The County Senior Hurling Championship 1996
They said it wasn't possible, that it couldn't be done, that Boherlahan-Dualla didn't have the talent, that Toomevara had too strong a panel and were fully focused on reversing last year's result. Although the mid men had annihiliated Cashel King Cormacs in the semi-final, the pundits and the experts had honed in on the clinical way the North team had despatched Thurles Sarsfields at the same stage of the competition.
Even though Boherlahan-Dualla had beaten them in last year's semi-final, that defeat was regarded as nothing more than a blip on all otherwise ascending graph to county honours. In fact with the talented team and the strength in depth right through the squad, Toomevara were predicted to go right through to contest the honours on St. Patrick's Day!
And, all that certainty was sanctioned by the betting men: in a two-horse race the boys in the green and gold were certs at 9/4-on and the minions from Boherlahan-Dualla didn't stand a chance.
That was, of course, outside the parish of Boherlahan-Dualla. Within the confines of this historic place the supporters believed in their chances and their mentors plotted and planned for victory. They did not consider anything less than victory. In fact, manager Martin O'Dwyer expressed disappointment on Sunday night at their margin of victory: he had forecast a five-point margin!
And the supporters were equally optimistic. One such, Eddie Bennett, on his way home from the pub through the wind and rain of the previous night, was positive he met the ghost of Dan Breen in Boherclough and he was headed for Boherlahan! There was no doubt it was an omen: Boherlahan would win!
And they did. In the end the margin was the minimum but there was no doubt that the Boherlahan boys deserved their victory. They had to endure setbacks and difficulties in the first half but they overcame them and the breeze in the final 30 minutes, and when Liam Maher hit the final winning point there was no supporter outside of Toomevara - who wasn't willing them to win.
When Philly Ryan received the Dan Breen cup on behalf of the team, he was doing something that no Boherlahan man had done for 55 years. The last man from the parish to receive the cup was Philly O'Dwyer in 1941, when Boherlahan had won their 13th and last senior county final. They had made another unsuccessful final appearance in 1953, when they were beaten by Borrisileigh.
That team was captained by Tom Kevin and included George Studdard, Andy Fogarty, Johnny Callanan, John Ryan (T), James O'Meara, Sean Leahy, John Walsh, Jack Doherty, Eamon Leahy, Sonny Maher, Paddy O'Dwyer, Michael O'Reilly, Philip Ryan, Mick Leahy.
When 1996 dawned there were a number of of serious contenders for county honours. County champions, Nenagh, were hoping to expand on their 1995 victory. Toomevara had very definite aspirations, feeling they had been ambushed the previous year. Cashel King Cormacs believed they had left it behind in 1995, when losing a seven-point lead to Nenagh, and intended to make amends.
Boherlahan had gained enormously in confidence a a result of making the breakthrough the previous year and saw no reason hy they couldn't go one better. And there were other teams who felt that 1996 could be their year.
The west division were first with their senior final and it was played for the first time in Rockwell Rovers' newly developed venue at New Inn on August 18. Cashel King Cormac's went into the game very hot favourites but they came a cropper against a very purposeful Clonoulty Rossmore side. On a windy afternoon. Cashel, who were going for four-in-a-row, had no answer to an opposition which played with determination and cohesion right through the hour and had a thirteen- point winning margin at the final whistle on a scoreline of 2-13 to 0-6.
The defeat left Cashel with the Crosco Cup final to play against Kickhams in order to decide on the second team for the county championship. When this game, which was, in fact, a replay, the sides having drawn on July 21, was played on September 8, Cashel came through by 2-11 to 1-10. Had they been beaten, the sides would have had to play once more because Kickhams would then have been Crosco Cup winners and Cashel would have been runners-up in the championship!
So much for the west. There were three divisional finals on September 8. In the south, the venue was Monroe and the, teams were Ballingarry and Killenaule. What had been billed as a potential thriller and a repeat of the 1992 final turned out to be a damp squib in which Killenaule had no answer to the opposition and Ballingarry won in a canter (2-17 to 1-10). Highlight of the game was the display of young star, Liam Cahill, who scored six points of the winners', total.
In the mid there was no doubt about Thurles Sarsfields' supremacy on the day. Inspired by Brendan O'Carroll, they put in a powerful performance to beat the holders, Boherlahan-Dualla, by 3-13 to 1-13 to take their 36th divisional title. This six-point margin of victory was achieved in spite of conceding 1-2 in the first four minutes of the game.
Matters were more complicated in the north. The final brought together the most unlikely pairing, Lorrha and Newport. Neither side seemed likely prospects in the beginning of the year. But then Lorrha put Nenagh out in the first round and Newport gave Toomevara their marching orders in the second round. The two sides eventually made it to the final at Nenagh on September 8.
For Newport it was a very special occasion as the club hadn't found itself in that position since as far back as 1931. There was a great atmosphere about the final, which was added to by the similarity between Newport's and Wexford's colours. The sides ended level at 0-12 to 1-9 with Lorrha's John Madden getting the last minute leveller. The replay was the following Sunday and a very exciting occasion saw Newport span a 61 year gap to become North champions by 2-13 to 3-6. In a welter of excitement, the Newport captain, Connie McGrath, received the cup from divisional chairman John joe McKeogh ..
As championship losers, Lorrha had to play league winners, Toomevara, to decide on the second team for the county championship. This game was played at Cloughjordan on September 28 and the league winners didn't have much difficulty in ousting a Lorrha side badly depleted by injury, on a scoreline of 1-16 to 2-7.
In the quarter-finals the Mid played the South ann the North played the West. The first encounter was between Thurles Sarsfields and Killenaule, at Littleton, on September 21. The margin of victory of nine points by Thurles Sarsfields was comfortable but it flattered the Mid men somewhat and didn't do justice to Killenaule. The latter were much improved on their south final performance and could consider themselves unlucky to be behind by 2-13 to 1-7 at the final whistle.
The remaining three quarter-finals were played off on the weekend of October 5/6. In Clonmel on Saturday, Boherlahan- Dualla bounced back from their defeat in the mid final to record a comprehensive defeat of south champions, Ballingarry. They were in command of the game from the third minute when Michael Ferncombe scored a goal from long range and were well on top at the interval, when they led by 2-12 to 0-4. In the 7th minute of the second half, Liam Cahill goaled for the south side but it did not unduly worry Boherlahan, who went on to win comfortably by 2-18 to 1-8.
The two remaining semi-finals were played at Templemore in fine conditions on the following day. The first game, between Cashel King Cormacs and Newport, was very exciting because of the closeness of the scores and the doubt about the result until the final minutes. In fact, right to the end, Newport might have got the goal to draw but Cashel defended well and a combination of determination and luck kept their opponents at bay until the end and a scoreline of 2-11 to 1-11 in their favour.
The second game was a big disappointment. Clonoulty-Rossmore were only a shadow of the side that had impressed so well in the west final. Right from the start Toomevara had matters under control. They got the scores and their tight defence prevented the West champions from responding. It seemed as if the team was inhibited by the jerseys they wore, playing in the old Rossmore colours for the occasion. In the end Toomevara were comfortably in front by 2-17 to 0-9.
Semple Stadium was the venue for the two semi-finals on October 13. In the first game Mid champions, Thurles Sarsfields, were pitted against North league winners, Toomevara. The Mid men, showing promise in the past few years and having given an impressive display in the Mid final, believed they had the material to upset the North men.
They opted to play against the wind in the first half and could have had a goal from Johnny Enright early on but it was stopped by Jodie Grace. This failure to score epitomised their play all through the match: they never really got going and had to work inordinately hard for the meagrest of rewards.
In contrast, Toomevara could do things effortlessly, could send over points at will and controlled the game right down the centre. The second half and the breeze brought no change in proceedings and the game dragged its slow length along to the final whistle without any prospect of a Sarsfields' revival. The final score was 1-17 to 0-6 with no less than eight players contributing to Toomevara's winning account.
In the second game, Boherlahan-Dualla gave a stunning performance, which demolished Cashel King Cormac's and destroyed any chance they had of making up for the county semi-final failure in 1995. The West men went into the match with reasonable expectations. In fact some of their more fervent supporters gave them more than reasonable expectations. And yet, there had been a large number of question marks about this Cashel side in the course of the year.
They were struggling to succeed. They were waiting for the good display to arrive. They did not recognise that things were going as badly as they were. And the day didn't change anything. Cashel got an ideal start with T.J. Connolly's goal but as if to confirm that the weakest time in a team's defence is immediately after it scores a goal, Boherlahan struck almost immediately with a Philip O'Dwyer goal.
Then when Cashel appeared to have absorbed the storm from Boherlahan, O'Dwyer struck again with another goal in the 21 st minute. This was followed by a third from Michael Murphy five minutes later. The Mid men led by 3-5 to 1-6 at half-time and any signs of a Cashel revival were shattered by another O'Dwyer goal nine minutes into the second half.
However, Cashel reduced their deficit to five points midway through the half and for a short while things looked more hopeful. But, just as the sun was about to come out, O'Dwyer struck agan with his fourth goal in the 17th minute. This put an end to Cashel's hopes and expectations and left
Boherlahan-Dualla convincing 5-11 to 2-8 winners.
Whereas 0' Dwyer's performance grabbed the headlines, this was a great team effort in which every member grafted for everybody else and many players revealed high levels of skill. Boherlahan-Dualla showed a great level of hunger and commitment and a tremendous self-belief.
The County Final
The pairing for the county final was unusual. Neither team had won divisional honours. Toomevara had been beaten in the second round of the divisional championship by the eventual winners, Newport, who, in turn, had been beaten by Cashel at the quarter-final stage. The latter were beaten by Clonoulty-Rossmore in the west final, who were then beaten in the quarter-final by Toomevara, who defeated Thurles Sarsfields in the semi-final after they had beaten Boherlahan-Dualla in the Mid final.
And in the second semi-final, Boherlahan-Dualla beat Cashel, who had overcome Toomevara's earlier victors. It was really difficult to understand the way things were going.
Just under 10,000 spectators came to Semple Stadium on October 27 to watch the fare in reasonably good conditions. Although Boherlahan-Dualla had the breeze in their favour in the first half, it was Toomevara who got the breaks and the scores which gave them a five point lead at the interval.
The north men got a goal in the 14th minute from Kevin Kennedy, which was deflected into the net by William Hickey. Five minutes later Michael Murphy got through for the Mid men but failed to score.
In the final minutes of the first half, Toomevara got three points without reply from Boherlahan, who, in fact, had two scoreable opportunities driven wide by Aidan Flanqgan.
As the teams went in for the interval break the signs were not good for Boherlahan. Only the optimists might claim that the goal should never have happened and Flanagan might have scored the two points. Had both these things happened the sides would have been level at that stage. For Toomevara there was the loss of Bevans after 15 minutes, a player who had been giving a lot of trouble to Tommy O'Dwyer. On the positive side his replacement, Terry Dunne, was playing well and had scored two great points during the second quarter.
Boherlahan-Dualla resumed well and had two points in three minutes. But, when their spirits were beginning to rise, Toomevara came back with a point from Liam Nolan and then the finest score of the hour, a goal by Kevin Kennedy, to put the Greyhounds 7 points ahead and seemingly in an unassailable position. But the goal acted as a spur to the Boherlahan boys.
They responded swiftly with three ponts by J. .J. McGrath, Ger Flanagan and Aidan Flanagan. Then, in the 11 th minute, a goal by Philip O'Dwyer. The game was now wide open. Boherlahan had a new lease of life. Points were exchanged. The sides were level and, in the dying minutes of the game, Liam Maher sent over the bar to give Boherlahan-Dualla the lead for the first time and victory when referee Willie Barrett sounded the final whistle.
It was a time to remember! After so many years in the wilderness, Boherlahan-Dualla had arrived in the promised land.
A jubilant Boherlahan captain, Philly Ryan, received the cup from county chairman Sean Fogarty as Semple Stadium became a sea of euphoric blue and gold. While this ecstatic celebration was taking over the field, Toomevara were left with the sadness of defeat and the query as to what had gone wrong. They had come up against a greater hunger but must have felt that they had left victory behind them.
The teams were as follows:
Boherlahan-Dualla - Philip Ryan (capt.), William Hickey, T.J. O'Dwyer, Tommy Dwyer, Seamus Hickey, Conor Gleeson, David Ryan, Michael Ferncombe, J.J. McGrath, Ger Flanagan, Michael Murphy, Brian O'Dwyer, Philip O'Dwyer, Liam Maher, Aidan Flanagan.
Toomevara - Jody Grace, Pat Maher, Rory Brislane, Aidan Maxwell, George Frend, Michael O'Meara, Phil Shanahan, Tony Delaney, Pat King (Capt.), Kevin Kennedy, Tommy Dunne, Ken Dunne, Michael Bevans, Kevin McCormack, Liam Nolan. Subs: Terry Dunne for Bevans, Liam Flaherty for McCormack, Bevans for King.
Referee: William Barrett (Ardfinnan). Man-of the Match: David Ryan (Bohrlahan-Dualla).
Boherlahan-Dualla selectors: Martin O'Dwyer,. Kieran Maher, Willie Joe O'Dwyer. Donagh O'Donnell (trainer). Toomevara selectors: Sean Stack, Dinny Haverty, Matt O'Meara.
COUNTY SENIOR HURLING CHAMPIONSHIP 1996 AT A GLANCE
County Final: October 27, 1996, Semple Stadium, Thurles - Boherlahan-Dualla 1-16, Toomevara 2-12.
County semi-finals: October 13, 1996, Semple Stadium, Thurles - Toomevara 1-17, Thurles Sarsfields 0-6. Referee: Tommy Lonergan (Kilsheelan).
Boherlahan-Dualla 5-11, Cashel King Cormacs 2-8. Referee: Michael Cahill (Kilruane-MacDonaghs).
County Quarter-finals: September 21, 1996, Littleton - Thurles Sarsfields 2-13, Killenaule 1-7. Referee: Michael Cahill (Kilruane-MacDonaghs).
October 5, 1996, Clonmel - Boherlahan-Dualla 2-18, Ballingarry 1-8. Referee: Richie Barry (Cappawhite).
October 6, 1996, Templemore - Cashel Ki ng Cormacs 2-11, Newport 1-11. Referee T.J. Corby (Clonmel).
Toomevara 2-17, Clonoulty-Rossmore 0-9. Referee: Willie Barrett (Ardfinnan).
Tipperary G.A.A. Yearbook 1997, pp 35-39