Scene is Set for Premier Hurling Showpiece
By noel dundon
When Patsy Dorney lifted the Dan Breen Cup for Sarsfields back in 1965, he could hardly have predicted that it would be 45 years before the club would be back in a position to retain the title again- Jimmy Doyle has claimed the spoils the previous year in 1964.
But, the winds of change blew through the famed Blues and county senior hurling titles were few and far between. A number of false dawns frustrated supporters and as the decades slipped by, so too did many an opportunity.
So, as they square up to Clonoulty Rossmore on Sunday afternoon next in Semple Stadium with the chance of retaining the Dan Breen, there is a unique window of opportunity for the current squad to create their own little bit of history. They say it takes a good team to win a County Final, but a great team to retain it - Sarsfields 2010 may well be bidding for greatness, but they are certainly not taking anything for granted.
"There is a lot of talk doing the rounds about this team and how good we are and how we are favourites to win the County Final again. That's only talk and there is nothing that we, as a team, can do about that. Our focus has to be, and is, on performing to the best of our ability on the day. If people want to talk, let them talk - we can't control that, but our job is to look after our end of things and do our talking on the field," team Boss Michael 'Glossy' Gleeson told The Tipperary Star.
It's a mantra which has served Sarsfields well over last while and team Captain Patrick McCormack continuously emphasises the need of taking it one game at a time. The custodian and son of Coach Paddy McCormack, has seen his fair share of hurling disappointments down through the years to know that nothing can be taken for granted in sport - especially when it comes to County Finals.
"There is always expectation there when it comes to Sarsfields but we have been taking it one game at a time and we never look beyond the next game. How could we, when you consider the tight and tough matches we have had? Sunday will be no different - we know that and we know that Clonoulty Rossmore will have no fears of playing us in a County Final," said Patrick who is a work colleague of John Devane in Thurles CBS Secondary School.
Patrick is not new to the captaincy lark having been in the position with Durlas Og when they won the U-14 county title some years ago. He also captained Tipperary to win the Munster minor hurling title in 2002 and has his fathers experience to fall back on too - Paddy captained Sarsfields during his lengthy career between the sticks but was unfortunate not wo win silverware during his term.
While Patrick deems it a huge honour to captain his club in the County Final, the important thing, he says, is for the club to deliver. And, to do that they must get over Clonoulty Rossmore - a side for whom they have the utmost of respect. Indeed, Patrick points out that Clonoulty Rossmore should have put Sarsfields to the sword two years ago in the County semi-final drawn game, and replay. They didn't, but the west men did come back and defeat Sarsfields in the County League Final in 2009, and again earlier this year in the leagues round robin system.
The teams have a bit of recent history, he says, and Sarsfields are conscious of that, especially considering that there are so many players from both clubs who have played with each other in schools and county teams. Respect runs deep between Sarsfields and Clonoulty Rossmore.
Michael Gleeson has run the rule over a very talented group of hurlers from Thurles - seven of whom have won All-Ireland medals already this season - Lar Corbett winning the Hurler of the Year accolade. However, 'Glossy' does not see this as a problem and claims that the Sarsfields players have been energised by the return 'home' of the county players.
"I think the success of the county team and the representation that we have had, has been a great boost to the rest of the lads on our panel. We have spent most of the year training and playing a lot of games without the county players, but since they have back home to us, they have been a huge boost. The standard of our training has risen hugely - they are the cream of the crop and they rise that standard naturally - and they have helped to give us a big lift. The other thing is that while they have been away, we have been able to look at a lot of the players on the panel and give them valuable game time, which is also very important," Michael says.
While Sarsfields are fortunate to be able to declare a clean bill of health going into the final, they will, unfortunately, be without the influential Ger 'Redser' of Grady who was red carded in the semi-final clash with Toomevara having reacted to an incident. 'Redser' had been having his best season for a number of years and while the general view amongst the hurling public is that he has been rather harshly treated, the veteran must sit out the final in the hope that his colleagues can get over the winning line so that he can hurl again this season. Sarsfields might have gotten out of jail in that game but 'Redser' has been incarcerated as a result.
"The Toomevara game was never going to be easy from our viewpoint. It was always going to be a battle and anytime Toome' come to Thurles to play in the closing stages of the county championship, you know they will be very hard to beat. But, we got over them and we have gotten over Loughmore Castleiney and Drom-Inch - not easy games to win. Ger played a big part in those wins and had been having his best season since we got involved - it's very unfortunate for him to miss out on a County Final," said Michael whose son Michael directs operations for Sarsfields from his centrefield berth.
If Sarsfields needed to know anything extra about Clonoulty Rossmore they need only look to their western recruits, David and Alan Kennedy, for advice. The Kennedy brothers have hurled with Sarsfields for a number of seasons now and form an integral part of the side. Originally from Clonoulty Rossmore, they spent many a season wearing the green and gold jersey before moving to Thurles and transferring to the Blues.
Watching them in action against their old club will an interesting aside to the big game.