Sarsfields claim first Munster title after hard-fought win over De La Salle


Thurles Sarsfields 1-21 De La Salle 1-16Thurles Sarsfields’ long wait is over after they captured the Munster club hurling title for the first time with a five-star performance in defeating 14-man De La Salle in a classic final before a crowd of 2,433 at Páirc Uí Chaoimh yesterday.

It was a thrilling decider, producing some outstanding hurling on both sides in remarkably good conditions given the recent rain and it ended fittingly with Pádraic Maher accepting the O’Neill Cup on behalf of the Tipperary champions.

Maher was magnificent at centre-back, dominant in the air and clearing the danger with long, relieving strikes. His wing-backs David Kennedy and Michael Cahill were equally prominent.

Yet the main difference between the teams was the greater scoring spread enjoyed by Thurles Sarsfields in attack, as all six starting forwards found the range, as did the two replacements up front, Ger “Redser” O’Grady and Richie Ruth, coming down the stretch.

Pa Bourke’s immense contribution couldn’t be stressed enough while Lar Corbett and Denis Maher worked themselves to a standstill in pursuit of their history-making exploits. De La Salle believe they were harshly treated by the red carding of John Keane after 27 minutes following an incident with Denis Maher right under the nose of referee Shane Hourigan, who acted immediately.

It meant the Waterford champions had to play over half the game with 14 men and that proved too much of a handicap against a Thurles Sarsfields defence that kept a tight rein on John Mullane, in particular, restricting him to just one point over the hour.

Keane’s dismissal came just seconds after De La Salle had clawed their way back into contention with a stunning goal from Paudie Nevin, who cut in from the left and blasted a shot to the net to leave his side just 1-10 to 1-8 adrift. Nevin’s goal cancelled out Jim Corbett’s early effort for Thurles after Denis Maher did the spadework in the fifth minute for Corbett to hand his team the ideal start.

Jake Dillon’s accuracy kept De La Salle in touch in a rip-roaring opening half, scoring from play, frees and one memorable point from a sideline cut in front of the covered stand.

Yet, he could have had a couple of goals, too. Dillon looked certain to find the net after 19 minutes, but his effort rebounded from the inside of an upright and David Greene’s follow-up was bundled clear.

Then less than two minutes later, Dillon found himself well placed again, but his rasping shot cleared the crossbar, much to the relief of the Thurles Sarsfields’ rearguard.

Despite their numerical disadvantage and trailing by 1-11 to 1-9 at the interval, De La Salle gave as good as they got during the third quarter, managing to restore parity at 1-12 apiece after 37 minutes following a point from Eddie Barrett.

But, once O’Grady helped reclaim the lead with a superb point from way out near the left touchline, Thurles Sarsfields’ grip on proceedings tightened, with Kennedy excelling in his spare man role in defence.

Bourke’s influence was always present, opening up a three-point gap, 1-17 to 1-14, with another fine point entering the closing quarter and yet De La Salle kept battling, though they needed a second goal to have any chance of a third title. Their best chance came nine minutes from the end, but Greene’s weak shot was batted away by goalkeeper Patrick McCormack, and while Kevin Moran reduced the deficit to two, Thurles Sars pulled away in the closing minutes through points from Bourke, Ruth and O’Grady.

Manager Séamus Quinn reckoned the players’ belief in the system was key to their win.

“We make it hard for ourselves, but we always find a way in the end. I think the key was to hurl in the moment and get there bit by bit, doing the right thing and backing each other. The lads believed in the system,” he said.

Thurles Sarsfields enjoyed a man advantage after the red card, but Quinn expected a response from De La Salle. “I suppose the referee called it as he saw it and yet it often happens the team with 14 finds an extra five or 10 per cent from somewhere. In fairness De La Salle kept battling to the finish.”

THURLES SARSFIELDS: P McCormack; S Maher; K O’Gorman; David Maher; D Kennedy; P Maher (capt); M Cahill (0-1); J Enright (0-1, 1f), M Gleeson (0-2); Denis Maher (0-2); J Corbett (1-0); L Corbett (0-3); M O’Brien (0-1); P Bourke (0-7, 2f); A McCormack (0-1). Subs: G O’Grady (0-2) for J Corbett; R Ruth (0-1) for O’Brien (both 37 mins); S Cahill for Gleeson (57); R Maher for S Maher (59). DE LA SALLE WATERFORD: S Brenner; S Daniels; I Flynn; C Watt; B Phelan; K Moran (0-1, capt), E Madigan (0-1); J Kennedy; E Barrett (0-3); P Nevin (1-0); J Mullane (0-1); D Twomey (0-1); D Greene; J Dillon (0-9, 5f, 1 sideline), J Keane. Sub: S McNulty for Greene (55 mins). Referee: S Hourigan (Limerick).

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