Sarsfields honour 'The Rattler' in fitting style
Thurles Sars 0-27 Kiladangan 1-15
There are days when defeat is simply not an option, and yesterday was one of those for Thurles Sarsfields.
Just hours before this final got underway, the Sars players, backroom staff and supporters were coming to terms with the news that club legend Mickey 'The Rattler' Byrne, had passed away at the age of 93.
It was a fresh blow to a club that had lost former senior team selector Jack Griffin almost a year ago.
Griffin, just 47, and a high ranking officer in the Defence Forces who was held in the highest of esteem, was a father of three young girls.
Yesterday, his daughters Isabelle (8), Larragh (10) and Emma (5), went up the steps of the New Stand at Semple Stadium to help Pádraic Maher lift the silverware.
The significance of the moment wasn't lost on Sars coach Paddy McCormack, who acknowledged: "It was a lovely thing that Pádraic brought them up.
"Jack's mother-in-law was there today and his wife, too. The pain never goes away, we were all friends with Jackie, we all hurled with him coming up along."
Byrne was also a much-loved figure, a club legend. With the Blues, he captured 14 county senior hurling medals, and was still playing well into the 1960s when the Sars last won three in a row.
McCormack added: "The Rattler . . . in our club, when we were growing up we heard so much about Mickey Byrne, 11 county finals in a row (winning 10) and that record, 14 county titles.
"So we were always looking up to them. When I started hurling, The Rattler used to be in the dressing-room telling great stories about hamstrings and various things.
"He used to be an entertainer as well as anything else when he finished up hurling as well.
"A great family. . . we are very saddened by his death but it's a celebration of a great life, a great man and a great Thurles Sarsfields man.
"We are delighted to win it on this occasion."
Griffin and Byrne would have loved this. Sars, classy and hard-working, completed a comfortable win to set up a provincial quarter-final with the Waterford champions in less than a fortnight.
For Kiladangan, appearing in a first county final since 1938, there would be no fairytale, and no complaints either.
This one was done and dusted at half-time, with the Blues 0-15 to 0-6 clear in front of 6,546 spectators.
They led by 0-9 to 0-1 within ten minutes, Richie Ruth accounting for four of those early scores.
Pa Bourke finished with nine points, seven from frees, with Aidan McCormack and Ruth hitting 11 from play between them.
A damp afternoon, but decent conditions for hurling nonetheless, ended with Sars having eight players contributing to the final tally.
They were 12 points clear - 0-21 to 0-9 - midway through the second half before Joe Gallagher crashed home a fine consolation goal for Kiladangan.
It was one of a few bright spots on a day when they were cleaned out aerially by Sars, who dominated the puckout stats.
Kiladangan repeatedly went long but where they had profited from that tactic in previous outings, they were up against the Maher brothers, Ronan and Pádraic, and Denis Maher under the aerial ball. Different kettle of fish entirely.
Ronan was man of the match and his 43rd-minute sideline cut that split the Town End posts from almost 70m was just brilliant, and the score of the game.
Kiladangan's joint-captain Darragh Egan, his side's leading scorer on the day, admitted: "We were outfoxed and outclassed today.
"One thing you'd have to give Thurles credit for, the way they approached the game, they really hurt us with their puckouts, they were using the space a good bit better than we were.
"We were launching ball high from our puckouts, we were told to do that because we had been dominating in the air in the half forward line over the last few games but you're meeting a different calibre of player under the ball and they really outfoxed us."
Sometimes, it's just meant to be. The challenge now for Sars is to push on for more silverware.
Scorers - Thurles Sarsfields: P Bourke 0-9 (7fs), A McCormack 0-6, R Ruth 0-5, R Maher (1 sl) & C Lanigan 0-2 each, S Maher, S Lillis & L Corbett 0-1 each. Kiladangan: D Egan 0-6 (5f), J Gallagher 1-1, W Connors 0-3 (1 65) R Gleeson 0-2, J Horan, P Flynn & T Gallagher 0-1 each.
THURLES SARSFIELDS - P McCormack; M Cahill, S Lillis, S Maher; D Maher, P Maher, R Maher; S Cahill, B McCarthy; T Doyle, A McCormack, P Bourke; C Lanigan, R Ruth, L Corbett. Subs: R Dwan for D Maher (50), J Maher for Lanigan (52), D Kennedy for Corbett (59), K O'Gorman for Ruth (60+3).
KILADANGAN - B Hogan; J Quigley, H Flannery, F Hayes; D Sweeney, A Flynn, D Moran; J Horan, M Minehan; J Gallagher, W Connors, R Gleeson; T Gallagher, D Egan, P Flynn. Subs: J Loughnane for Minehan (24), E Kelly for Horan (45).
Ref - J McCormack (Knockavilla-Donaskeigh Kickhams)