being set free by TJ O’Dwyer, Toome’ were in real trouble.
They did manage to tag on points from Diarmuid McGrath (2), Alan Kineally and Mark Harty before the break to keep them in touch. But, by that time Sarsfields had found the net again with TJ O’Dwyer overheading on a high centre into the path of Conor Moloney who fired home from close range.
Sarsfields had a point from midfielder Paudie Duggan – his Dad Liam captained Sarsfields to win the title last time out – to claim a 3-7 to 1-5 interval lead. It was no more than the Thurles lads deserved. However, the general view was that they would need every bit of it when they faced into the scoreboard end for the second half. They did.
Toomevara, who were forced to withdraw veteran centre back Phil Shanahan through injury at the break, regrouped and came out firing on all cylinders. They began to hurl with real purpose and the scores started to flow from Alan Kineally (2) and Diarmuid McGrath (2) – four scores without reply.
Sarsfields were losing a grip in the midfield and half forward sectors and had Toomevara being more accurate they could have overrun them. However, the Thurles lads dug deep and an Alan Ryan pointed free in the 12th helped stem the tide.
Toome’ added further points from Diarmuid McGrath( 2) frees, but Brian Stakelum hit back with another for Sarsfields after TJ O’ Dwyer had been fouled.
The Sarsfields backs had started to regain their shape and though they were living dangerously – keeper Myles Fitzgerald having been forced to safe smartly from Kineally in the 16th – they looked as though they would hold out.
Toome’ came looking for a goal but Alan Ryan shoved Sarsfields four clear in injury time, moments after sub Seamus O’Meara had been red carded for the north men. Still, they came at Sarsfields and eventhough Kevin Cummins grabbed a late point, this was to be Thurles’ day to shine – their fourth adult team deserving the victors spoils on this occasion.
Toomevara certainly rued some of those missed chances – had they been more accurate from open play it could have been a different result. However, they can take some consolation in having contributed to a fine decider and the performances of Alan Kineally, Diarmuid McGrath, Kieran McGrath, Ken Hall and Stephen O’Meara were noteworthy.
Sarsfields celebrated wildy and rightly so. They had claimed the title against all the odds and had their first half showing to thank for it. However, while the showed flair and craft in getting the scores in the opening thirty minutes, they displayed admirable resilience in the second half when their backs were to the wall.
Tony Connolly and Conor Stapleton came good for them in the closing stages while Gerry Spain, Liam Phelan, Lee Shanahan and Brian Callanan gave plenty of cover to keeper Fitzgerald. Their midfield partnership of Alan Ryan and Paudie Duggan offered up four points between them while in attack the workrate of TJ O’Dwyer, Cian Gleeson and Liam Cullen, was matched by the scores of John Hussey, Brian Stakelum and Conor Moloney.
This was a great win for the Sarsfields players and management, many of whom have soldiered in the trenches in the grade for quite a few years without seeing the dawn.
Congratulations to them on what will go down as a memorable county title.
Teams and Scorers:
Sarsfields: M Fitzgerald, C Stapleton, L Shanahan, L Phelan, B Callanan, T Connolly, G Spain, P Duggan 0-2, A Ryan 0-2, L Cullen, TJ O’Dwyer, J Hussey 1-0, C Gleeson, B Stakelum 1-6, C Moloney 1-0. Subs Used: M O’Dwyer; P Purcell; M Lanigan; B Duggan.
Toomevara: J McGrath, M O’Biren, T O’Meara, B McGrath, S O’Meara, P Shanahan, A Coffey, K Hall, K McGrath, M Harty 0-1, K Cummins 0-1, D McGrath 0-7, K Ryan, T Carroll, A Kineally 1-5. Subs Used: M Haverty; J Meagher; S O’Meara.
Referee: N Cosgrove