St Thomas’s strike at the death to book an All-Ireland final spot
A late David Sherry point sent the Galway champions into the decider against Ballyhale
St Thomas players celebrate at the final whistle after they beat Ruairi Og to win their All-Ireland Senior Club Championship semi-final at Parnell Park. Photo: Gary Carr/inpho
Ruairí Óg, Cushendall 2-11 St Thomas’s, Galway 0-18
A David Sherry point in the 70th minute ensured a second All-Ireland senior club hurling final appearance in five years for Galway champions St Thomas’s who edged out Cushendall by the minimum in a nail-biter at Parnell Park on Saturday.
The 2013 All-Ireland champions led by seven at the break despite a Neil McManus penalty for Cushendall but the Antrim side, who last made the final in 2015, mounted a second half comeback that saw them level on two occasions. Crucially for the St Thomas’s however, the Ulster men never managed to edge ahead in the home straight.
St Thomas’s were in control in the first half. James Regan opened the scoring for the Galway champions after just 33 seconds but by the fourth minute Cushendall were ahead when Neil McManus was fouled in the square and referee Paud O’Dwyer signalled a penalty to the Ulster side.
McManus stepped up to covert himself but St Thomas’s were soon on level terms through Éanna Burke and Kenneth Burke. A McManus free briefly restored the Antrim side’s lead but a run of six unanswered points had St Thomas’s 0-9 to 1-1 to the good by the 24th minute with Burkes Éanna, Darragh and Bernard on the mark alongside Conor Cooney.
Sean McAfee stopped the rot for Cushendall but four more unanswered scores – three from Darragh Burke frees – had the Galway men 0-13 to 1-2 ahead as the first half ticked towards stoppage time. A McManus free then made the score 0-13 to 1-3 at the break in favour of St Thomas’s.
The Ulster champions accounted for three of the opening five points of the second half, narrowing the gap to five points but the comeback was truly signalled on 41 minutes when Fergus McCambridge was fed by Donal McNaughton and he ran through the St Thomas’s defence to place the ball coolly in the bottom right hand corner past Gerald Murray to cut the gap to three, 0-15 to 2-6.
Three unanswered points from Cushendall, the pick of which came from Paddy McGill, levelled matters on 50 minutes. But St Thomas’s replied as Darragh Burke struck over his sixth of the day before Regan was picked out by a superb past from Éanna Burke and fired over to restore a two-point cushion.
By the 56th minute the sides were level again as two placed efforts from McManus had the scores tied at 2-11 to 0-17. It was a game that deserved to be settled by a moment of magic and it was corner back Sherry whose foray up field yielded the winner on 70 minutes.
Cushendall had a chance for a late leveller but Donal McNaughton chose to go for goal and his effort was blocked by Cathal Burke in the St Thomas’s defence. The Ulster champions battled hard to force extra time in the five minutes of injury time but the Galway champions held out.
St Thomas’s now take their place in the All-Ireland final against Ballyhale Shamrocks on St Patrick’s Day when they will aim to lift the Tommy Moore Cup for the second time.
CUSHENDALL: E Gillan; D Kearney, M Burke, S Delargy; E Campbell (0-1), A Graffin, P Burke; F McCambridge (1-1), N McManus (1-6, 1-4f, 0-2 ‘65’); D McNaughton, E McKillop, R McCambridge; P McGill (0-2), S McAfee, (0-1) A Delargy.
Subs: C Carson for R McCambridge (ht), S Walsh for S Delargy (54).
ST THOMAS: G Murray, C Mahoney, C Burke, D Sherry (0-1); D Cooney, S Cooney (0-1f), F Burke; J Regan (0-2), David Burke; Darragh Burke (0-6, 4f), E Burke (0-3), B Burke (0-2); B Farrell, C Cooney (0-1), K Burke (0-1).
Subs: D McGlynn (0-1) for K Burke (34), S Skehill for B Farrell (58).
Referee: P O’Dwyer (Carlow).