The Nenagh Co-Op. County Senior Hurling Championship '95
The fifteen thousand crowd that came to the county final at Semple Stadium on October 15 was the biggest in years. The pairing was unique. Never before had Boherlahan-Dualla and Nenagh Eire 6g, met in a county final. Never before had the north side won a senior final. In fact, they had appeared but once in that stage of the competition, in 1993.
On the other hand, the mid side of the equation, with a noble fine tradition for appearing in and winning finals, hadn't appeared in a final since 1953 and hadn't won one since 1941! So, there was hunger on both sides and the supporters turned out in their thousands to find out which side was hungrier and whither the destination of the Dan Breen Cup.
As an entree to the main course was a fascinating minor pairing, Ballingarry Gaels, a rising force in hurling, pitted against Thurles Sarsfields, an ancient stronghold of the game in the county. On top of all was a favourable weather forecast which promised a dry day with above average temperatures for the time of year.
The long road to the county final began months p.reviously with the start of the divisional championship. The first to come to a decision was the south on August 13, an unlucky day for Carrick Davins, who were crushed by Mullinahone on a scoreline of 5-11 to 0-10. The guiding light in that crushing victory was John Leahy, whose 2-8 not only inspired Mullinahone but won him the 'Man of the Match' award.
The following Sunday saw Toomevara and Borrisileigh fight out the north decider in Nenagh. Borrisileigh were surprise packets, having accounted for Nenagh in the semi-final, and the largest attendance in decades turned up in the expectation of a Borris breakthrough. Such was not to be and Toomevara went through comfortably on a scoreline of 0-18 to 1-12.
The mid final was played on August 26 with Boherlahan-Dualla making their first appearance in decades and attempting the breakthrough against Loughmore-Castleiney, who weren't a hurling force when Boherlahan previously won the mid final. There was great expectation and hope in the Boherlahan camp and it came good for the club on the day with a comprehensive win by 1-13 to 1-8. It was an occasion of great emotion when Seamus Murphy received the Leahy Cup, the first time in 47 years for his club to do so.
The following day, in a poor west final, at Cappawhite, marred by a sending-off incident at the interval, Cashel came through against Kickhams on a score of 2-11 to 0-10.
On the same day that Cashel and Kickhams were slogging it out in the west, Nenagh Eire Óg, the Hogan League winners in the north, played Borrisileigh, the championship runners-up, to decide on the second north team for the county quarter-finals. The game ended in a draw as a result of a great come-back by Borrisileigh, who were ten points in arrears at the interval. At the final whistle the sides were level at 3-8 each. The replay didn't take place for three weeks. Nenagh showed much of the ability and many of the skills that would carry them through to ultimate honours. They scored a magnificent 2-16 from play and deserved more than their 8-point margin of victory on a scoreline of 2-21 to 5-4. In the middle of the second half, as if resting m their laurels, they let Borrisileigh through for four goals, which gave a respectability to the scoreboard.
Three of the quarter-finals took place on Saturday, September 16, two of them in the afternoon at Semple Stadium and he third with a 5.30 start at Holycross. In he latter venue Toomevara had an easy win over Carrick Davins. Whatever hopes he south runners-up might have had of creating a surprise were shattered in the first quarter when county minor scored three goals in an eight minute spell for the lorth champions. The score at the end of he hour was 4-16 to 3-5 in favour of Toomevara.
A small crowd came to the Stadium for the double-header. In the curtain-raiser, a late spurt by Boherlahan gave them victory by 2-12 to 1-11. The game was in doubt until the final quarter, with Kickhams, vho resurrected a creditable performance after their defeat in the West, leading by two points. However, a brilliant goal by Liam Maher gave Bohelahan the lead. Kickhams equalised but the mid champions ended in a flurry of four points to give lem that margin of victory.
In the second game Cashel King Cormacs scored a comprehensive victory over a disappointing Loughmore-Castleiney, who appeared tired and at the end of road. In contrast, Cashel gave one of their better performances with Timmy Moloney scoring ten points of their 1-18 tally. The goal in Loughmore's total of 1-11 came from a last-minute penalty by Pat McGrath.
The last of the quarter-finals was played at Semple Stadium on September 23 and Nenagh gave a lacklustre performance before beating Mullinahone by 2-16 to 3-9. The game will be remembered for the magnificence of John Leahy.s display. He scored 2-7 and his overall performance was excellent. His catching ability, his turn of speed, his ball control, his weaving runs and his striking ability were a delight to watch. They established him as the most accomplished and effective Tipperary hurler at the present time.
The draws for the semi-finals seemed to point to a Cashel-Toomevara final. Cashel were drawn against Eire 6g and were installed as favourites against a side which had not impressed in the quarter-final. Tomevara had been making steady pogress and, although Boherlahan had impressed along the way, hurling wisdom dictated they wouldn't have the class or the experience to dethrone the county champions.
The Cashel Eire Óg game provided the curtain-raiser. In a mediocre game it appeared that the West champions would come through for most of the game. Their lineout on the day surprised many and they didn't perform well in the first half with the aid of the wind. However, they led by 1-8 to 1-5 at the interval. Against the breeze they appeared to play better and by the final quarter they had opened up a seven point lead. At this stage the team seemed to lose its way, the players became lethargic, were slow to react and seemed to be leaving it to the next to do the work.
In contrast, Nenagh began to hurl with purpose and fluency and to notch off points and reduce their deficit. With a couple of minutes to go there were but two points separating the sides and in the final minute Robbie Tomlinson got the clinching goal for Nenagh, to the delight of their followers and the consternation of Cashel. In the dying seconds, Cashel made desperate attempts to get a point that would give them a draw but to no avail.
In the second game, Boherlahan defied their critics by dethroning the champions. Against the breeze in the first half they performed quite well and were three points behind after twenty-two minutes. Then in a great spell they got two goals by Aidan Flanagan and Liam Maher and went to the dressingroom at the interval leading by 2-2 to 0-6. On the resumption there was greater urgency in Toomevara's play.
However, it was Boherlahan who played the best hurling in the third quarter and this was reflected in the score (2-8 to 0-8) in their favour at the end of the period. It was then Toomevara began to hurl and in a great spell of about ten minutes they drew level. It looked as if they had weathered the storm and would go on to win. But Boherlahan were not giving up and in the final minutes they proved they had more in reserve than the triple champions. Two points during this period by Philip O'Dwyer and Conor Gleeson gave them victory by 2- 11 to 1-12 to the utter delight of themselves and their followers.
The County Final
The build-up to the final was the best for years. The villages of Boherlahan and Dualla were festooned with flags. The oldies caught a glimpse of the good old days when Boherlahan were a powerful force in Tipperary hurling. The vast number of their supporters had never experienced the sense of achievement and the joy of victory.
Expectations were also high in Nenagh. They had been trying a long time and this appeared to be their year. The removal of Toomevara appeared a good omen to many but there were others who believed that was a pity because the knowledge that Toomevara were their opponents would be sufficient to motivate the Nenagh lads to gargantuan efforts. It might be more difficult to motivate them against untried and unplayed Boherlahan.
A marvellous crowd turned up to see their expectations fulfilled. Nenagh were the bookies' favourties and Boherlahan were unfortunate to be without their freetaking and point-taking forward, Aidan Flanagan, who injured his wrist in the dying moments of the semi-final. Corner back, Dave Delaney, was also on the injured list, even though he lined out.
For the first fifteen minutes Boherlahan were very much in the game, having had a dream start with a goal in the fifth minute, which might have been their third. After twenty minutes the sides were level but after that the Boherlahan challenge began to falter. At half-time Nenagh were ahead by 0-12 to 1-5 and in the driving seat.
However, some believed that the mid men could resurrect their challenge again, as they had done in previous games and, what was four points in hurling? But that renewed effort never came. Instead, the crowd saw an outstanding Nenagh performance which became more fluent and perfect as the game progressed. The players reached into reserves of talent that had been lying dormant for years and gave an exhibition that was uninhibited and brilliant. They caught and struck the ball with ease and accuracy and scored some marvellous points. They clocked up the huge score of 2-25 to Boherlahan's 2-8.
It was Nenagh's day and the heroes were all on their side. The Tucker brothers - both got 'Man of the Match' awards from different sponsors - John Heffernan, Michael Cleary and Paul Kennedy were outstanding, while Conor O'Donovan played a captain's part in the back-line. It was a great occasion for Nenagh, an achievement that had proved elusive for over a century and a moment to relish by Conor O'Donovan, when he received the cup from county chairman, Sean Fogarty. In fact, as if making up for having to wait so long for the winners' podium, the Nenagh captain gave one of the longest acceptance speeches ever heard in Thurles.
The teams were as follows:
Nenagh-Eire Óg: C McLaughlin, N. Coffey, C. O'Donovan, P. Kennedy, J. Kennedy, F. Moran, D. Finnerty, C. Howard, C. Bonnar (0-1), M. Cleary (0-8 from frees), E. Tucker (0-3), K. Tucker (O-5), D. Quinn (0-1), R. Tomlinson (1-2), J. Heffernan (1-3). Subs: D. O'Meara (0-1) for J. Kennedy; R. Burns (0-1) for C. Howard; J. O'Donoghue for Quinn.
Boherlahan-Dualla: P. Ryan, S. Hickey, T.J. O'Dwyer, D. Delaney, G. McLoughlin, C. Gleeson, T. O'Dwyer, S. Murphy (0-1), M. Ferncombe (0-3, 0-2 from frees), D. Ryan, M. Murphy, G. Flanagan (0-1), P. Delaney (1-0), L. Maher (1-0), P. O'Dwyer (0-3). Subs: E. Maher for D. Delaney; K. O'Donnell for M. Murphy.
Referee: T.J. Corby (Clonmel).
John Quirke 'Man of the Match' award: Eddie Tucker (Eire Óg)
The 1995 County Senior Hurling Championship 1996 at a Glance
Semple Stadium, 15/10/95:
Nenagh - Eire Og 2-25 Boherlahan-Dualla 2-8.
Referee: T.J. Corby (Clonmel).
Semple Stadium, 7/10/95.
Eire Óg, Nenagh 2-14 Cashel King Cormacs 2-13.
Referee: Tommy Lonergan (Kilsheelan).
Boherlahan-Dualla 2-11 Toomevara 1-12.
Referee: Paddy Russell (Emly).
Semple Stadium, 23/09/95.
Eire Óg, Nenagh 2-16 Mullinahone 3-9.
Referee: Michael Greene (Upperchurch/Drombane).
Toomevara 4-16 Carrick Davins 3-5,
Referee: Richie Barry (Cappawhite).
Semple Stadium, 16/09/95
Boherlahan-Dualla 2-12 Kickhams 1-11,
Referee: T. J.Corby (St. Mary's).
Cashel King Cormacs 1-18 Loughmore-Castleiney 1-11.
Referee: Ger Hayes (Moneygall).
Tipperary G.A.A. Yearbook 1986, pp 18-21