By Noel Dundon
The eagerly awaited clash of the champions takes place in Templemore on Sunday afternoon next at 1:30pm when the MacLochlainn Roadmarkings Mid senior hurling final pits Thurles Sarsfields against rivals Drom-Inch.
Eventhough Drom-Inch are going for three-in-a-row, the Sarsfields lads have been installed as firm favourites to take the title having swept all before them in last years county championship to claim the Dan Breen Cup. Rivalry between the clubs has been very intense over the last number of seasons with Sarsfields having had the last say in the County Finals of 2005 and 2009.
Drom-Inch have had a very indifferent campaign to date. They lost the championship first round and put enormous pressure on themselves to come through as a result. But, come through they did and eventhough they found it hard to get into stride, Coach Pa Joe Whelehan and his backroom team have managed to bring the players around to his way of thinking. The tag of underdogs will suit them down to the ground and with star forward Seamus Callanan - the first Drom-Inch man to win an All-Ireland senior hurling medal in decades - back to his brilliant best form, they will certainly take a lot of beating. Throw in the likes of Eamon Buckley, Seamus Butler, Johnny Ryan, Damian Young and John Lillis - this Drom-Inch team can go all the way and win an unprecedented three-in-a-row.
Sarsfields welcome back their star performers this week after 'loaning' them out to the county teams. With seven players in total involved with the Tipperary senior and U-21 teams, preparations for the Mid Final have not been ideal. However, the Thurles lads will be hoping to time their run to perfection as they did last year and will relish the challenge posed by Drom-Inch in Sunday's clash. It will be the perfect opportunity for them to assess where they are at and to launch their title defence in earnest.
With quality players all through the side including Padraic Maher, Michael Cahill, Lar Corbett, Pa Bourke, Johnny Enright, Denis Maher, Patrick McCormack and Michael Gleeson it will take a mighty effort for Drom-Inch to defeat them. However, the County Minor A final on Saturday may pose a slight distraction to them with a number of players involved in both set-up's including county minors Aidan McCormack and Michael O'Brien.
Sarsfields last won the Mid Final in 2007 - Drom-Inch have won it ever since. Sunday's clash really is an intriguing one.
Interestingly, the man in the middle for Sunday's game will be a man who hurled at midfield in many Mid Finals with Loughmore Castleiney. Tom McGrath, leaves his microphone aside - he is match analyst with Tipp FM- to take charge of the decider.
The game will be preceded by the Donal and Rose Young Mid Junior B hurling final between Sarsfields and Knock.
See Mid Fixtures on page 34 for a full and comprehensive rundown of activity in the division this weekend.