The County Senior Hurling Championship - 1999
There is no doubt about it: Toomevara are the senior hurling champions of 1999, but they are also the champions of the nineties. By their, apparen!ly, effortless victory over Nenagh Eire Og at Semple Stadium on October 10 the club crowned a great decade, making it five out of ten county finals, the others having been won in 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1998. It puts them in the same league as the famed Sarsfields, who won five titles in each of two decades, the fifties and the sixties. Toom also had a previous glorious decade when they won five finals between 1910 and 1919. The club produced so much talent during the nineties that their tally might even have been greater.
And then, Toomevara mightn't have been there at all! The team that might have deprived them of ultimate honours was Portroe who almost put a stop to the Greyhounds' gallop in the north semi-final. It took two games to dispose of this tenacious opposition and set up a meeting with old rivals Nenagh in the final at Cloughjordan on August 22. In fact Toom were underdogs going into this match and the omens were not good for them when they trailed by seven points at the interval. A great second-half rally transformed the deficit into a four-point victory margin on a scoreline of 2-19 to 2-15. It was a sweet victory, revenge for defeat by the same opposition the previous year, and achieved in the absence of important players like Ken Dunne, Michael Bevans and Padraig Hackett.
On the same day at Semple Stadium, Holycross-Ballycahill were dethroning the mid champions, Loughmore-Castleiney. Holycross's task was made somewhat easier by the absence from the Loughmore side of their two county players, David Kennedy, because of a broken bone in his hand, and Paul Ormonde, who was caught up with exams. Despite the losses the champions were in contention until the end and were deprived of a draw by a great save by Holycross goalkeeper, Michael Ferncombe, in the last minute of the game. The final score was 1-13 to 1-10 and it brought Holycross-Ballycahill their fourth mid title of the decade.
A week earlier Kickhams won their sixteenth west title with a one-sided victory over Eire Óg, Anacarty at Clonoulty. The performance of the latter was disappointjng in the light of earlier victories over Golden-Kilfeacle and Cappawhite. Kickhams were never in trouble, were in front by 0-14 to 0-5 at the interval and had the wider margin of 1-21 to 0-7 at the final whistle.
On the same day Mullinahone were very impressive when dishing out a twenty-three point hammering to Carrick Swan in the South final at Clonmel. In a fine exhibition of hurling they scored 3-26 to 1-9 for the Swan. Major contributors to the scoreline were John Leahy, who scored eleven points, and Paul Kelly, who had 2-5 to his credit. The game was even for the first quarter but then Mullinahone began to pull away. They led by 0-14 to 1-5 at the interval and it was plain sailing in the second half.
The first of the quarter-finals was played at Templemore on August 28. The game was a total mismatch with the west runners-up, Eire Og, Anacarty, completely out of their depth against Toomevara side which showed they were simply in a different class. They were coasting at the interval with a score of 3-13 to Eire Og's 0-2. They were ahead 5-20 to 0-3 when Eire Og got their only goal and ahead by 6-23 to 1-4 when the final whistle rescued Eire Og from their misery. No fewer than nine players scored in Toomevara's thirty-four point victory.
On the following day at Cashel, Holycross-Ballycahill and Carrick Swan drew on a scoreline of 0-14 to 1-11. The mid champions were expected to find this game easy but, in fact, had to pull out all the stops to gain a second chance. Carrick were two points behind when an Alan Ryan goal put them ahead with very little time left. The mid men were saved by a John Ferncombe point from a free and again when referee, John Ryan, disallowed a Carrick point for a square infringement as the ball sailed over the bar.
In the replay, at the same venue, three weeks later Holycross-Ballycahill won by 1-16 to 1-12. Again the mid champions did not impress. They did against the breeze in the first half and led by 1-8 to 0-4 at the interval. But Carrick did not die as expected but rallied strongly to reduce a deficit of nine points early in the second half to just two points with six minutes remaining. Holycross had to withstand enormous pressure during the final minutes before eventually coming through with a four- point margin.
On the same day and at the same venue Mullinahone defeated Loughmore-Castleiney by 2-20 to 2-8. The winning margin was impressive but the victory wasn't as comprehensive as the scoreline. Mullinahone came to the game with glowing credentials but it took a long time for them to get going. They scored nine points to Loughmore's 1-6 in the first half. The game was very much in the balance until Loughmore's Noel Kennedy got his marching orders, early in the second half. This seemed to knock the spark out of Loughmore's challenge and set Mullinahone on the path to victory. A major contribution to the victory was the 2-12 scored by the Kelly brothers, Paul and Eoin.
Kickhams might have caused an upset in the remaining quarter final against favourites, Nenagh Eire Óg at Templemore on September 18. There were four points between the teams at the final whistle, Eire Og 1-14, Kickhams 2-7, but the game might have been much closer had the west champions not been so profligate with their scoring opportunities. Eire Og were clear by 0-9 to 1-3 at the interval and a commanding seven points in front with twelve minutes remaining. But Kickhams did not die and an Eoin Morrissey goal in the twenty-eighth minute paved the way for an upset. However, Nenagh steadied and held on for a four point victory.
The semi-finals were scheduled to be played at Semple Stadium on September 25 but the Toomevara-Holycross game was postponed because of a bereavement in Toomevara. The draws for the games were interesting. Many looked forward to the Nenagh-Mullinahone clash as one between sides with similar styles of hurling. A great contest was expected with Mullinahone favourites to make it to the final stage. In fact Eire Og came to Semple Stadium as underdogs and with nothing to lose. They gave an outstanding performance, played out of their skins, were focused on what they were doing and there was never a doubt but that they were going to win. In contrast Mullinahone were a huge disappointment, realising none of the promise they had shown in the south final or in the final quarter against Loughmore-Castleiney. Their forward line, which was expected to revel in the open spaces of Semple Stadium, got nowhere against an efficient Nenagh back line and ended up repeatedly in cul de sacs. The magic of previous displays was completely absent. Nenagh led comfortably at half-time by 2-8 to 0-6 and were out in front by 4-18 to 1-10 when the final whistle sounded.
The second semi-final was played in Semple Stadium on October 3 and it was a game of two halves, in which the wind played a major part. Holycross·Ballycahill were kings in the first half and led by 4-6 to 2-2 at the interval. A goal by Toomevara soon before half-time gave the scoreline a bit of respectability. The mid champions were in control and the spearhead of their attack was a devastating Tony Lanigan, who hit 3-3 in eighteen minutes against a hapless Rory Brislane. The talk at half-time was a mixture of opposites: had Holycross enough of a lead or would Toomevara be able to bring it down? The north champions set about reducing the ten points deficit soon after the resumption and after twenty-one minutes of play had reduced it to a manageable two points. John Ferncombe gave Holycross a breather with a point, but two great long-range points by Owen Brislane and a point from a free by Tomas Dunne brought the sides level. Holycross went back in front with a free from Ferncombe but Toomevara had the best of the final minute exchanges, scoring three points to win by 2-17 to 4-9.
The final was played on October 10 at Semple Stadium with Toomevara slight favourites. To a certain extent it was a difficult game to forecast. In the course of the championship the form book had been thrown out the window. Mullinahone had easily disposed of Carrick in the south final and they in turn had been sent packing by a rampant Nenagh in the county semi-final. Mid champions, Holycross, took two games to beat Carrick and yet had put it up to Toomevara in the semi-final. Nenagh, who had gone in as favourites to the north final, were beaten by a great Toom display in the second half.
In the end it was a disappointing final in which Toomevara were in control from the beginning. Playing against the wind in the first half Toom never gave Nenagh time to settle. They were faster to the ball, had a better first touch and were playing with confidence. Nenagh's efforts were floundering from the word go, they found it difficult to get scores and were not moving with any fluency. Toomevara led by 1-6 to 0-6 at the interval and were in a comfortable position. The game hung in the balance during the third quarter but gradually and inevitably Toom asserted their superiority, and their seven-point victory, on a scoreline of 1-17 to 0-13, was no less than they deserved. The winners had a fine combination of the experienced and the newcomers. In particular Owen Brislane in the backs and Paddy O'Brien, Paul McGrath and John O'Brien combined well with the longer established Tony Delaney and Tomas Dunne to produce the victory formula. In contrast Eire Og never put it together. The fluency of stroke and movement which came so effortlessly to them against Mullinahone was nowhere to be seen and they had to suffer the frustration of another defeat at the hands of their old rivals, Toomevara.
Toomevara: J. Cottre 11 , G. Friend, R. Brislane, B. Dunne, O. Brislane, T. Delaney, P. Hackett, Terry Dunne, B. Duff (0-1), M. Bevans (0-1), P. King, P. O'Brien (0-5), P. McGrath, Tomas Dunne (1-7), J O'Brien (0-2). Subs: T. Carroll for J. O'Brien, A. Ryan for Terry Dunne, M O'Meara (0-1) for, King.
Nenagh Eire Og: C. McLoughlin, A. Quinn, N. Coffey, J. Heffernan, R. Flannery, F. Moran, J. Kennedy, C. Howard (0-1), J. Slattery, D. O'Meara, E. Tucker (O-1), J. Tucker (0-1), R. Tomlinson (0-3), K.Tucker (0-6), M. Cleary (0-1), Subs: H.Flannery for Moran, L. O'Gara for J. Tucker, M. Hackett for Howard. Referee: Johnny McDonnell (Roscrea), Man of the Match: Paddy O'Brien, Attendance: 9,049.
Results at a Glance
Oct 10 - Semple Stadium:
Toomevara 1-17, Eire Óg, Nenagh 0-13. Referee: Johnny McDonnell (Roscrea).
October 3 - Semple Stadium:
Toomevara 2-17, Holycross-Ballycahill 4-9. Referee: Tommy Lonergan (Kilsheelan).
September 25 - Semple Stadium:
Eire Og, Nenagh 4-18, Mullinahone 1-10. Referee: Willie Clohessy (Drom-Inch).
September 19 - Cashel:
Holycross-Ballycahill 1-16, Carrick Swan 1-12 (Replay). Referee: John Ryan(Cashel).
Mulhnahone 2-20, Loughmore-Castleiney 2-8. Referee: Johnny McDonnell (Roscrea).
September18 - Templemore:
Eire Og, Nenagh 1-14, Kickhams 2-7.Referee: Willie Barrett (Ardfinnan).
August 29 - Cashel:
Holycross-Ballycahill 0-14, Carrick Swan 1-11 (Draw). Referee: John Ryan (Cashel).
August 28 - Templemore:
Toomevara 6-23, Eire 6g, Anacarty 1-4. Referee: Willie Clohessy (Drom-Inch).
Tipperary G.A.A. Yearbook 2000, pp 33-35