The County Senior Hurling Championship - 2001
Results at a Glance
Semple Stadium, November 11 Toomevara 1-22, Thurles Sarsfields 1-13 - Referee: Seamus Roche (Kilsheelan)
Semple Stadium, November 4 Toomevara 2-14, Clonoulty-Rossmore 1-12 - Referee: Willie Barrett (Ardfinnan)
Semple Stadium, October 28 Thurles Sarsfields 3-25, Cappawhite 0-10 - Referee: Michael Cahill (Kilruane-MacDonaghs)
Templemore, October 29 Replay: Toomevara 1-16, Loughmore-Castleiney 0-16 - Referee: Seamus Roche (Kilsheelan)
Templemore - October 14 Toomevara 2-16, Loughmore-Castleiney 2-16 (draw)
Cashel, October 14 Thurles Sarsfields 2-16, Ballingarry 1-12 - Referee: Eamon Browne (Kickhams)
Semple Stadium, October 14 Clonoulty-Rossmore 4-20, Nenagh Eire 6g 3-18 (AET) - Referee: Willie Clohessy (Dram-Inch)
Semple Stadium, October 14 Cappawhite 2-15, Mullinahone 1-13 - Referee: Michael Cahill (Kilruane-MacDonaghs)
Toomevara are worthy county champions for the fourth year in a row and the seventh time in a decade as a result of a big defeat of Thurles Sarsfields in the county final at Semple Stadium on November 11. They had a comprehensive win, 1-22 to 1-13, over a side, which were installed as favourites by the bookies in the week before the game .
At half-time it still appeared possible that the Sarsfields might come good. They trailed by a point at this stage, had the breeze in their favour in the second half, levelled with a Tony Ruth point soon after the resumption and the omens seemed good. But then, as if Sean Stack, or someone else, raised a wand over Toomevara, the defending champions were transformed. They took off with an unanswered five-point blast and the game was over before the final quarter began. Where they drove eleven wides in the first half, they now adjusted their sights and improved their aim. They left Sarsfields floundering in their wake, losing all shape and allowing the champions to score at will. It was a brilliant second-half performance and established Toomevara as a class apart in the county senior hurling championship.
Thee divisional championships were changed dramatically with the abolition of the right of the runner-up to participate in the county championship. Ever since 1966, with the exception of the years of the open draw, 1969-1976, when a motion was passed at the county convention giving two teams from each division the right to contest the county quarter-finals, divisional runners-up had that right. The change came about as a result of the desire to give meaningful status to the new county league, which was introduced in the new structures. The county league included twenty-eight teams, divided into four groups of seven, with the winners of each group going
forward to contest the county quarter-finals. But, we all know what happens with the best-laid plans of mice and men! In this case it was foot and mouth disease. It closed down operations in April when the league was to be played. Some drastic surgery was required to get the games played in a shorter period. The league changed from 4 x 7 to 7 X 4, giving each team just three games to complete. Seven winners were produced and they had to be reduced to four. One of the winners, Clonoulty-Rossmore, was randomly drawn from the seven and got a bye to the quarter-finals. The remaining six played off, with Thurles Sarsfields defeating Nenagh Eire Óg, Mullinahone defeating Borrisokane and Toomevara defeating Boherlahan.
Because of the success of the county senior hurling team, the divisional finals were late taking place. Two were played on September 30 and two a week later. On the former date Nenagh Eire 6g and Borrisoleigh fought out the North final at MacDonagh Park, Nenagh. On a day when the North division celebrated its centenary with great colour and pageantry Eire Óg proved the more incisive combination to defeat a slightly disappointing Borrisileigh by 1-15 to 1-11. On the same day in the South Mullinahone, with five of the victorious All-Ireland side, were expected to win but, in a very tight game, Donal Shelly scored the winning point in the fourth minute of injury time to give Ballingarry a one point victory on a scoreline of 0-11 to 2-4.
The other two divisional finals took place on October 7. Cappawhite beat Kickhams by 1-11 to 1-8 in the West at Cashel in atrocious conditions to take their second-in-a-row. Two points down with ten minutes to go Cappawhite scored 1-3 to Kickhams single point to win by a margin of three points. In Semple Stadium on the same day an early blitz by Thurles Sarsfields scuppered the chances of Loughmore-Castleiney in the Mid final. They were ahead by 2-10 to 0-6 at the interval and 2-13 to 1-9 in front at the final whistle.
All the quarter-finals were played on October 14 with agreement that extra time be played in the event of a draw. The reason for this was the need to have the county championship completed on November 11 since the Munster club semi-final was down for decision a week later.
Cappawhite played Mullinahone at Semple Stadium at 1 pm. The highlight of this game was the scoring tally of Cappa's, Eugene O'Neill, who scored nine points in all, seven from play. Starting at full-forward, O'Neill soon took up a roving commission and picked off his points regardless of the marker that faced him. Cappawhite led by 2-6 to 0-8 at the interval and their winning margin of 2-15 to 1-13 could have been even more comprehensive had they utilised all the possessions that came their way. It was a disappointing result for Mullinahone who failed, once again, to deliver on their obvious potential.
Clonoulty-Rossmore and Nenagh Eire Óg also played the same venue. Just as one man dominated the first game, Declan Ryan was the star performer in this contest, his 3-3 tally from play helping Clonoulty-Rossmore to knock out fancied Eire Óg after extra time. Having survived the end of normal time, through a Dan Quirke equalising point from a free that made it 2-13 all, after staging a great second-half rally, the men from the West confounded the sceptics with a resolute performance in the extra period to record a well-deserved victory by 4-20 to 3-18. This looked an unlikely result at half-time, when Nenagh Eire Og led by five points, 2-8 to 1-6 and seemed to be coasting. It was a disappointing result for the North champions and a sad ending to a very promising season.
Thurles Sarsfields and Ballingarry played their quarter-final in Leahy Park, Cashel. In a very entertaining game the South champions gave as good as they got in the first half and this was reflected in the half-time score of 1-6 all. However, the Thurles men moved into a higher gear in the second half and were comfortably ahead by 2-16 to 1-12 at the final whistle. The leader of this charge was centre-forward and captain, Johnny Enright, who shot an impressive 0-11 of his side's total.
The last of the quarter-finals was played at Templemore and ended in controversy. Loughmore-Castleiney went into the game as rank outsiders but in a tough, uncompromising game they gave an outstanding performances and nearly pulled off a sensational victory. It took a Ken Dunne point from a free in the fourth minute of extra time to earn Toomevara a draw. Loughmore led at the break by 2-7 to 1-9 and the final score was 2-16 all.
As extra time had been agreed in the event of a draw, the crowd waited in anticipation for the game to continue. But Loughmore-Castleiney refused to play extra time. Club chairman, Frank McGrath, explained that as far as they were concerned there was only verbal agreement to play extra time and they were not compelled by rule to do so.
So it rested for over a week while the wheels of administration were set in motion. When the GAC eventually met, Loughmore were kicked out of the championship. They appealed to the Munster Council who upheld on a technicality. The chairman of the GAC on the night, Michael Nolan, who stood in for Donal Shanahan, who stepped down because or a possible conflict of interest, failed, according to the Council, to take a motion from the floor to dismiss Loughmore, and secondly, the letter to Loughmore, informing them of the requirement to play extra time in the event or a draw asn't fully addressed in Irish. (This is one of the most ludicrous aspects of the whole case, the fact that a club can escape censure on the way an address is written! Surely to goodness we have arrived in the electronic age and the five-day rule of information by letter should be dead and buried). However, having let Loughmore back into the championship, the Council had one important thing to say: had these technical deficiencies not existed, the Council ould have turned down the appeal. According to them gentlemen agreents are binding and obligatory, If nothing else came out of the case, this as worth it.
Eventually the replay took place at templemore on October 29 and Toomevara defeated Loughmore-Castleiney by 1-16 to 0-16.
The West teams were protected in the draw for the semi-finals and the result was Thurles Sarsfields v Cappawhite and Toomevara v Clonoulty-Rossmore. The first of these games was played on October 28 and was a completely one-sided effort. Sarsfields were absolutely brilliant and scored 3-25, after missing about ten more scorable opportunities. Cappawhite never raised a gallop and scored 0-10. At the end of the game it was difficult to decide how good Sarsfields were. They showed speed, skill and combination in abundance but one had to balance that by the space and freedom they ere given to express themselves. They led by 1-17 to 0-5 at the interval and fully deserved their twenty-four point margin of victory. For Cappawhite it was a day to forget and also, perhaps, to remember that they were no way as bad as they appeared in Thurles on that day.
The second semi-final was played in Thurles on November 4. It was a game that didn't live up to expectations. Tooomevara were favourites but Clonouly-Rossmore have the habit of creating surprises and were expected to give it a gtood shot. If luck has to play a part in games, it certainly did in this one. Declan Ryan got four chances to score goals from placed balls in the course of the hour. He would normally be expected to convert the majority of them. In this case he failed on all four: they went over the bar or were blocked. After one of these saves Toomevara broke down the field and in the course of a three minute spell scored 1-3. Clonoulty went from a potential two points up to seven point down in such a short period of time. The sides were level at the interval, after Clonoulty had played with the breeze, and they might have been ahead but for smart goalkeeping by Justin Cottrell. Toomevara gradually established their dominance during the second half and were ahead by 2-14 to 1-12 at the final whistle. Despite this the' game remained of interest right to the end because of the presence of Declan Ryan on the field and of what he might do if he got the smallest opportunity.
The final was looked forward to with great expectation. It was a repeat of the previous year's, when Thurles Sarsfields had frozen on the day. It was hoped the experience would stand to them and their performance up to the final appeared to suggest they were playing with a confidence that would stand to them against Toomevara. Up to the interval they seemed on target for their first victory since 1974. The majority of the fine crowd of over 12,000 spectators seemed to be on their side. The score stood at 0-8 to 0-7 in favour of Toomevara, who had enjoyed the advantage of the breeze in the first half.
However, any conjecture of Sarsfields' chances wasn't long becoming irrelevant. Within ten minutes the post mortems were being prepared. Whereas all the Toomevara side contributed to Sarsfields' demise, the contribution of John O'Brien has to be singled out. Unable to get going in the first half, having two wides to his credit, he suddenly unleashed a performance and was a lethal weapon against which the challengers had no answer. He bagged 1-5 from play and was a terror to the opposing backs any time he got the ball. Six other Toomevara players scored and this was probably the main difference between the sides. No less than 1-8 of Sarsfields' scores came from placed balls. Only six points of Toomevara's much bigger score came from the same source. Long before the final whistle sounded, the game was over and the crowd were leaving.
The frustration that Sarsfields felt was reflected in the play. Long before the end the team had lost all their structure. The skill levels, the speed and the passing movements they had revealed with such brilliance against Cappawhite were nowhere to be seen. In contrast Toomevara were everywhere. Wherever a ball broke there was a Toom man to collect and clear. Any Sarsfields forward who got possession was harried and hassled by two or even three opponents and was never given an opportunity to express himself. For Sarsfields it was a bitter end to a championship, which promised so much. For Toomevara, it was an incredible performance and one is left amazed at how hungry, committed, determined and focused a team with so many victories under its belt can be. One has to wish them well in the club championship.
Toomevara - Justin Cottrell (capt.); George Frend; Rory Brislane; Brendan Dunne; Bryan Duff; Tony Delaney (0-1); Philip Shanahan, Terry Dunne (0-2); Eoin Brislane; Paul McGrath (0-1); Tomas Dunne (0-4, one free, one sideline); Ken Dunne (0-7, five frees); M. Bevans (0-1); John O'Brien (1-5); Ken Hall. Subs: F. Delaney for Hall; Padraig Hackett (0-1) for Delaney; Tommy Carroll for Eoin Brislane.
Thurles Sarsfields - Ciaran Carroll, Brian O'Grady; Seamus O'Shea; Gary Mernagh; John Lawlor; Eddie Enright; Brendan Carroll (0-1); Stephen Mason; Cathal Mclntyre; Matthew Dowd (0-2); Johnny Enright (1-9, 1-8 from frees); Lar Corbett; Ger O'Grady; Pat Lawlor; Tony Ruth (0-1). Subs: Tom Ryan for Mason; Eamon Walsh for Pat Lawlor, Trevor 0'Dwyer for Ryan, Tommy Collins for Mclntyre.
Referee: Seamus Roche (Kilsheelan) Man of the Match: John O'Brien
Tipperary G.A.A. Yearbook 2002, pp 59-61