Tipperary Senior Hurling Championship Final – Thurles Sarsfields 1-16 Clonoulty-Rossmore 1-7

Thurles Sars still Tipp stars

Thurles Sarsfields 1-16 Clonoulty-Rossmore 1-7

By Diarmuid O’Flynn for the Irish Examiner newspaper

Monday, November 01, 2010

THURLES SARS retained their Tipperary senior hurling title in dull and damp Semple Stadium yesterday, capping off a superb year for their four Tipperary All-Ireland-winning stars, but only after a testing final few minutes against a young Clonoulty-Rossmore side that will surely come again. All four of Sars’ county brigade produced on the day, Michael Cahill doing as good a man-marking job on Clonoulty dangerman John O’Neill (on whom more anon) as could reasonably be expected, Padraic Maher giving a towering man-of-the-match performance at centre-back, Pa Bourke doing far more in general play than his four points from frees would suggest, while player-of-the-year Lar Corbett stamped his quality on proceedings with the decisive second-half score, a goal of typical quality.

This wasn’t just about the Sars stars, however. Midfielder Michael Gleeson is a hurler of real quality, had a brilliant hour; forwards Richie Ruth, Stephen Lillis and youngsters Denis Maher and sub Aidan McCormack, worked their collective socks off but were also deadly in their shooting. At the back, goalkeeper and captain Paddy McCormack was magnificent, and two saves in the final five minutes (the first from the ever-dangerous Clonoulty full-forward Thomas Butler, the second from the aforementioned John O’Neill) were of the very highest calibre. Then you had full-back Kevin O’Gorman, tasked with trying to hold out the powerful Butler and succeeding admirably, and who himself made a tremendous flying body-block in the 48th minute of yet another certain goal-bound shot from – yes, you’ve guessed it – John O’Neill, surely a star in the making. Had any (or all) of those shots gone in, who knows to what heights Clonoulty might have raised their game? As it was, however, Sars held out, and held on for what was ultimately a comfortable and fully merited win.

Watched by a subdued crowd of only 6,224 (second lowest attendance in over 20 years and a major disappointment in a year in which so much glory was visited on the county), the hotly-fancied ‘home’ side got off to a flying start, were six points to nil ahead after 13 minutes thanks to two points each from the powerful Lillis and the quicksilver Ruth, one apiece from placed balls by Bourke and the veteran Johnny Enright. A pity, from a neutral point of view; Clonoulty were always going to have their hands full but now their task became monumental. Even as people were worrying about a landslide, however, they came thundering into the game, centre-back John Devane prominent, but it was captain and wing-forward Tom Butler (not to be confused with cousin Thomas) supplying the inspiration. A hat-trick of points from Tom, freetaker Timmy Hammersley adding another, and when the ubiquitous John O’Neill bounced home a 20m free in the 29th minute it left just two points between the teams at the break, 0-9 to 1-4, and the prospect of a real contest to come.

The second half, however, began ominously for Clonoulty; only a fortunate block by Padraig Heffernan denied Lar Corbett what looked a certain goal just seconds after the restart (super delivery by midfielder Gleeson), but Sars wouldn’t be denied for long. Three fine points by Denis Maher and two from Aidan McCormack (two teenagers, the latter still a minor and scorer of 19 points in the recent minor county final success against Nenagh Eire Óg), against just one point for Clonoulty, from Hammersley, had the champions comfortably ahead at the three-quarter mark, and when Lar Corbett grabbed yet another seeing-eye centre from Gleeson on 46 minutes, stepped inside his marker and drilled to the net, it was practically out of sight – 1-14 to 1-5.

Hurling, however, is a funny old game and fortunes can change quite dramatically in the twinkling of an eye. Could have happened here too had any of those three goal-scoring opportunities that Clonoulty created for themselves in the final minutes been availed of. A combination of superb goal-keeping and great defence, however, allied to a bit of luck, meant Sars could breathe fairly easily as the minutes wound down, and for a roll-leading 31st time, Dan Breen rests once again in Thurles. Deserved, definitely, but there’s surely more in this team.

Scorers for Thurles Sars: D Maher 0-4; P Bourke 0-4 (frees); L Corbett 1-0; R Ruth 0-2; A McCormack 0-2; J Enright 0-2 (frees); S Lillis 0-2 (0-1 s/l).

Clonoulty-Rossmore: J O’Neill 1-1 (1-0 free); Tom Butler 0-3; T Hammersley 0-3 (0-2 frees).

THURLES SARSFIELDS SUBS: A McCormack for Enright (37); J Corbett for A Kennedy (52); JJ Burke for Ruth (61); M O’Brien for D Maher (61); P Leahy for O’Dwyer (62).

CLONOULTY-ROSSMORE SUBS: A Kearney for L Devane (23); P White for O’Connor (28); C Ryan for M Heffernan (38); S O’Connor for F O’Keeffe (50).

Referee: K Delahunty (Moyle Rovers)

Thurles double up

From the Irish Times newspaper

Thurles Sarsfields 1-16 Clonoulty-Rossmore 1-7: HURLER OF the Year Lar Corbett blasted home a 45th minute goal to seal back-to-back Tipperary senior titles for Thurles Sarsfields in a disappointing final at Semple Stadium, Thurles yesterday. Sarsfields seldom looked like surrendering their crown although Clonoulty-Rossmore recovered from a poor start to be only two points adrift at the break. Corbett’s goal opened a nine -point gap between the sides and ended Clonoulty’s hopes as two late quality saves by Thurles goalkeeper Patrick McCormack denied Clonoulty’s Thomas Butler and John O’Neill a rallying goal.

With Pádraic Maher turning in a man-of-the-match performance for Sarsfields at centre half back, Thurles hit six points without reply against the breeze in 12 minutes. Clonoulty-Rossmore were still five points adrift approaching half-time when John O’Neill lashed a 20-metre free to the net to cut the interval deficit to 1-4 to 0-9. Sarsfields stamped their authority on proceedings on the resumption. Under-21 star Denis Maher flashed over three points, and sub Aidan McCormack added two more to Timmy Hammersley’s sole response for Clonoulty, to put six points between them. Then came the final nail in the Clonoulty coffin as Ritchie Ruth and Michael Gleeson combined to set up Corbett whose finish was clinical.

SARSFIELDS: P McCormack; M Cahill, K O’Gorman, David Maher; B O’Dwyer, P Maher, D Kennedy; M Gleeson, A Kennedy; L Corbett(1-0), D Maher (0-4), S Lillis (0-2); R Ruth (0-2), P Bourke(0-4), J Enright (0-2). Subs: A McCormack (0-2) for Enright; J Corbett for A Kennedy; JJ Bourke for Ruth; P Leahy for B Dwyer, M O’Brien for Denis Maher.

CLONOULTY-ROSSMORE: D O’Dwyer; L Devane, J Heffernan, K Horan; Joey O’Keeffe, J Devane, P Heffernan; John O’Keeffe, S O’Connor; Tom Butler (0-3), M Heffernan, T Hammersley (0-3); F O’Keeffe, T Butler, J O’Neill (1-1). Subs: A Kearney for L Devane; P White for O’Connor; C Ryan for M Heffernan; S O’Connor for F O’Keeffe.

Referee: K Delahunty (Moyle Rovers)

Sars plant successive flags but set sights on loftier summits

By Diarmuid O’Flynn for the Irish Examiner newspaper

Monday, November 01, 2010

IN A year in which he has already enjoyed All-Ireland success with the Tipperary All-Ireland-winning team, this was another goal achieved; that was the reaction of Thurles Sars’ outstanding full-forward Pa Bourke after yesterday’s county senior hurling win over Clonoulty-Rossmore. “We’re delighted, of course, this was our goal from the start of the year – today was for everyone in the panel, from 1 to 33 – everyone who got to play, including those who came, we all worked hard, we all did it for each other. We got back together last January, took it step by step; we got through the Mid championship fairly unscathed, said we had to knuckle down from then on. We had Loughmore-Castleiney – our good neighbours from over the road – in the quarter-final, got over that, then got a bit of luck to get past Toomevara in the semi-final, barely got over the line.”

Despite a number of goal chances conceded in the final minutes, it was a relatively comfortable win in the end for Thurles; the real scare for them came two weeks ago in that semi-final win, a last-minute disputed 20m free at a time when Sars trailed by two points, a free that simply had to be goaled. Doing the business – one Pa Bourke, a drilled shot into the corner past a packed Toomevara defensive line. Were it not for that goal… “Ah sure look,” he shrugs, “You’re a hero one day, you could be the villain the next – we were just lucky to get over the line.”

Hard to believe for such a storied club, but this was Thurles Sarsfields’ first back-to-back title success since 1965. That year, in fact, and testament to their dominance in Tipperary hurling at a time when Tipperary hurling was dominant nationwide, Sars actually completed their second five-in-a-row in just eleven years, Toomevara the only team between them and a scarcely credible 11-in-a-row, when their bitter rivals from the north county beat them in 1960. History, says Pa, all history. “All we wanted to win was one-in-a-row; we weren’t thinking about two-in-a-row, three-in-a-row or anything like that, we only want to win it every year we can. Lucky enough we have a good bunch of players here at the moment, and we have done back-to-back, so we’re delighted with that. It’s great to win your own county final, that’s what every club player wants to do from the start of the year.”

Next up is the Munster club semi-final against Limerick champions Kilmallock, in Kilmallock, Sars favourites not just to win there but to go on and win Munster. Pa, however, is distinctly underwhelmed by that forecast. “Looking at the bookies, we were already favourites to win Munster even before we won our own county, but we only ever beat Lixnaw (Kerry champions, last year) in that; we’re going to enjoy this for a couple of nights, get back to training on Wednesday night and start thinking about the Munster club then.”

Even as Pa and his teammates celebrated, disappointment for Clonoulty coach Conor Gleeson, but hope also. “It wasn’t an easy day for hurling, people may not realise it but underfoot conditions weren’t the best. When you come to a final you’d like to perform as well as you can, as well as you’re going in training, but we just didn’t do that today – you don’t score only 1-7 and win a county final against a team as good as Thurles Sarsfields. They’re an excellent side, and when you add Redser (O’Grady, suspended after the semi-final for two months) they’ll be even stronger; they’re well able to win possession, their forwards especially, and well able to score. They’re a fine side, they’ll take a lot of stopping. We’re a young side, we got to the quarter-final last year, semi-final the year before, the final this year, so those lads are knocking on the door. I know they’ll stick with it; it hurts to lose on a day like today but they’ll be back – you know what they say, you have to lose one to win one.”