St. Thomas’ return to promised land following almighty battle with O’Loughlin Gaels

ST. THOMAS’ 0-18 O’LOUGHLIN GAELS 0-17

Fintan Burke of St Thomas' celebrates with the Tommy Moore Cup after his side's victory in the AIB GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Club Championship Final match between O?Loughlin Gaels of Kilkenny and St Thomas’ of Galway at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Mdheach/Sportsfile

Fintan Burke of St Thomas' celebrates with the Tommy Moore Cup after his side's victory in the AIB GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Club Championship Final match between O?Loughlin Gaels of Kilkenny and St Thomas’ of Galway at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Piaras Mdheach/Sportsfile

A score for the ages by Éanna Burke secured St. Thomas’ a much-deserved second All-Ireland senior hurling club title last Sunday in Croke Park after a titanic tussle with Kilkenny’s O’Loughlin Gaels.

St. Thomas’ had needed to call on every ounce of grit and determination available to them after James Regan was harshly dismissed thirty minutes earlier. In severely testing wind and rain, led by the magnificent David Burke, they eked out a three point lead heading into the closing minutes.

O’Loughlin Gaels were not about to throw in the towel, though, having won their previous two games with late surges. Three points were rattled off in what seemed like the blink of an eye, leaving St. Thomas’ supporters desperate for the full time whistle and a restoration of equal playing numbers.

Instead, Éanna Burke conjured up a score that almost defied belief, cajoling the sliotar with three touches of his hurl while swivelling into position under pressure to send a shot off his left hand side between the posts from the side-line under the Hogan Stand on the 21 metre line.

O’Loughlin Gaels still had time to force a long range free that could have salvaged a draw, but in the conditions it was a tough ask of veteran free-taker Mark Bergin and his effort drifted left and wide.

All told, this win was a victory for the collective spirit and dogged application of a hugely talented group of players who had conquered Galway again and again but had consistently fallen short on the national stage. Their leaders led by example, with David Burke covering every blade of grass and contributing three vital points.

Fintan Burke and Shane Cooney were rock solid down the centre of the defence, although Burke was fortunate in the opening quarter that poor umpiring saw a “goal” not given.

Cian Mahony made a number of inspired blocks and Cathal Burke popped up with a tonic score while Evan Duggan stepped in when David Sherry was forced off through injury.

O’Loughlin Gaels were marginally the better side in the first half, converting their first nine shots at the posts, but St. Thomas’ hung in bravely, created more chances and picked off eight scores, one more than their opponents would manage in the second half.

Undaunted by Regan’s straight red, St. Thomas’ critically hit four unanswered points to establish their first lead of the contest. Conor Cooney stepped up with important scores while Victor Manso and goalkeeper Gerald Kelly (free ) were also on target.

Kelly had needed to make a classic reaction save to deny Luke Hogan, adding to what has been a stellar campaign of shot-stopping from the netminder. As the clock ticked down in the final quarter St. Thomas’ battled tooth and nail for every loose ball and the majority of times won the contests.

Éanna Burke’s 55th minute score was a pure strike but owed much to the graft of his brother David. Oisín Flannery’s effort then forced a free which Cooney converted to leave St. Thomas’ 0-17 to 0-14 in front, and Kenneth Burke’s side prevailed after yet more late drama.

ST THOMAS’: G Kelly (0-1f ); D Sherry, F Burke, C Mahony; J Headd, S Cooney, C Burke (0-1 ); D Finnerty, David Burke (0-3 ); V Manso (0-2 ), C Cooney (0-6, 4fs ), Darragh Burke; J Regan (0-2 ), O Flannery, É Burke (0-3 ). Subs: E Duggan for Sherry (20 ); B. Burke for Manso (50 ).

O’LOUGHLIN GAELS: S Murphy (0-1f ); M. Butler (0-1 ), H. Lawlor, T. Forristal; D. Fogarty (0-2 ), P. Deegan (0-2 ), J. Molloy (0-2 ); J. Nolan, C. Loy; E. O’Shea, M. Bergin (0-4, 2fs ), C. Heary (0-1 ); O. Wall, L. Hogan (0-1 ), S. Bolger (0-2 ). Subs: C. Kelly (0-1 ) for E. O’Shea (47 ); P. Butler for S. Bolger (59 ).

Referee: S Stack (Dublin ).

 

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