Senior Hurling Championship 2003

Tipperary G.A.A. Yearbook 2004, pp 21-25


There was much speculation leading up to the county senior hurling final on October 12, the earliest date for the final to be played since 1994. Would the worm turn for Thurles Sarsfields and bring them their first victory at this level since 1974, also the last year they defeated Toomevara in the senior hurling championship, or would the Greyhounds, stung by their one point defeat by Mullinahone in the 2002 semi-final, which deprived them of a chance of five-in-a -row, bounce back?

The sides followed impressive paths to the final. The North representatives came through unscathed with an impressive tally of twelve goals and ninety-six points to their credit. They did have two close encounters, surviving by the minimum of margins in their early round clashes against Templederry and Borrisoleigh.  They found their rhythm after that and scored impressive victories, conceding only three goals and seventy five points in their six games.

At first sight Thurles Sarsfields' path was even more impressive. They scored fifteen goals and ninety-three points along the way. It wasn't plain sailing, however. They lost to Loughmore-Castleiney by four points in the Mid final, and they conceded ten goals and eighty-five points in their six games. In fact, after their defeat at the hands of the Mid champions, they weren't expected to be in the finalshake-up, but an impressive victory over Mullinahone in the county quarterfinal silenced their critics.


It was the second year of the new championship format, with a series of qualifiers for defeated divisional semifinalists, and relegation for first-round losers. The South were not involved in the latter, having only four teams, the minimum regarded as necessary for divisional viability. In the other divisions, the North supplied five teams, the Mid four, and Clonoulty-Rossmore from the West, for the relegation pot. After two preliminary rounds, four semi-finals and two finals, Silvermines and Moycarkey-Borris lost out to Portroe and Clonoulty-Rossmore respectively, and will play intermediate hurling next year. 

This year's intermediate champions will be promoted to senior ranks, thus reducing the number of senior teams to twenty-five. The final game between Clonoulty Rossmore and Moycarkey-Borris at Holycross was one of the games of the year, attracting a bumper crowd. It provided an outstanding performance from veteran, Declan Ryan, who was mostly responsible for his side's survival in senior ranks. One of his admirers said after the match: 'They should erect a monument to him.'


In this round the eight divisional semi-final losers played off to provide four teams to play the losers of the divisional finals. The result was even enough with one team from each division,
Killenaule, Cappawhite, Boherlahan- Dualla and Moneygall, coming through.

Meanwhile the divisional finals were played, which didn't impinge too much on the progress of the county championship.

In the Mid an early Loughmore Castleiney blast floored Thurles Sarsfields, giving the winners their ninth title since their first in 1983. Played at Templemore on August 24, the final score was 3-14 to 2-13. In the South Mullinahone defeated Ballingarry by 3-14 to 1-10 in a stormy final, which erupted into ugly scenes early in the second half. Played at Clonmel on August 31, the winners led by 2-6 to 0-7 at the interval and sent out a clear signal that they were on course for a county double.

Toomevara did sufficient to win the North final at Cloughjordan on September 7, defeating a defence-frail Nenagh Eire Og by 3-12 to 0-16 on a day of persistent rain. On the same day at Sean Treacy Park, Tipperary, it took a pointed free by Galtee Rovers' Pa Morrissey, deep into added time, to keep their hopes of a first title alive against Kickhams. The latter made a great revival in the second half. Behind by 0-7 to 0-2 at the interval, and having Vincent Kelly sent off early in the second half, their chances looked slim, but they put together a great performance after that, and almost snatched victory. The replay was held at Golden the following week and the men from Bansha reversed the pattern of the drawn game. Behind by 0-7 to 0-5 at the interval, they produced a second-half display that left Kickhams floundering. In the end they thoroughly deserved their 2-15 to 1-11 victory and their first senior hurling title.


In this round the first-round winners were pitted against the divisional runners- up. The four winners were Moneygall, Thurles Sarsfields, Kickhams and Nenagh Eire Og. Ballingarry were the only divisional runner-up to be beaten, losing out badly to Moneygall. In the local derby between Kickhams and Boherlahan, the West men came through.


The field had narrowed to eight teams by this stage, and the results brought two surprises. Moneygall came through against Mid champions, Loughmore Castleiney, having two points to spare on a scoreline of 1-13 to 1-11. Thurles Sarsfields surprised many with their defeat of Mullinahone, who were being set up as likely opponents for Toomevara in the final. The latter sent out a clear signal of their intentions in their defeat of Kickhams.


Three North teams, plus Thurles Sarsfields, made up the semi-final pairings at Semple Stadium on Saturday, September 27. The Toomevara-Moneygall clash was a close one until the final ten minutes, when an Eoin Brislane goal for Toomevara put some distance between the sides. Toomevara led by 1-8 to 0-9 at the interval, the goal coming from Ken Dunne just before the break, when he raced through from forty yards and sent an unstoppable shot past Sean McCormack in the Moneygall goals. At times during the game it looked as if Toomevara would pull away, but Moneygall kept coming back, and it was only in the final ten minutes that the winners eventually put light between them and their dogged opponents. It was Toomevara's 13th county semi-final since 1989, and their ninth victory.

In the second semi-final Thurles Sarsfields had to survive a late Nenagh Eire Og rally. Sarsfields started off lively and were ahead by 1-4 to 0-1 after eight minutes. Nenagh came into the game, helped by Michael Cleary's accurate free-taking, and the score was 1-11 to 0-9 in favour of Sarsfields at the interval.

Nenagh's best patch was after the resumption and by the fortieth minute they had taken the lead, 0-15 to 1-11, for the first time. The game remained level until the final quarter when Sarsfields gradually pulled ahead with a substantial lead. However, there was a final kick in Nenagh and, in the closing minutes, they scored two goals to leave only two points between the sides on a scoreline of 3-17 to 2-18.

Nenagh Eire Og team - North finalists and County semi-finalists. Back row left to right: John Flannery, Richie Flannery, Noel Moloney, Michael Hackett, Eddie Tucker, Declan O'Meara, Hugh Moloney, John Slattery. Seated: Michael Cleary, Brian Darcy, Kevin Tucker, Michael McNamara , Robbie Tomlinson, Eoin Fitzgibbon, John Kennedy.

Nenagh Eire Og team - North finalists and County semi-finalists. Back row left to right: John Flannery, Richie Flannery, Noel Moloney, Michael Hackett, Eddie Tucker, Declan O'Meara, Hugh Moloney, John Slattery. Seated: Michael Cleary, Brian Darcy, Kevin Tucker, Michael McNamara , Robbie Tomlinson, Eoin Fitzgibbon, John Kennedy.


And so to Semple Stadium two weeks and a day later for the final, played in unprecedented dry conditions.  Toomevara were the bookie's favourites but there was a sneaking hope that Sarsfields wouldn't lose out for the fourth year in a row. There was a parallel with the 1960 final, when Sarsfields, after winning five in a row, were dethroned by Toomevara. Was it possible that Sarsfields might do the dethroning on this occasion?

The story of the game is easily told. Toomevara came on to the field like a team inspired. They showed hunger, pace, combination and determination in contrast to a Sarsfields outfit that was strangely lethargic. Their new look side, which should have exuded the confidence gained at minor and under-21 level, was inexplicably subdued. 

Toomevara commanded the field, led by 2-10 to 0-5 at the interval and, with five minutes of normal time remaining, had nine points to spare, 3-17 to 1-14. Only at this stage did Sarsfields erupt with an effort worthy of a county final. In the final minutes they scored 2-2 to 0-2, and nearly created a huge shock. The final score was 3-19 to 3-16 in favour of Toom.

Action from the County Senior final - Ger "Redser" O'Grady (Thurles Sarsfields), Tony Delaney (Toomevara), Johnny Enright (Thurles Sarsfields), and Eoin Brislane (Toomevara).

Action from the County Senior final - Ger "Redser" O'Grady (Thurles Sarsfields), Tony Delaney (Toomevara), Johnny Enright (Thurles Sarsfields), and Eoin Brislane (Toomevara).

In the aftermath there were many questions to be asked, even if few were answered. Did Toom take their collective foot off the pedal when they enjoyed a nine point lead? Was Sarsfields' last eight minutes their 'true' form , or was it allowed by Toom's relaxation? What would have happened had Redser's 20 metre free not whizzed wide of the post? What had Sarsfields not conceded an easy, early goal? The answers don't really matter because they won't change the result.

Toomevara are champions for the fifth time in six years and they possess a team of enormous talent. Their achievement now has to be an All –Ireland club championship, otherwise they will never be regarded as a great team. The only consolation for Thurles Sarsfields has to be their final ten minutes. In that period they revealed what they are capable of doing, and they have the consolation of knowing that they almost snatched a draw from a team that appeared to have all the answers. However, they will have also to face up to the question of why they played so poorly for so long in their most important encounter of the year.

The Dunnes from Toomevara celebrate the County Final win, from left: Ken (with man of the match award), Benny, Terry, Barry and Tommy.

The Dunnes from Toomevara celebrate the County Final win, from left: Ken (with man of the match award), Benny, Terry, Barry and Tommy.


Toomevara - Justin Cottrell , Benny Dunne , George Frend, Philip Shanahan, Brian Duff, Tony Delaney , David Young, Terry Dunne (0-3), Ken Dunne (0-6), Paddy O'Brien {1-1 ), Eoin Brislane (0-3), John O'Brien (0-2), Michael Bevans (capt.), Thomas Dunne (1-0), Willie Ryan (0-1). 
Sub: John Boland for Duff. 
Other subs: Tomas O'Meara, Francis Devaney , Padraig Hackett, John Kinnirons, Kevin Cummins, Barry Dunne, Denis Kelly , Andrew Ryan, David Kennedy, Tommy Carroll, Ken Hall, Brian McGrath Ronan Tynan, Ciaran Fitzpatrick, Patrick Tuohy.

Thurles Sarsfields - Patrick McCormack, Brian O'Grady, Tommy Maher (capt.), Tony Connolly, Brendan O'Sullivan , Stephen Mason, Lee Shanahan, Eddie Enright (0-1), Wayne Cully (0-3), Johnny Enright (0-6), Ger O'Grady (0-2), Tony Ruth (0-3), Lar Corbett (2-1), Eoin Costello, Shane Ryan. 
Subs: Brendan Carroll for Mason, Seamus O'Shea for Connolly , Richie Ruth (1-0) for Ryan, Eamon Walshe for Costello.
Other subs: Ciaran Carroll , Tommy Collins, John Connors , Barry Dwyer, Aidan Dundon, John Lillis, Jamie Murphy, David O'Dwyer, Matthew O'Dowd, Gerry Spain, Conor Stapleton, Eamon Tuohy.
Referee : Seamus Roche (Kilsheelan).






Round 1 [Eight defeated Divisional semi-finalists]

Killenaule 0-18 Cashel 0-13  Fethard   31/8/03   Ref. W. Clohessy (Drom-lnch)
Cappawhite  5-16 Carrick Swans 1-8   Clonmel  6/9/03   Ref. J. Ryan (Cashel K.C.)
Boherlahan 4-18 Newport  0-10   Dolla   7/9/03   Ref. W. Barrett (Ardfinnan)
Moneygall  1-15 Upperchurch/D 0-12   Templemore   7/9/03   Ref. R. Barry (Cappawhite)


Round 2 [Divisional runners-up v Round 1 winners]

Moneygall 4-12 Ballingarry 0-8   Templemore   13/9/03   Ref. J. Ryan (Cashel)
Th. Sarsfields 3-12 Killenaule 1-14   Boherlahan   14/9/03   Ref. J. McDonnell (Roscrea)
Kickhams 3-9 Boherlahan 2-10   Cashel   14/9/03   Ref. J. Sweeney (Thurles)
Nenagh E. Og 6-15 Cappawhite 0-10   Newport   14/9/03   Ref. W. Clohessy (Drom-lnch )


Quarter-finals [Divisional winners v Round 2 winners]

Moneygall 1-13 Loughmore C  1-11   Templemore   20/9/03   Ref. R. Barry (Cappawhite)
Nenagh E. Og  2-15 Galtee Rovers 2-10   Templemore   20/9/03   Ref. J. Ryan [Boherlahan]
Th. Sarsfields 2-19 Mullinahone 2-11   Cashel   20/9/03   Ref. J. McDonnell (Roscrea)
Toomevara  2-21 Kickhams 1-11   Templemore   21/9/03   Ref. S. Roche (Kilsheelan)



Toomevara 2-19 Moneygall 0-16   S. Stadium   27/9/03   Ref. W. Clohessy (Drom-lnch)
Thurles Sarsfields 3-17 Nenagh E.Og 2-18   S. Stadium   27/9/03   Ref. N. Cosgrove (Marlfield )



Toomevara 3-19 Thurles Sarsfields 3-16   S. Stadium   12/10/03   Ref. S Roche (Kilsheelan)



Preliminary Round

Drom/lnch  1-15 Borrisoleigh 2-11   Templemore   25/08/03   Ref. W. Barrett (Ardfinnan)
Roscrea 0-21  Silvermines 0-13   Toomevara   27/08/03   Ref. M Cahill (Kilruane MacD)

Round 1 [Semi-finals]

[1] Borrisoleigh 0-21   Silvermines 0-9  Nenagh   04/09/03   Ref. J. Sweeney (Thurles)
[2] J.K. Brackens 1-14   Portroe 2-7   Dolla   24/08/03   Ref. E. Browne (Kickhams)
[1] Holycross  1-16   Moycarkey 1-14   Boherlahan   25/08/03   Ref. R. Barry (Cappawh ite)
[2] Templederry 2-15   Clonoulty  2-11   Borrisoleigh   30/08/03   Ref. D. Curtis (Thurles)


[1] Portroe  5-17   Silvermines 6-11   Nenagh   10/09/03   Ref. J. Ryan [Boherlahan]
[2] Clonoulty/R 1-15   Moycarkey/B  1-13   Holycross   21/09/03   Ref. W. Barrett (Ardf innan )



Premier Division

Toomevara 0-23 Thurles Sarsfields 0-13   Templemore  28/06/03   W.Barrett (Ardfinnan)

Division 1

MoneygalI 2-12  Borrisoleigh 1-14   Templemore  08/06/03   N. Cosgrave (Marfield)

Division 2

Portroe 3-14  Boherlahan/Dualla 1-12   Dolla   15/06/03   R.Barry (Cappawhite)

Division 3

Templederry 1-14 Drom-lnch 1-11   Borrisoleigh   06/09/03   A. Moloney (Cahir)

Intermediate Hurling League

Gortnahoe/Glengoole 3-12 Moyne-Templetuohy 0-17  Morris Park   04/09/03   P. Shelly (Killenaule)