Can Sarsfields knock St Thomas' off their perch

Galway Senior Hurling Championship semi-finals contain arguably the four clubs all would have predicted. With the potential to create two massively entertaining encounters, Turloughmore and Sarsfields still go into the fixtures as rank outsiders.

They are taking on last year’s finalists, Loughrea and St Thomas’ respectively, in Pearse Stadium on Sunday - thus the odds compilers are leaning towards a repeat of last year’s classic encounter, when after more than two hours of hurling over two days, only a point separated the sides, with St Thomas’ claiming their fifth title in a row.

Loughrea manager Tommy Kelly has assembled a backroom team with bags of inter-county experience, and when they faced Turloughmore in last year’s quarter-finals, they were three-point victors, mainly thanks to the scoring exploits of Jamie Ryan, Martin McManus, and Anthony Burns.

St Thomas’, managed by Kenneth Burke, who was put forward this week as Galway minor manager for the next two seasons, take on Sarsfields for the second year running at this stage. They took the honours last year, winning by 2-19 to 0-15, but David Burke and Mark Caulfield are notable absences this season.

So can the underdogs upset the apple cart? Both needed to go down the route of preliminary quarter-finals after up-and-down displays in the group stages, and certainly Turloughmore’s defeat to St Thomas’, and Sarsfields loss at the hands of Castlegar raised eyebrows at the time.

But two comprehensive knock-out wins apiece appears to have ensured both clubs are back on track at just the right time. Turloughmore saw off Maigh Cuillin and Castlegar with the minimum of fuss, while Sarsfields rattled in six goals with wins over Killimordaly and Oranmore-Maree, with Kevin Cooney bagging four of them.

And despite the removal of the senior B clubs from the championship this year the average margin of victory in the knockout games so far has massively increased – 14 in 2023 compared to six last year.

Loughrea’s two-point win over Clarinbridge in the quarter-finals was the closest game thus far, while St Thomas’ were far from their efficient best for large spells when seeing off Cappataggle. Loughrea’s determination to get back to the finale cannot be underestimated and they are tipped to progress, but the Cooney brothers-inspired Sarsfields could finally be the side to cause a shock and knock St Thomas’ off their lofty perch.

Elsewhere, the Daniel Reeves Trophy will be played for on Saturday in Duggan Park as the Senior B championship final takes place at 4pm. Mullagh have been mightily impressive to date and are firm favourites to get the better of Ahascragh-Fohenagh, but with the Mannion brothers involved, the east Galway club will always give themselves a fighting chance.

This game will be preceded by the Junior A final between Skehana/Mountbellew/Moylough and Salthill/Knocknacarra, while the senior A relegation play-off between Portumna and Kilconieron takes place in Kilbeacanty, also on Saturday afternoon.

The intermediate championship semi-finals are also down for decision on Saturday afternoon in Loughrea, with two close encounters expected when Sylane take on Ballinderreen at 2pm before Tynagh Abbey/Duniry’s clash with Meelick/Eyrecourt at 3.30pm.

 

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