The Nenagh Co-op County Senior Hurling Championship - 1998
Toomevara returned to the pinnacle of Tipperary hurling on November I when they regained the Dan Breen Cup after a three-year absence.
They defeated the 1997 champions, Clonoulty-Rossmore, by 0-16 to 1-10 and in doing so re-established themselves as the premier club of the nineties, with four victories out of five final appearances. Although only three points separated the sides at the final whistle, this was an emphatic Toomevara victory fashioned out of a wide spread of hurling talent from a tight and composed backline to a versatile set of forwards. It was a sweet victory for a club which, after the promises of the early nineties, had to suffer the frustration of failure over the past three years.
Although Tipperary's inter-county hurling success was negligible during the year, the divisional championships fell well behind. This was partly explained by the success of the senior footballers who reached the Munster final, played at Thurles on August 2, and the juniors, who surprised everyone except themselves in bringing the first football All-Ireland to the county since 1934. All four divisional finals were played on the first weekend of September and, what may well be unique, new champions were declared in all cases.
The mid final was played on Saturday evening at Semple Stadium and it will be remembered not for the quality of the hurling but rather for a great-hearted display by Loughmore-Castleiney who, with limited resources, beat a much more talented Boherlahan-Dualla side by 0-10 to 1-5. The west final, on the following day, was played in atrocious conditions at Emly. Clonoulty-Rossmore were the favourites and they won, perhaps none too convincingly, by 0-12 to 0-8, against a very spirited Golden-Kilfeacle side, which lacked effective fire power up front. On the same afternoon at Monroe, Ballingarry proved too good for Carrick Swans and their victory by 1-14 to 1-7 was thoroughly deserved. There was a surprise in store for patrons of the north final at Cloughjordan. Firm favourites and unbeaten-to-date Toomevara were shocked by a Nenagh side, which gave an outstanding display and defeated the champions by 1-11 to 0-11.
The line up for the quarter finals was North v South and Mid v West. The North-South contests were played in Sean Treacy Park, Tipperary on September 20. In the first game Eire Óg, Nenagh were on song against a Carrick Swan side, which failed to do themselves justice on the occasion. In fine hurling conditions the North champions had effectively brushed aside the Swan challenge by the interval, when they led by 1-12 to 0-4. The second half dragged its slow length along to an inevitable conclusion when the score stood at 2-21 to 0-5. The highlight of the game was the exceptional performance of Nenagh's John Kennedy, who scored 1-10 of his side's total.
The second game was a much better contest. Toomevara got off to a blistering start and were ahead by 1-7 to 0-2 after twenty minutes but Ballingarry fought back and were 2-8 to 1-6 in arrears at the interval. However, the North men were a bridge too far for the South champions and, try as they might, they could not overcome the deficit and were still five points behind at the final whistle on a scoreline of 3-14 to 3-9. The most telling statistic of the game was the number of wides shot by Toomevara. To their fourteen points they added fifteen wides whereas Ballingarry struck only five in the course of the hour. It was a good indication of the overall dominance of the Toom men.
The third of the quarter-finals was played at Cashel on September 27. The game was eagerly awaited as Clonoulty-Rossmore had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in their previous meeting in the 1997 county semi-final. On this occasion it was the reigning county champions who' controlled the game all the way and it was Boherlahan-Dualla who made the late surge, but in vain. The West champions led by 0-9 to 0-6 at the interval and had three points to spare on a scoreline of 2-1 1 to 1-1 1 at the final whistle.
The last of the quarter-finals was delayed because of the need to have the play-off between the West runners-up and the Crosco Cup winners. Golden-Kilfeacle and Kickhams played at Cashel on Sept-tember 27 and the result of an exciting encounter was a victory for Kickhams by 3-16 to 2-15. They played LoughmoreCastleiney at Cashel on October 4. In a tough, tense battle Kickhams gave one of their better displays to come out on top by 1-8 to 0-10. Going into the game as underdogs, their display might have justified a better margin of victory but their supporters were quite happy with a result which put them into a county semi-final for the first time since the 1950s. It was also a sweet achievement for a team which had failed to reach its own divisional final.
The semi-finals were played at Semple Stadium on October 18. For Toomevara it was an easy victory. They had eighteen points to spare over a thoroughly disappointing Kickhams side in a poor game. The story is simply told. Kickhams started off well but a goal by Tommy Dunne in the eighth minute established the North side's dominance. They led by 1-11 to 0-5 at the interval and were in front by 4-19 to 0-13 at the final whistle. They showed themselves a skillful bunch of players with a bit of toughness thrown in and their display established them as favourites for the final.
The second game was a more exciting contest. Nenagh came into the match as the team of all the talents. They had beaten Toomevara in the North final and annihilated the hapless Swans in the quarter-final. They had the advantage over Clonoulty-Rossmore in the first half but allowed them back into contention.The concession of an own goal early in the second-half was a disaster. However, they fought back and were three points in front with ten minutes remaining. But that lead was gradually whittled away and the sides were level with five minutes to go. In the remaining period it was the determination and spirit of Clonoulty-Rossmore, aided by poor shooting on the part of Nenagh that gave the West champions victory. The shot that scored the winning point came from declan Ryan, who spied half a chance from the old stand sideline, and took it to give his side a place in the final by 3-1 I to 1-16. For Nenagh it was a most disappointing performance, the memory of which will send shivers of irritation through the system. They played some beautiful hurling which came to nought through woeful inaccuracy.
The traditional venue, Semple Stadium, hosted the county final on November 1. A week's rain beforehand was hardly the proper preparation for the premier event in county hurling. The poor conditions gave way to a dry, blustery day but a disappointing crowd of only 9,000 spectators turned up for the occasion.
Toomevara went into the game as favourites but there were some, influenced no doubt by Clonoulty-Rossmore's survival experiences en route, who believed that the West men would create a surprise. The big men of the West and the heavy going would combine to reduce Toom's potential and give the red and green victory.
Such was not to be. It was a close final but the closeness belied Toom's superiority. The sides were level six times in a hard fought first half but it was significant that after dropping a two-point advantage, they regained it and deservedly led by three points at the interval, 0-10 to 0-7. It could be argued that Clonoulty-Rossmore were unlucky not to score two goals during this period and there's a point in the argument. But equally valuable is the contention that it was the brilliance of the Toomevara backs which deprived them of the goals and that is borne out by the splendid display of the same backs in the second half, particularly the half-back line spearheaded by Tony Delaney.
The Toom dominance continued after the break and within ten minutes they were six points in front. Then came Clonoulty-Rossmore's great moment, a goal from a penalty by Declan Ryan. It was a superb shot, striking the back of the net before the defenders knew it had passed them. It should have lifted the West men but instead it brought one of the finest scores' of the hour, a point from Tommy Dunne almost from the puck out. It was a swift retort and restored the four point lead. For the remainder of the game Clonoulty-Rossmore tried very hard to reduce the deficit but could never get it below three points and so it remained until the final whistle.
It was a happy and deserved return to the top for Toomevara. They are a well co-ordinated side with talent all over the field and plenty on the sideline as well. We wish them well in Munster as they have unfinished business in the club championship. There is no substitute for victory but Clonoulty-Rossmore can look back on a year during which they gave great satisfaction to their supporters and revealed that they have young players of great potential in Liam Kearney, Michael Heffernan, Kevin Lanigan-Ryan and Bonny Kennedy.
Toomevara: J. Cotrell, G. Frend, R. Brislane, A. Maxwell, P. Hackett, T. Delaney, P. Shanahan (capt.), P. King, Terry Dunne, P. O'Brien, Tommy Dunne, K. Dunne, M. Bevans, K. Kennedy, K. Cummins. Subs: D. Kelly for K. Kennedy; Paul McGrath for P. King.
Clonoulty-Rossmore: A. Fryday (capt.), M. Ryan, P. Brennan, R. Ahearn, M. Heffernan, A. Butler, L. Kearney, M. Brennan, K. Lanigan-Ryan, M. Quirke, K. Ryan, M. Kennedy, D. Quirke, D. Ryan, M. 'Shiner' Heffernan. Subs:J. Hayes for M. Quirke; A. Kennedy for M. 'Shiner' Heffernan; L. Manton for M. Ryan.
Referee: Willie Barrett (Arcfinnan)
Man of the Match award: Tony Delaney (Toomevara).
Results at a Glance:
Nov. 1, 1998 at Semple Stadium:
Toomevara 0-16 Clonoulty-Rossmore I -10 Referee: Willie Barrett (Arcfinnan)
Oct. 18, 1998 at Semple Stadium:
Toomevara 4-19 Kickhams 0-13 Referee: Tommy Lonergan (Kilsheelan)
Clonoulty-Rossmore 3-11 Nenagh Eire Og 1-16 Referee: Willie Clohessy (Drom-Inch)
October 4, 1998 at Leahy Park:
Kickhams 1-8 Loughmore-Castleiney 0-10 Referee: Michael Cahill (Kilruane-MacDonaghs)
September 20, 1998 at Sean Treacy Park:
Toomevara 3-14 Ballingarry 3-9 Referee: John Ryan (Cashel King Cormacs)
Nenagh Eire Og 2-21 Carrick Swans 0-5 Referee: Richard Barry (Cappawhite)
September 27,1998 at Leahy Park:
Clonoulty-Rossmore 2-11 Boherlahan-Dualla 1-1 Referee: Johnny McDonnel1 (Roscrea) (Drom-Inch).
Tipperary G.A.A. Yearbook 1999, pp 30-31