Borris-Ileigh end 33-year wait for Tipperary county title
This victory was made all the more special after a year of tragedy off the field in 2019
Borris-Ileigh’s Kieran Maher and Dan McCormack celebrate at the final whistle. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
Borris-Ileigh 1-15 Kiladangan 1-12
With a minute to go in this rainswept Tipp final, Borris-Ileigh won a free on the Kiladangan 45. Throughout the game, that range belonged to corner-forward Kevin Maher but as he trotted out to line it up, he got a shout from Tipperary All Star Brendan Maher.
Game on the line, a chance to go three ahead, the elder Maher wasn’t about to make the kill-shot anyone else’s responsibility. Instead, he split the posts himself and Borris were home free.
They made heavy enough weather of this but the manner won’t matter today. Kiladangan were only ahead once in the game, for five minutes in the settling-down stage at the start of the match, and even then only by a single point. Borris’s biggest lead was six, early in the second period. It would have been nice, after 33 years without a county title, to have seen it out with a bit more to spare.
“They were always just hanging on,” said Brendan Maher afterwards. “When you’re only two or three points up on a day like this, the goal that they got could easily have happened again. We were on our guard, very much so. We had numbers back, Dan [MCCORMACK]sat back with us for the last 10 minutes and it was a matter of keeping them out. Thankfully we did.”
Glen Rovers await in the first round of the Munster championship next weekend but that felt a long way off in the future standing on the pitch at the end. For Borris, this has been a brutal, trying year. Maher spoke with acute perspective before the All-Ireland final of the tragedy that had inserted itself over the past 12 months with the deaths of three young people in the area, including the sister of full-back Paddy Stapleton. The context in which this campaign has been played out is unavoidable.
“You can see the emotion is just pouring out of us in the last few minutes,” Maher said. “You have a lot of tears. It’s tears of joy but it’s sadness too. I saw some people embracing each other, Paddy Stapleton embracing with his father - and they have had an unbelievably tough year. Some of the younger members of this squad have buried two of their best friends.
“So look, it’s unbelievable. It should be about celebration. It’s great that the club is together and I think the whole parish is here. We’ll all go back to Borrisoleigh together and we’ll celebrate in great style.”
Borris were unquestionably the better side here. With Maher and Dan McCormack a couple of pillars around the middle, they had two of their younger guns to thank for the crucial interventions at either end of the pitch. The game was only 12 seconds old when 22-year-old goalkeeper James McCormack pulled off a lightning save from Billy Seymour. The Kiladangan corner-forward found himself through on goal straight from the throw in and cracked a shot that McCormack managed to deflect onto the crossbar and away.
With the goal preserved at one end, it fell to the Borris forwards to do damage at the other and it was 18-year-old corner-forward JD Devaney who was the star turn. In the final reckoning, Dan McCormack was named man of the match but it’s hard to see how Devaney was overlooked.
He got Borris off the mark with a smart point on the run after seven minutes and was generally unplayable for the rest of the day. He had 1-3 on the board from play by half-time, his goal coming a couple of minutes short of the break. It was all his own work, skating in from the left sideline and seeing his shot blocked, only to lunge headlong at it on the ground to skid it beyond Barry Hogan in the Kiladangan goal.
Borris duly led by 1-9 to 0-7 at the break and extended that lead to six with another slick Devaney point soon after the restart. But any hope they had of coasting to the line evaporated when Kiladangan scored a goal straight from the puck-out, Hogan’s long ball landing in the Borris full-back line and Dan O’Meara sweeping it to the net.
From there to the end, Borris had the best hand without ever really playing it to full effect. They went five ahead in the 43rd minute through a Kevin Maher free but then didn’t score again until four minutes from time. In between, they needed James McCormack to dive full-length to save a Hogan penalty and were blessed by the inaccuracy of the Kiladangan shooting.
It was enough, though. After 33 years, it was all they needed and more.
Borris-Ileigh: James McCormack; Seamus Burke, Paddy Stapleton, Liam Ryan; Sean McCormack, Brendan Maher (0-3, 0-2 frees), Ray McCormack; Tommy Ryan, Dan McCormack (0-1); Kieran Maher, Niall Kenny (0-1), Conor Kenny; Kevin Maher (0-3, 0-3 frees), Jerry Kelly (0-3), James Devaney (1-4). Subs: Jack Hogan for Ryan, 56 mins.
Kiladangan: Barry Hogan; David Sweeney, James Quigley, Fergal Hayes; Declan McGrath, Alan Flynn, Darren Moran; Jack Loughnane, Johnny Horan; Dan O’Meara (1-1), Willie Connors (0-6, 0-5 frees, 0-1 65, 0-1 sideline), Joe Gallagher; Tadhg Gallagher (0-1), Paul Flynn (0-2), Billy Seymour. Subs: Martin Minehan for McGrath, half-time; Sean Hayes for Moran, half-time; Andy Loughnane (0-1) for J Gallagher, 51 mins; Bryan McLoughney for T Gallagher, 60 mins.
Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary)