McCormack's haul wrests crown back for battling Thurles
THURLES Sarsfields collected a 32nd Tipperary SHC title at Semple Stadium, dethroning last year's champions Drom & Inch in a riveting encounter.
Corner-forward Aidan McCormack, a Tipperary U-21 this year, scored 1-6 from play as Sars scored yet another final victory over Drom, having also beaten their neighbours and Mid-divisional rivals in the showpiece deciders of 2005 and 2009.
Sars collected the Dan Breen Cup for the third time in four seasons and thoughts immediately turned to the prospect of the Munster club championship and a provincial quarter-final showdown in Kilmallock on October 28.
Sars have never won the Munster club title, but Drom & Inch manager Teddy Kennedy visited the winning dressing-room after the game and urged the newly crowned champions to push on and restore pride in Tipperary hurling.
Johnny Ryan was unlucky to find himself on the losing side after producing a quite brilliant performance from midfield.
Ryan hit 0-9, with six of those scores coming from play, with fellow Tipp senior panellist Seamus Callanan bagging 1-3.
Second-half goals from David Butler and Callanan gave Drom real momentum as they came from seven points down at half-time, 0-7 to 1-11, to lead with 10 minutes remaining.
Butler netted just 13 seconds after half-time before Callanan touched home a 47th-minute goal from a long ball in from midfield.
Drom led by 2-14 to 1-16 in the 50th minute when Callanan shot over and, having defeated Sars in two competitive outings already this year, hopes were high of adding to last year's first-ever county final success.
But Sars kept cool and a run of four unanswered points after Callanan's lead score was good enough to get the job done.
That was Sars all afternoon: streaky, but when they were good, they were very good.
There was late drama three minutes from time when Callanan was presented with a goal chance which, if taken, would have put his side a point ahead.
But the wing-forward's scuffed ground stroke drifted agonisingly wide of goal and in the final minute of normal time, Callanan saw a 20-metre free blocked by the massed ranks on the Sars goal-line.
Ryan slotted over the '65' to bring Drom within two points of the winners but McCormack, fittingly, had the final say in the second minute of stoppage-time with the last score of the game.
Some 6,937 spectators were present to watch the most successful club team in the history of Tipperary hurling increase their lead in the roll of honour to 10 over nearest rivals Toomevara.
But it was Drom who got off to the better start in the first half and led by 0-3 to 0-1 with less than five minutes on the watch.
For the remainder of the half, however, the 2011 champions were playing catch-up as Sars opened up with some fluent hurling.
A run of seven unanswered points had them 0-8 to 0-3 in front, with Drom going 12 minutes without a score before their most effective player, midfielder Ryan, scored a 17th-minute point.
Callanan's effort cut the deficit back to just three but Sars, playing with the aid of a stiff first-half breeze blowing into the Town End, hit Drom with another mini scoring-burst of three successive points.
Drom were hanging on to the Sars coat-tails but two points, one from Callanan and a monster Ryan free into the wind, reduced the deficit to four points, 0-7 to 0-11.
Drom would have taken that at half-time but in the second minute of stoppage-time at the end of the first half, Sars struck for a sucker-punch goal.
The imperious Michael Cahill, who did a fine man-marking job on Callanan, completed yet another clearance from the right half-back position and the ball broke kindly for McCormack, who darted behind the Drom cover to finish clinically from just inside the 13-metre line.
Scorers -- Thurles Sarsfields: A McCormack 1-6, P Bourke 0-6 (5f), M Gleeson, M O'Brien, J Enright (2f) 0-2 each, P Maher, J Corbett, Denis Maher 0-1 each. Drom & Inch: J Ryan 0-9 (2f, 1 '65'), S Callanan 1-3 (0-1f), D Butler 1-1, J Woodlock, S Butler 0-1 each.
THURLES SARSFIELDS -- P McCormack; S Maher, K O'Gorman, David Maher; M Cahill, P Maher, D Kennedy; M Gleeson, J Enright; P Bourke, L Corbett, J Corbett; M O'Brien, Denis Maher, A McCormack. Subs: G O'Grady for J Corbett (49), J Maher for O'Brien (49), R Ruth for Enright (57), J Lawlor for Denis Maher (60+3).
DROM & INCH -- D Young; E Costello, M Butler, M Costello; E Walsh, E Buckley, L Ryan; S Delaney, J Ryan; P Lupton, J Woodlock, S Callanan; S Butler, J Lupton, D Butler. Subs: P Stapleton for E Costello (24), P Kennedy for J Lupton (h-t), J Moloney for Delaney (h-t), K Butler for P Lupton (53), D Collins for Moloney (60+2).
Ref -- F Horgan (Knockavilla Donaskeigh Kickhams)