Banner's best keep grip on Munster
ST JOSEPH'S 0-12 TOOMEVARA 0-8 AFTER only a few minutes of witnessing some typical Jamesie O'Connor magic, we sat back in our seats and waited for the AIB Munster club hurling title to return to Clare for the fourth year in succession.
And if the certainty of a St Joseph's victory receded to the point where Toomevara were still in with a shout in the dying minutes, none of the 10,177 crowd leaving the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick could argue but that the better team won.
St Joseph's, Doora-Barefield are a formidable unit, potential All-Ireland champions next spring, and their task now is to streamline the model, so they play to a standard reflecting the individual brilliance within the team.
The match was an exciting contest, even if the phrase `this game needs a Toomevara goal to liven it up' tripped more than once off the tongue of neutrals.
The high level of sportsmanship displayed by both teams was perfectly measured by referee Pat O'Connor. Apart from his sensible handling of the encounter, he also reprimanded Toomevara full-back Rory Brislane for `doing a Bilic on it,' to use an analogy popular in Munster hurling.
When Louis Mulqueen, Michael Clohessy, Fergus McDonagh and Tommy Duggan address the next phase of their assault on the All-Ireland title, they will taking a few forwards to one side. Up front, they have talent in abundance, but in the rush for the spectacular the simple things are sometimes neglected.
This was touched on by Jamesie O'Connor, the de facto man-of-the-match, despite the public announcement of Ollie Baker, when he remarked that ``we did the usual over-elaboration and crazy passing.''
A more reflective approach will release the potential in men like Andrew Whelan and Lorcan Hassett.
Toomevara hung in there and came up on St Joseph's shoulder on a few occasions, but they could never get their noses in front. For them, the game's crucial axis came between the 43rd and 45th minutes, Tomas Dunne, Brian Duff and Dunne again were wide with point-scoring opportunities.
They were 0-10 to 0-7 behind at the time, and a suspicion that St Joseph's were vulnerable had hardened. Not alone did the misses suck some life out of Toomevara, but negative equity set in when Ciaran O'Neill scored the next point at the far end for St Joseph's.
He should have had a goal when he pirouetted in the large square, but he spun too far and was lucky to end up with a point.
For the final ten minutes, Toomevara pushed Tomas Dunne up to full-forward, the switch that did the damage against Blackrock in the semi-final. St Joseph's defended well, even if Toomevara were not blessed with much by way of attacking flair.
In this period, as in all other periods of the game, Seanie McMahon, Ger and David Hoey, and Kenneth Kennedy swarmed the Toomevara forwards and reduced the chances of the badly-needed Toomevara goal.
A close-run finish was a slim prospect in the early stages, when O'Connor was at his scintillating best. By the 11th minute, he had five points on the board no-one else on the park had scored. St Joseph's had at least a two-point cushion for the remainder of the game.
It was not a one-man show, however, for three of O'Connor's points were from frees awarded when Toomevara were forced to foul goal-bound St Joseph's men. Mulqueen has had occasion to rebuke his team at half-time in various matches this season, and despite the early flourish, his voice had to be raised in the dressingroom again.
By then, Toomevara had come back with three Tomas Dunne frees, a 65 from Tony Delaney and a Dunne point from play. It was 0-7 to 0-5, and all to play for when Mulqueen cleared his throat.
O'Connor rattled over two frees in the 32nd and 35th minutes. Dunne replied with a free before Hassett finished off a brilliant move, spearheaded by Greg Baker, with a point. Dunne's 42nd minute point was followed by the aforementioned three wides.
The edginess in St Joseph's display manifested itself in a string of wides in the final 12 minutes. Whelan, Ollie Baker, Hassett (twice), Joe Considine and sub. Colm Mullen all missed. But the opposition was unimpressive and goalkeeper Christy O'Connor had no big save to make: apart from Tomas Dunne, no Toomevara forward scored from play.
The only half-chance of a goal that fell to Dunne in the late flurry, was a free to the right of the goal. He is too rational a creature to try something as audacious a shot on goal when the angle was less than favourable, so he took his point.
The goal never came.
St Joseph's can now celebrate their most famous weekend ever, when three of their own got All-Stars awards and they won the Munster club title for the first time.
SCORERS St Joseph's: J O'Connor 0-9 (0-7f), G Baker, L Hassett, C O'Neill 0-1 each. Toomevara: Tomas Dunne 0-7 (0-6f), T Delaney 0-1 (65).
ST JOSEPH'S C O'Connor; G Hoey, D Cahill, K Kennedy; D O'Driscoll, S McMahon, D Hoey; O Baker, J Considine; J O'Connor, N Brodie, L Hassett; G Baker, C O'Neill, A Whelan. Sub: C Mullen for C O'Neill, 59.
TOOMEVARA J Cottrell; G Frend, R Brislane, A Maxwell; P Hackett, T Delaney, P Shanahan; P King, Terry Dunne; K Dunne, Tomas Dunne, P O'Brien; D Kelly, K Kennedy, K Cummins. Subs: P McGrath for K Cummins, half-time. B Duff for D Kelly, 39. B Dunne for K Kennedy, 57.
Ref: P O'Connor (Limerick).