No doubting Thomas as hero Murray inspires famous first
ST THOMAS 3-11
St Thomas' manager John Burke said that the foundation for his club's first ever county senior title was laid when they won the U-12 crown a decade ago.
Burke, whose six sons featured in a cracking final in dreadful conditions at Pearse Stadium, said the win was down to years of hard work.
The club, founded in 1968 when Peterswell and Kilchreest merged, never trailed in their maiden final appearance and were deserved winners. "We have been pushing these lads since U-12 in 2002. We said to them to stick together and they might go places," said Burke.
"They progressed, did the work and they are able to hurl. It is a great day for the club and brilliant for the parish.
"We are only a small club in between Gort and Loughrea and it is great to finally emerge now and win it."
One of his sons, All Star David, was superb yesterday but it was former county midfielder Richie Murray, who pointed them to glory with a hat-trick of goals.
Murray, who captained Galway to All-Ireland minor success in 2000 before playing at midfield the following year when the Tribesmen lost the senior final to Tipperary, struck for his first after just a minute.
It was a superb effort as he rounded full-back Damien McClearn after collecting a low ball from David Burke to drive low to the net.
It helped settle a young St Thomas team against their neighbours who were playing in their sixth final in 10 years but who have now lost five in that time.
Loughrea never managed to lead but they got back into contention when full-forward Johnny Maher, who got married on Friday, blasted home a 20-metre free on 13 minutes.
But the Kilchreest-Peterswell side kept setting the pace.
The teams were level when Neil Keary pointed from play for Loughrea after 20 minutes, but less than a minute later Bernard Burke edged St Thomas into a lead they never surrendered.
Kenneth Burke added another and then they got a big break when Murray, moving out from his full-forward position, saw a shot from distance spin out of goalkeeper Nigel Murray's hand and end up in the net.
That helped St Thomas lead by 2-6 to 1-4 at the interval and while they had to face the breeze in the second half, they responded to Loughrea points after the restart by captain Gavin Keary and Johnny O'Loughlin with efforts from David and Bernard Burke.
Loughrea failed to take a couple of chances from play and frees in the third quarter which would have narrowed the deficit, but with Robert Murray, Darragh Burke and Enda Tannion superb in the St Thomas defence, they had a platform for success.
Galway senior James Regan added another point before Anthony Kelly set up Murray for his hat-trick after 39 minutes to put them ahead by 3-9 to 1-6.
Three Neil Keary pointed frees gave Loughrea hope and they set up a dramatic finish when Maher blasted a penalty to the net in the closing stages, although he should have been penalised for retaliating on two players.
Maher got one more chance in the dying moments but his 23-metre free was smothered in a crowded goalmouth before St Thomas cleared the lines and secured their first Galway title.
Scorers – St Thomas: Richie Murray 3-0, C Cooney 0-4 (2f), B Burke 0-3, David Burke 0-2, K Burke, J Regan 0-1 each.
Loughrea: J Maher 2-2 (1-0f, 1-0pen, 1f), N Keary 0-6 (4f), G Keary 0-2, J O'Loughlin 0-1.
St Thomas – P Skehill; S Skehill Robert Murray, C Burke; E Tannion, Darragh Burke, S Burke; K Burke, David Burke; B Burke, C Cooney, J Regan; G Murray, Richie Murray, A Kelly.
Subs: S Cooney for G Murray (35), E Burke for Kelly (51).
Loughrea – N Murray; E Mahony, D McClearn, B Mahony; J Coen, Paul Hoban, S Sweeney; G Keary, E Mahony; J O'Loughlin, V Maher, Patrick Hoban; N Keary, J Maher, K Colleran.
Subs: J Ryan for Patrick Hoban (53), T Regan for Colleran (45), J Dooley for Sweeney (50), N Shaughnessy for E Mahony (57).
Ref – E O'Shaughnessy