Burke stars as Thomas' mark 50th anniversary with Galway title glory
St. Thomas' 2-13 Liam Mellows 0-10
As a means of celebrating a special club anniversary, it doesn't get more stylish than winning a county title.
St. Thomas' oozed class and confidence as they marked the club's 50th anniversary by powering to their third Galway crown in Pearse Stadium yesterday.
It delivered their second triumph in three seasons and was made all the sweeter by the comprehensive manner of their victory over defending champions Liam Mellows.
"It's fantastic for a small rural club and especially this year. We put in a massive effort and it paid off," said Galway captain David Burke, after a typically enterprising performance which took him all over the place in search of work and responsibility.
However, it was his younger brother Darragh who deservedly took the man of the match award after a super show which yielded 1-7, 1-5 from play.
Two other Burke brothers also did well, with Cathal solid in the full-back line while éanna picked off three points in the first half.
Fintan Burke, Shane Cooney and David Sherry were ultra-reliable in a defence which smothered every Liam Mellows' initiative at source.
The extent of the dominance enjoyed by the Kilchreest-Peterswell outfit was underlined by Liam Mellows' failure to score from play until five minutes into the second half.
By the end of the third quarter, Liam Mellows manager, Louis Mulqueen had withdrawn three of his forwards and switched David Collins from defence to attack.
Together with sub Ronan Elwood, the ex-Galway star posed some problems for the St Thomas' defence but by then Liam Mellows were in a desperate situation and looking highly unlikely to rein in their highly efficient opponents.
Liam Mellows were forced to resort to chasing goals, even from half-chances, and while their eagerness was understandable, it yielded little by way of positive return.
They came close to scoring a goal just after half-time but were denied by two goalline blocks and when Darragh Burke extended St. Thomas' lead to eight points shortly afterwards, it was obvious that Liam Mellows' bid for their first county title double since 1954-'55 was a beaten docket.
St. Thomas' made sure there was no way back in the 45th minute when captain Conor Cooney drove in their second goal.
It was their last score of the day as they dropped deep to repel whatever challenge arose. Liam Mellows managed just two more points, which left them nine behind opposition who beat them by exactly the same amount in the group stages.
St. Thomas' laid down an early marker when they raced into a four-point lead after six minutes. Liam Mellows clawed their way back with three pointed frees from Adrian Morrissey but it was evident even at that stage that their attack was in for a torrid time from a tight, tigerish defence.
St. Thomas' made a vital break in the 15th minute when Darragh Burke pounced for a goal after Liam Mellows goalkeeper Kenneth Walsh dropped the ball as he tried to control it.
In fairness to him, the defence should have been more vigilant as Burke was allowed to nudge the ball goalwards hockey-style before whipping it to the net.
Everything was running Burke's way and by half-time, he had scored 1-4 (1-3 from play) to help St. Thomas' to a seven-point lead, 1-10 to 0-6. Ominously for Liam Mellows, all of their points had come from frees, whereas 1-9 of St. Thomas' total were hit from play.
"We had ourselves wired to work as hard as we could from start to finish. The good start set us up but they came back as us in a big way," said David Burke.
"It might have looked fairly easy on the scoreboard but it was tough going out there. Our desire was huge - lads wanting to get on the ball everywhere. That won it for us in the end."
And what of his younger brother's outstanding performance?
"He's been doing that all year, but then all the lads have been great. We all step up on different days. We set ourselves high standards. We really wanted to win it this year," he said.
That was evident from the start yesterday in a game where the sideline rivalry produced its own Clare-Limerick sideshow.
Liam Mellows manager Louis Mulqueen and St. Thomas' selector/coach, former Limerick player and manager TJ Ryan, exchanged pleasantries during the first half, prompting referee Liam Gordon to speak to both camps before the start of the second half.
It all settled down after that, with Ryan able to enjoy the on-field action alongside manager Kevin Lally, while Mulqueen struggled in vain to find a way to energise his side.
Victory takes St. Thomas' straight through to an All-Ireland semi-final meeting with Cushendall (Antrim) in February, a challenge which, on the basis of their run through the Galway championship, they will really relish.
Scorers - St. Thomas: Darragh Burke 1-7 (2f), C Cooney 1-1, E Burke 0-3, David Burke, J Regan 0-1 each. Liam Mellows: A Morrissey 0-6 (6f), K Lee, C Hynes, T Haran, J Forde 0-1 each.
St. Thomas' - G Murray; C Mahoney, C Burke, D Sherry; D Cooney, S Cooney, F Burke; J Regan, E Burke ; Darragh Burke, David Burke, B Burke; B Farrell, C Cooney, D McGlynn. Subs: K Burke for McGlynn (40), C Kelly for B Burke (43), S Skehill for D Cooney (59), M Caulfield for Farrell (59), D Finnerty for E Burke (62).
Liam Mellows - K Walsh; C Reilly, S Morrissey, M Hughes; M Conneely, D Collins, B Leen; J Hastings, K Lee; C Kavanagh, C Hynes, A Callanan; A Morrissey, T Haran, J Forde. Subs: R Elwood for Callanan (39), J Forde for Morrissey (39), S Barrett for Fallon (42), C Elwood for Lee (52).
Ref - L Gordon (Killimor)