St Thomas players, officials and fans in heaven after hurling decider
‘It’s a great day for the club and the parish – Absolutely wonderful’
St Thomas’ Robert Murray, Kenneth Burke and Enda Tannin lift the trophy after victory over Kilcormac-Killoughey in the AIB All-Ireland Club Senior Hurling Final at Croke Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Hard to imagine John Burke seeing many better days in this or any life. The St Thomas’ manager leaned against a wall under the Cusack Stand with his dressingroom thrumming behind him and tried to wrap words around it. A team stocked with six of his sons and one of his nephews didn’t have so much as a senior county title to their name four months ago. Now they’re a framed photo on a wall from here to eternity. Only the club championship can do this.
“It’s a great day for the club and the parish,” he said. “Absolutely wonderful. This is a great bunch of young lads, young men really who have put their lives on hold for the past couple of years. After we got beaten in the semi-final the year before, we said we’d come back and give it one last go and they did. They put in the work and the hours and they got the result today for it.”
It was a close run thing and they had to score the last four points of the game to get that result. Burke’s team was laced with more obvious class than Kilcormac-Killoughey but this wasn’t the sort of day where that would be enough.
The Offaly champions had turned a two-point half-time deficit on its head by the 45th minute and if St Thomas’ were going to turn it around, class wasn’t going to be enough. This was in the bellies rather than the wrists and Kilcormac-Killoughey were winning that particular war. Burke admitted that they were worried with 15 minutes to go.
“Ah we were, yeah. We started the second half very poorly, we went out of the game and they came and got the scores to level it and go ahead.
“We weren’t getting many breaks but look, that will happen and you just have to keep hurling through it. Conditions got worse and we made the few switches and that worked for us. Getting Éanna [Burke] out to the middle of the field probably worked for us because he got a few breaks and once the boys inside got the ball, they got the scores.”
The game turned on a couple of sendings-off, the first a harsh red card for Killian Leonard a couple of yards away from the St Thomas’ manager. His reaction at the time was to appeal loudly to the referee, although he recanted a touch afterwards.
“It was one of those things on a bad day. You could see it coming, the player was sliding into it and our player got the slap. These things happen and it was just bad luck that it did. On a bad day, he couldn’t stop. There was nothing malicious about it.”
His opposite number Danny Owens tried not to blame his side’s defeat on an endgame played with 13 men but he couldn’t hide his displeasure either.
“It was a great effort and we are very proud of the lads today. We can’t fault anyone. In fairness to St Thomas’ they finished stronger than we did but we were down a couple of men at that stage. I thought we lost two men and I don’t know what kind of rules he was working off but I thought the two sendings off were harsh.
“The first yellow card for Damien Kilmartin was unbelievably hard. The second one was fair enough and I thought that the Leonard sending off was amazing. Look it, I don’t want to take anything away from St Thomas’ and I will be in there congratulating them later on and I don’t want to whinge too much about the referee either.”