Gaelic GamesMatch report

St Thomas’ show coolness of champions to edge out Loughrea

Underdogs led going into the endgame but scores from Conor Cooney and Éanna Burke tipped the scales

Galway SHC final replay: St Thomas’ 1-15 Loughrea 0-17

For the second time in the space of a week, Loughrea were more than a match for St Thomas in terms of the craft and quality of their hurling, but they simply weren’t able to match the composure and coolness under pressure of the now five-in-a-row champions out west.

The final tally of nine wides to eight, with the winners guilty of the fractionally larger number of misses, would suggest that this wasn’t a game decided by inaccuracy, but that bare number only tells a small part of the story. Three of those Loughrea misses were in the final throes of the contest, a period of five minutes where they started off two points behind, then cut it to one through Tiarnan Killeen’s third point of the afternoon.

Jamie Ryan and Neil Keary both failed to hit the target from long distance while Keary was also guilty of missing their best chance, a free from 60 metres out – but that was in contrast to the rest of the game, where there was no small amount of speed, efficiency and sharpness in the hurling of the underdogs.

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Much like the drawn game, they exploded out of the blocks with four points in the first five minutes, but gradually were reeled in and actually trailed by 1-5 to 0-5 after 15, with Mark Caulfield striking the St Thomas’ goal to cap off a powerful 60-metre run from Conor Cooney.

Loughrea continued to hurl cleverly however and they briefly drew level, before two majestic efforts from Caulfield, the eventual man of the match winner, made it 1-7 to 0-9 at the interval.

Killeen split the posts within 20 seconds of the restart and another nip and tuck 30 minutes got underway.

The scoring rate slowed considerably, not due to a lack of quality but instead due to an incredible level of physicality, allied to the quite lenient approach to robust defensive tackling that was applied by referee John McDonagh.

Tiernan and Caimín Killeen struck excellent points for Loughrea while Oisín Flannery and Caulfield picked off some superb scores on the St Thomas’ side, but entering the closing stages, it briefly looked as if the town club might be set to bridge the 16-year gap to their last title when Darren Shaughnessy edged them 0-16 to 1-12 ahead with seven minutes to play.

It wasn’t to be, as Conor Cooney clinically dispatched two long-range frees, and Éanna Burke put a poor hour’s hurling behind him when he split the uprights in the last minute of normal time, and so the pressure was heaped on Loughrea to find a way back into the tie.

They opened the door for themselves, but just couldn’t quite walk through it.

St Thomas’: G Kelly; E Duggan, F Burke, C Mahony; C Burke (0-1), David Burke, J Headd (0-1); B Burke (0-1), Darragh Burke (0-1); V Manso (0-1), C Cooney (0-4, 3fs), M Caulfield (1-3); D McGlynn, O Flannery (0-1), É Burke (0-2). Subs: B Farrell for B Burke (54), C Headd for Manso (56).

Loughrea: G Loughnane; P Hoban, K Hanrahan, J Coen; Darren Shaughnessy (0-1), I Hanrahan, B Keary; O Coyle, T Killeen (0-3), N Keary (0-5, 4fs), Dylan Shaughnessy, A Burns; M McManus (0-2), J Mooney (0-1), J Ryan (0-4, 2fs). Subs: C Killeen (0-1) for B Keary (33), Shane O’Brien for Dylan Shaughnessy (39), Tom Hoban for Burns (58).

Referee: J McDonagh.