Saturday 17 March 2018

Saints' brothers in arms seize moment

Dermot Crowe All-Ireland club SH s/f replay

After the epic grandeur of the first day, the cliffhanger thrills of Parnell Park, this rematch failed to satisfy the fattened expectation it carried to Clones.

Loughgiel S'rocks 0-7

After the epic grandeur of the first day, the cliffhanger thrills of Parnell Park, this rematch failed to satisfy the fattened expectation it carried to Clones.

Loughgiel's reign as All-Ireland champions came to a conclusive end; they left the field comprehensively beaten by a Galway team backboned by six Burke brothers, all of whom played, five starting. It doesn't get more homely or closely-knit than that.

The Burkes aren't the only part of the story but they are the main allure. Their father, John, was an understandably proud man afterwards yet he heaped praise on all his soldiers and had the air of a man who expected an All-Ireland day in Croke Park was within their compass.

They hurled hard when they had to and they had the delicacy to their touch as well when required. Bernard Burke, a nephew of the manager, scored four points from play in a barnstorming performance.

"Bernard had a super game today," said his manager. "He works, works, works. We keep driving him on; he is a bit of a character."

There were no complaints from Loughgiel, who won their second All-Ireland last March, and could have beaten St Thomas a week earlier. The hurling was breathless and a privilege to witness last week. Yesterday fell well short and as early as the end of the third quarter Loughgiel looked spent.

"We did not turn up in the second half," said their centre-back Martin Scullion. "They are a very good team. They struck over two or three points in a row and blew us out of the water and we had no answer. It's hard winning titles back to back; any team that does it, fair play to them."

They were just a point adrift, 0-6 to 0-5, at half-time and drew level early in the second half when Liam Watson won and pointed a free. But their marquee forward, who starred in the St Patrick's Day coronation in 2012, did not make a serious impact. He scored six frees, the last another 20-metre effort for goal that was parried over the bar, and the only other flag raised was by Eddie McCloskey, their best forward on the day and only scorer from play.

McCloskey proved a handful and St Thomas brought Eanna Burke on to the field after 25 minutes in a bid to subdue him. He was Loughgiel's main target for puckouts and never shied away from putting up his hand. When his new marker struck a tidy point after coming on, McCloskey answered with one of his own as if slighted.

Early in the match, as the St Thomas manager admitted graciously, Loughgiel spurned some good scoring chances and were made pay. "The chances we got, we scored them," said John Burke. "They got three goal chances in the first five minutes and we could have been dead and buried. We got two blocks and one went wide."

Benny McCarry had an early goal chance but struck it wide of the far post. A smart move created another opening for Shay Casey only for Cathal Burke to make a vital intervention. After nine minutes Watson pulled on a ball but it went wide of the target after McCloskey's delivery. At the other end there was some drama too, with county minor Shane Cooney denied by Neil McGarry.

St Thomas' first point was a harbinger of things to come, James Regan stealing the ball from Barney McAuley and scoring from out the field. Regan played centre-field with David Burke and the diamond area around where they resided gradually became the preserve of the Galway side. They built their victory around that iron rule. Some Watson frees brought Loughgiel back to within a point at the break but when St Thomas upped a gear in the third quarter the champions faded.

Conor Cooney didn't reproduce the spectaculars of day one but he still chipped in 0-6 and his one from play was probably the wristiest of the day. After Watson's early second-half point, Loughgiel went 27 minutes without scoring. In the same spell, they conceded 0-8, including a three-point burst from Bernard Burke that left them trailing 0-12 to 0-6 with still 13 minutes to play.

Even by then it was, too all intents and purposes, over.

Scorers – St Thomas: C Cooney 0-6 (4f, 1 '65'), B Burke 0-4, E Burke, K Burke, David Burke, J Regan, R Murray 0-1 each. Loughgiel: L Watson 0-6f, E McCloskey 0-1.

St Thomas: P Skehill; S Burke, S Skehill, C Burke; E Tannion, Darragh Burke, R Murray; J Regan, David Burke; C Cooney, S Cooney, B Burke; A Kelly, R Murray, K Burke. Subs: E Burke for Tannion (25), G Murray for K Burke (inj, 45), D Sherry for Kelly (55).

Loughgiel: D Quinn; P Gillan, N McGarry, M McFadden; James Campbell, M Scullion, Johnny Campbell; B McAuley, T McCloskey; J Scullion, D Laverty, E McCloskey; B McCarry, L Watson, S Casey. Subs: O McFadden for McAuley (42), S Dobbin for Laverty (47).

Referee: J Owens (Wexford)

Irish Independent

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