TIPPERARY: Sarsfields end the famine
THURLES SARSFIELDS 1-17 DROM-INCH 0-15 Tipperary SHC Final WORDS that echoed Richard Stakelum's winning speech in Killarney in 1987 rang out across a murky and wet Semple Stadium, as the famine finally ended for Thurles Sarsfields.
Sarsfields captain Ger 'Redser' O'Grady borrowed the Stakelum catch phrase and it seemed as appropriate now as it was back in '87. Traditionally one of the powerbrokers in Tipperary hurling, they hadn't won a county title in 31 years after their 29th success in 1974.
But, in their own backyard, they laid the demons of the last few years to restore a proud club to primacy in the county once again.
After four final defeats between 2000 and 2003, and six in all in the 31 years, their famine had become all consuming.
And at times in Semple Stadium yesterday, they carried the weight of those barren years uneasily as Drom/Inch, inspired by the magnificent Seamus Butler, pressed them hard.
But their class and superior firepower told in the end as they stretched their mid Tipp rivals, who had drawn with them in a divisional final earlier in the year, in the game's critical period, the third quarter.
It was the first Tipp final between two 'mid' teams since 1964 and it generated huge enthusiasm with 12,710 present, a significant increase on recent attendances.
Perhaps the appointment of Babs Keating as county manager earlier in the week had something to do with that. Babs arrived a few minutes before throw-in and was greeted warmly by the large crowd.
What he saw won't have displeased him too much either and in Butler, his midfield partner James Woodlock, Thurles full-back Gary Mernagh and of course the enigmatic O'Grady he may have players of potential to work with.
O'Grady captained 'Sars' yesterday and if he is to be part of Babs' plans next season, and the club were to nominate him as county captain, it would be quite an interesting proposition for the management.
O'Grady was one of the key figures for Thurles as he led the line superbly during that third quarter, winning puck-outs and going in bravely to win crucial possession. The success of Thurles is yet another notch in the belt for Ger Cunningham who coached Newtownshandrum to All-Ireland club success last year and helped to revive Limerick's fortunes this season under Joe McKenna's management.
Sarsfields' artillery was more widespread than their country neighbours. Butler was the obvious threat and his 11 point haul, four from play, earned him the consolation of the 'man of the match' award. Woodlock was also a threat but, elsewhere, they struggled.
In contrast, O'Grady could fall back on the likes of Wayne Cully, Johnny Enright, Lar Corbett, Pat Lawlor and Richie Ruth for support and when they got an inch in that third quarter they felt liberated and took a mile.
To Drom/Inch's credit they gave a great account of themselves in their first ever final but their goalkeeper Damien Young won't be happy after letting a Cully sideline slip through his hands for the game's only goal after nine minutes.
It gave Sarsfields a 1-3 to 0-3 cushion but they were never allowed to extend it much further as Butler kept his team in touch with their first seven scores.
The gap fell to a point on a couple of occasions and Drom/Inch could have taken the lead when ref Brian White turned down a penatly when Micheal Butler was taken down on 20 minutes but Sars led 1-9 to 0-9 at half-time.
Butler and Woodlock closed the gap to a point again within five minutes of the restart but Thurles kept pressing as O'Grady's influence grew, and with a point from their captain, another from Stephen Lillis and two from Cully pushed them 1-17 to 0-13 clear with 10 minutes remaining.
Drom/Inch had no way back from that and with some stern defence Thurles were never going to be breached.
SCORERS - Thurles Sarsfields: J Enright 0-6 (2f, 1 65), W Cully 1-2, G O'Grady, R Ruth 0-3 each, P Lawlor, E Enright, S Lillis 0-1 each. Drom Inch: S Butler 0-11 (5f, 2 65s), J Woodlock 0-2, K Butler, M Butler 0-1 (65).
THURLES SARSFIELDS - P McCormack; B O'Sullivan, G Mernagh, T King; S Lillis, B Carroll, J Lawlor; E Enright, W Cully; J Corbett, J Enright, G O'Grady; R Ruth, P lawlor, L Corbett. Subs: S Mason for Lillis (54), P Bourke for P Lawlor (57), E Costello for Ruth (59), L Shanahan for King (63), E Walsh for L Corbett (63).
DROM INCH - D Young; M Costello, E Buckley, E Costello, D Kennedy, P Ryan, T Cantwell; S Butler, J Woodlock; Micheal Butler, P Butler, M Ryan; K Butler, Macdara Butler, S Callanan. Subs: P Collins for K Butler (47), L Brett for Callanan (49), F McGrath for Macdara Butler (53), P Kennedy for P Ryan (56), Martin Butler for Kennedy.
REF - B White.