Clean Ireland Recycling County Senior Hurling Championship 2014
Thurles Sarsfields won their 33rd county senior hurling title at Semple Stadium on Novemeber 2 when they defeated the defending champions, Loughmore-Castleiney, by 2-22 to 3-11. The twenty four scores for the winners to fourteen for the losers accurately reflected the superiority of the Blues on the day. Loughmore-Castleiney, who had the better form coming into the final, and who were some pundits' favourites, just didn't show up on the day, Their star players, Noel McGrath and John McGrath, were well and truly shackled by their opponents.
Change in Format
Earlier in the year it was decided to halt the growth in the number of senior teams in the county by introducing relegation. When it existed previously the number of senior teams had been reduced to twenty-four but then a new management team was introduced, which favoured senior teams and the hated relegation was done away with. The result was the number of senior teams had climbed to thirty-two and there was the prospect of forty-two teams in ten years time if the system continued. All these senior teams had emasculated the intermediate championship, which was heading for decimation. It was also producing very bad hurling matches.
Something had to be done and the plan proposed for the 2014 championship was to provide the answer.
There was another problem with the senior hurling championship, too many meaningless games. There was a need to introduce some kind of filter in order that the cream would come to the top and that the best teams would reach the last sixteen and play for the Dan Breen Cup. The plan proposed dividing the thirty-two teams into two Roinns based on the 2013 championship placings. There was further filtering within each Roinn. Roinn 1, or the top sixteen teams, were further divided into four groups following seeding. In Roinn 2 the sixteen teams were divided into two seeds of eight teams.
Roinn 1, 16 teams
The seedings in Roinn 1 were as follows: 1st seeds – Loughmore-Castleiney, Nenagh Eire Óg, Borrisileigh, Kildangan;
2nd seeds – Killenaule, Drom and Inch, Clonoulty-Rossmore, Eire Óg Anacarty;
3rd seeds – Toomevara, Silvermines, Carrick Swans, Roscrea;
4th seeds – Burgess, Moycarkey-Borris, Templederry Kenyons, Upperchurch-Drombane.
The draw produced the following groups: 1. Nenagh Eire Óg, Clonoulty-Rossmore, Roscrea, Templederry-Kenyons. 2. Kildangan, Killenaule, Carrick Swan, Upperchurch-Drombane. 3. Loughmore-Castleiney, Eire Óg, Nenagh, Toomevara, Moycarkey-Borris. 4. Borrisileigh, Drom Inch, Silvermines, Burgess.
Roinn 2, 16 teams
1st seeds – Ballingarry, Kickhams, Mullinahone, J. K. Brackens, Cappawhite, Portroe, Holycross-Ballcahill, Kilruane MacDonaghs.
2nd seeds – Boherlahan Dualla, Borrisokane, Carrick Davins, Lorrha Dorrha, Moneygall, Thurles Sarsfields, Cashel King Cormacs, Ballina.
The draw produced the following groups: 1. J. K. Brackens, Kickhams, Lorrha, Carrick Davins. 2. Kilruane MacDonaghs, Holycross-Ballycahill, Boherlahan-Dualla, Cashel King Cormacs. 3. Ballingarry, Mullinahone, Ballina, Borrisokane. 4. Portroe, Cappawhite, Thurles Sarsfields, Moneygall.
Relegation and Promotion
The system favoured performance and penalised failure. The bottom team in each group in Roinn 1 was relegated to Roinn 2 in 2015.
The top team in each group in Roinn 2 was promoted to Roinn 1 in 2015. The last placed team in each group in Roinn 2 played off in an open draw, knockout game with the two losers relegated to intermediate level for 2015. The winning team in the intermediate championship was promoted to Roinn 2 for 2015.
Following the playing of the group games the four top teams in each group in Roinn 1 and the four top teams in each group in Roinn 2 qualified for the preliminary quarter-finals. The remaining eight teams were to be the four divisional champions and the four runners-up in each group in Roinn 1. An open draw would decide on the pairings. In the event of a divisional championship winner finishing 1st or 2nd in Roinn 1 or 1st in Roinn 2, that team would be replaced in the preliminary quarter-final by the next highest, non-qualifying team in the same group.
There was a general opinion that the championship was too unwieldly and offered too many back doors to teams. There were too many matches in the normal course of events but in a year when Tipperary took the long route to the All-Ireland and then had to replay it, the number of Sundays available were too few for the number of games involved. On top of that there was the problem of the dual clubs, six in all, three from the Mid, two from the South and one for the West. This fact aggravated an already crowded program.
The proponents of the system anticipated that there would be crowding and incorporated a clause in the championship regulations which stated that 'Extra time [would be played] in Preliminary Quarter-Finals, Quarter-Finals, Semi-Finals and Finals if required to meet with provincial deadlines.' As it happened the senior hurling championship made the deadline by the skin of its teeth only as a result of delaying the completion of the senior and intermediate football and intermediate hurling championships, which prevented these competitions from making the provincial deadlines.
It will come as a surprise to many to learn that the total number of senior hurling games played in the 2014 championship (sic) was one hundred and two! This was made up of 39 divisional games, broken down as follows: North 23, Mid 11, South 7 and West 8, and 63 county games, broken down as follows: Roinn 1 (group stage) 24, Roinn 2 (group stage) 24, preliminary quarter-finals 8, quarter-finals 4, semi-finals 2, final 1.
The four teams demoted from Roinn 1 to Roinn 2 for 2015 were Roscrea, Tomevara, Silvermines and Carrick Swan. The four teams promoted from Roinn 2 to Roinn 1 for 2015 were Lorrha, Kilruane MacDonaghs, Ballina, Thurles Sarsfields.
The two teams relegated to the intermediate championship in 2015 were Carrick Davins and Cashel; King Cormacs. The team promoted from the intermediate championship was Moyne-Templetuohy, who defeated Thurles Sarsfields in the final.
After eighty-seven games the stage was set for the knockout part of thecounty championship.The four quarter-finals werer played at Semple Stadium on the weekend of October 18/19. Two of the games went to extra time.
On Saturday Mullinahone gained a place in the semi-final at the expense of Kildangan as a result of two goals in the last six minutes of extra time. Mullinahone led by 0-10 to 0-6 at half-time. A goal by Michael Dunne after 49 minutes had them eight points clear and looking unbeatable. However, two Kildangan goals in two minutes from Tadhg Gallagher and Willie Connors turned the game on its head and, with the game going into injury time, Kildangan were ahead by a point. In the third minute of added time Eoin Kelly levelled the score, 1-15 to 2-12, with a 60 metre free. At half-time in extra time, Kildangan were ahead by a point, 2-15 to 1-17 and three minutes after resuming were five points clear following a Willie Connors point and a Paul Flynn goal. It appeared the end of the road for Mullinahone but Eoin Kelly stepped into the breach with two goals in the final six minutes to give Mullinahone victory by 3-17 to 3-16.
There was also a point between the sides at the end of the second game between Loughmore-Castleiney v Clonoulty-Rossmore. The defending champions had the advantage on a scoreline of 0-17 to 2-10. This was a game Clonoulty should have won,. They led by 2-5 to 0-10 at the interval, thanks to goals from Timmy Hammersley and John O'Neill but eleven second-half wides proved their undoing against a Loughmore-Castleiney side that registered 5 unanswered points in ten minutes at the start of the last quarter to go three points clear with four minutes to go. In these final minutes Clonoulty scored three points to leave a point between the sides at the final whistle.
There was less excitement at the Sunday games. The Nenagh Eire Óg v Thurles Sarsfields game was a close encounter that went to extra time but was overall a disappointing contest. The sides were level at 0-14 each at the end of normal time. Nenagh had a point advantage midway through extra time, 0-18 to 0-17, but Sarsfields levelled and then in the last minute Aidan Cormack converted a 95 metre free to give Thurles Sarsfields the narrowest of victories on a scoreline of 0-20 to 0-19.
Burgess were fancied to beat Templederry Kenyons in the fourth of the quarter-finals but a powerful display by Adrian Ryan, who bagged eight points for the Mid side, gave them a place in the semi-finals by 0-24 to 0-17.
The semi-finals were played at Semple Stadium on October 26 with victory going to Thurles Sarsfield over Templederry Kenyons and to Loughmore-Castleiney over Mullinahone. They were two dreadful games with many spectators wondering about the prospects for Tipperary hurling. Referee, Fergal Horgan, who was in charge of the second game, must have felt the same way, only giving an additional 4 seconds of added time!
Thurles Sarsfields beat Templederry by 0-18 to 1-11 and while the Blues were no great shakes, they were better than four points over their opposition and should have won by much more. They led by 0-9 to 0-5 at the interval, inspite of playing with a stiff breeze. While Templederry opened with a point immediately after the interval, Thurles hit four unanswered points and appeared to be cruising. However, Templederry ressurrected their act and were only three points behind going into the last quarter. Thurles went ahead again with four points to put seven between the sides and a late goal by Gearóid Ryan wasn't enough to make a difference.
The second game between Loughmore-Castleiney and Mullinahone was a very one-sided affair in which the south representatives were out of their depth. Eoin Kelly was suffering from an injured hand and didn't make the impact expected. Even with the breeze in the first half, Mullinahone struggled to get into the game and trailed by 1-12 to 0-7 at the interval. The second half changed nothing and at the end of it Loughmore were way ahead by 3-22 to 0-14. In spite of the poverty of the opposition Loughmore impressed their supporters with their pace and fluency and gave them the confidence to meet the Sarsfields.
The final was a big disappointment never reaching the level of performance expected.. From the outset Thurles Sarsfields were very much on their game and freely scored points to lead by 0-8 to 0-1 at the end of the first quarter. Loughmore-Castleiney came more into the game during the second period and a goal by Liam McGrath in the twentieth minute gave them hope. However during the remainder of the half Sarsfields shaded it to lead by 0-13 to 1-6 at the interval.
The four-point margin didn't adequately reflect Sarsfields' first-half dominance but they increased the margin in the first five minutes after the interval with 1-1, the goal coming from Michael O'Brien.This put them comfortably ahead by 1-14 to 1-6. Loughmore were given renewed hope with a goal in the fortieth minute from John McGrath.
The goal, however, brought a quick Sarsfields response and during a brillinat seven-minute spell they extended their advantage to 1-21 to 2-8. This was increased further with a Pa Bourke goal in the fifty-fourth minute to put Sarsfields 2-22 to 2-10 in front. In the final minutes Loughmore tacked on 1-1, the goal coming from Evan Sweeney, but it was too little, too late, and barely dented the dominance of Thurles Sarsfields.
The winners were outstanding on the day and thoroughly deserved their comprehensive win. They dominated centrefield, where Stephen Cahill gave a man-of-the-match preformance. They had strength all over the field. Denis Maher, Lar Corbett, Aidan McCormack and Pa Bourke made good use of a steady supply of ball to the forwards. Patrick McCormack in goals and Ronan Maher, Michael Cahill and Michael Gleeson kept the Loughmore- forwards in check. Above all the work rate of all the players was top class and they were in control all the way.
Thurles Sarsfields: Patrick McCormack, Stephen Maher, Michael Cahill, Ronan Maher, Padraic Maher, Michael Gleeson, Stephen Cahill (0-2), Billy McCarthy, Denis Maher (0-5), Aidan McCormack (0-5), Conor Lanigan (0-1), Michael O'Brien (1-0), Pa Bourke (capt.), (1-3), Lar Corbett (0-2), Subs: Richie Ruth (0-4) for Michael O'Brien, Ger O'Grady for Aidan McCormack, John Maher for Billy McCarthy, Pa Dunne for David Maher, Kevin.O'Gorman for Michael Gleeson. Also: Kevin Smith, David Corbett, Tommy Doyle, David Kennedy, Paul Maher, Barry O'Dwyer, Rory O'Shea, Michael Russell, Eoin Russell, Cian Treacy.
Team Management: Tommy Maher, Paddy McCormack, Martin O'Brien, Connie Maher, Jack Griffin.
Loughmore-Castleiney: Shane Nolan, Lorcan Egan, Derek Bourke, Joseph Hennessy, Aidan McGrath (0-1), David Kennedy, Tom King, Ciaran McGrath, Tomás McGrath (0-1), John McGrath (1-1), Liam Treacy (0-1) Noel McGrath (0-5), Liam McGrath (1-1), Evan Sweeney (1-0), Cian Hennessy (0-1). Subs: Joseph Nyland for Tomás McGrath, John Ryan for Liam McGrath, Tommy Maher for L Treacy. Also: Craig Cleary, Willie Eviston, Tom Long, Johnny Campion, Bill O'Connell, Diarmuid Brennan, Henry Maher, Paddy Moynihan, Denis Brereton, Brian McGrath, Shane Hennessy, Eddie Connolly.
Selectors: D)eclan laffan, Seamus Bohan, Pat McGrath. Trainer: Alan O'Connor. Physio: Cathy Doran, Equipment: Kieran Kiely, Kevin Stapleton.
Referee: Johnny Ryan (Boherlahan-Dualla).
Man of the Match: Stephen Cahill (Thurles Sarsfields.
Tipperary G.A.A. Yearbook 2015, pages 42-44