Borris-IIeigh 0-21 Toomevara 1-18
The last time Borris-Ileigh played championship hurling, there were more than 25,000 people in attendance in Croke Park as they went down in last January’s All-Ireland final. This time, in Nenagh, it was very different.
This time around there was the crowd limit of 200, which was observed, save for a couple of enterprising neighbours who watched from the unique vantage point on a cherry picker.
There were water breaks and physios in surgical masks. There were gardaí present to make sure all was above board but nowhere to go for team talks or to change. This was senior hurling but not as we know it.
And at the end, the two north Tipp rivals were left to share the spoils. With two teams coming out of a four-team group, the result wasn’t a major blow to either side’s hopes of progressing but both can make the case that they left this behind them.
Borris can point to the fact that they were five points up early in the second half and they also hit 12 wides after the restart. Toomevara saw a first-half penalty saved but Toome’ manager Eoin Brislane reckoned neither side deserved to lose.
“I think it was a fair result,” said the former Tipperary and Meath hurler.
“I’m sure if you asked (Borris-Ileigh manager) Johnny Kelly he’d say they had chances too but I think it was a fair result, it was a hard-fought game .. and the first day out no one really knows where they are at. You can play all the challenge matches you want but you don’t really know.
“So leaving today we are happy we are going in the right direction but we are by no means the finished article.”
There were signs of that rustiness early on with neither side managing a score for the first seven minutes but the quality quickly improved. Toome’ led 0-4 to 0-2 by the ten-minute mark with the likes of Willie Coffey and Jerry Kelly grabbing some excellent scores.
At half-time, the Munster champions led by two points, thanks largely to James McCormack’s penalty save. McCormack stopped the effort of Toome’ goalkeeper Robert Delaney after Russell Quirke had been fouled to ensure the reigning champions took a 0-12 to 0-10 lead in at the break.
Brendan Maher converted a couple of frees on the restart, including one from close to 100 metres out, to help Borris into their five-point lead. But thanks to a Mark McCarthy goal and with an side rejuvenated by the introduction of Paul Ryan, Jack Delaney and Kenny Ryan, the Greyhounds looked like they would pin their ears back and go for home as they opened up a two-point gap with just over ten minutes to play.
However, Borris played their way back into things and looked like they had won it when Kelly fired over a brilliant point followed by his trademark air punch celebration that lit up Croke Park back in January. However, Joey McLoughney kept his nerve to secure a share of the spoils for his side.
“It was (bizarre) but once we got the go-ahead to go and do it we prepared like we would always,” Borris manager Johnny Kelly said of the preparation.
“For Borris-Ileigh, it is probably a psychological barrier to get over, having had such a good run last year and going back into the next year. And Toomevara today played really well, played some really good hurling and they have some fine young hurlers and we were lucky to come away with a draw at the end. I know we were five points up and had a lot of bad wides but overall happy with the draw and we’ll see if we can improve from here.”
And he agreed that it was one of the more unusual scenarios he has faced as a manager.
“It is a strange environment. Match day is strange. Because you are used to the banter and used to a certain way of preparing and there’s no use of dressing-rooms. But that’s for everyone, it’s something new and something we have to get our head around.
“You have to manage it with players but we have to manage it ourselves first because we don’t know either. It’s something new. We’ll take the experience from today but psychologically for our guys, having such a long run last year, with highs and lows after losing the final, it is very hard to know what the goal is now.
“For a club that took a long time to win a county title, that’s achieved so what is our focus now or what more do they want to do? And we have to look at that and address it and see can we squeeze more out of our guys.”
SCORERS – Borris-Ileigh: B Maher 0-6 (4f, 1 ’65); J Kelly 0-5; Kevin Maher 0-4 (3f); Kieran Maher 0-2; J Devaney, C Kenny, T Ryan, D McCormack 0-1 each.
Toomevara: J McLoughney 0-6 (6f); M McCarthy 1-2 (1 sl); K McCarthy 0-5 (4f); W Coffey, J Delaney, K Ryan, D Young, C O’Meara 0-1 each.
Borris-Ileigh – J McCormack; L Ryan, S McCormack, S Burke; C Cowan, B Maher, R McCormack; D McCormack, T Ryan; C Kenny, J Kelly, Kieran Maher; Kevin Maher, N Kenny, J Devaney. Subs: M Stapleton for S McCormack (55), S Kenny for N Kenny (60).
Toomevara – R Delaney; Liam Ryan, A Ryan, J Ryan; C Canning, J McLoughney, J McCarthy; J Ryan, R Quirke; W Coffey, C O’Meara, D Young; R Quirke, M McCarthy, K McCarthy. Subs: Paul Ryan for Canning (30), J Delaney for O’Meara (36), K Ryan for Young (38), Alan Ryan for Mark McCarthy (56).
Ref – F Horgan (Knockavilla Kickhams)