Cashel - Munster Club Champions 1991
Only a week after winning their first county senior hurling championship Cashel headed for Ennis to play the Clare champions, Clarecastle, in the Munster club championship semifinal on November 17. The celebrations around their historic win were brought to a halt early in the week and a testing mid-week training session whipped the players into reasonable shape for this Cusack Park test.
Conditions for the game were extremely poor with parts of the pitch waterlogged after heavy ovemight rain and matters worsened with a heavy downpour towards the end of the first half. Despite this the sides served up a very entertaining game. which was tight up to the three-quarter stage. and gave the large crowd plenty to cheer about.
Clarecastle had high hopes of reaching the decider after handing out a crushing defeat to Limerick champions, Ballybrown, in a controversial first round game, but it was clear from the outset that they were unable to match the skills of the Tipperary champions. Cashel built up a 1-7 to 0-3 interval lead, the goal a fortuitous one from Ailbe Bonnar ten minutes from half-time. Clarecastle reduced the lead to three points with an Anthony Daly goal from a penalty ten minutes after the resumption but this sparked off a Cashel resurgence, which resulted in two goals from Jamsie O'Donoghue and Tommy Grogan in a three minute period. In the end they were in front by 3-11 to 2-4.
The victory came from a fine team effort but there were some outstanding performances. Pride of place must go to Colm Bonnar. who played a captain's part with an incredible workrate over the hour. Pat O'Donoghue gave an outstanding display at full-back and in the forwards, Tommy Grogan gave another performance of brilliant marksmanship. scoring a total of 1-9 in the course of the hour.
There couldn't have been better opposition for the Munster final at Mitchelstown on December 8 than the Cork champions, Midleton. The game attracted enormous attention and called to mind the ancient rivalry between Cork and Tipperary. The Midleton team was speckled with players who had brought honour to club and to county, household names like Denis Mulcahy, Pat Hartnett, John Fenton, Ger Fitzgerald and Kevin Hennessy.
Like so many games of which much is expected the game fell far below expectations but the closeness of the scoring and the intensity of the exchanges kept the crowd of over 8,000 excited for the hour. It was a game that produced more wides than scores, with Cashel having fourteen to Midleton's eleven.
Cashel held the upper hand from the start and with scores slow to come they gradually built up a 0-3 to 0-1 lead after twenty minutes. During this period Cashel's half-back line did some fine work, cutting off the supply of ball to the Cork forwards. Of the three Conal Bonnar was particularly impressive. At the other end a titanic struggle for supremacy was taking place between T.J. Connolly and Pat Hartnett. Two points by Tommy Grogan and T.J. Connolly gave Cashel a 0-5 lead at the interval.
The second half was a close struggle of great misses, the greatest without a doubt from Paudie O'Brien, who had an outstanding chance of a goal ten minutes from the end. By the closing minutes Cashel were three points in front in a scoreline of 0-9 to 0-6. This final period was fought with great tension and there was always the possibility that Midleton might get the major and deprive Cashel of victory. But they failed and a jubilant crowd of Cashel supporters and players celebrated one of the most memorable victories ever achieved by the club. The unbridled emotion was due not only to winning a first provincial club championship but to the fact that the victory was achieved over a Cork team.
Again the victory was forged from the fighting qualities of all the players but the performance of Pa Fitzell, Colm Bonnar, Michael Perdue, T.J. Connolly, John Ryan and John Grogan deserve special mention.
After victory in Munster the next target was the All-Ireland club championship and the first step on the road was a long one - all the way to Ruislip, London to play English champions, Sean Treacys of London. The game was fixed for February 9 and there was great excitement, among players and supporters alike, at the thought of a weekend in London.
Although a Cashel victory was anticipated the problem was motivating the team and preventing complacency which might prove fatal. It was known that the previous year's champions, St. Gabriel's, had come over to Galway and beaten Connacht champions, Kiltormer. Such a fate was devoutly to be avoided.
In the event the game was no contest and revealed a vast gulf in the standard between to two teams. By the interval the writing was on the wall for the London men, with Cashel in front by 0-16 to 0-2. Cashel eased off somewhat in the second half and were still convincingly in front at the final whistle by 0-23 to 0-6. Again Tommy Grogan contributed greatly to the victory with ten points from placed balls. Others to shine included Timmy Moloney, who deputised for the injured Willie Fitzell, and T.J. Connolly, who scored four delightful points. Cashel rested a number of players in the second half, giving Declan McGrath, Sean Slattery and Joe Minogue a run in the process.
Galway county champions, Kiltormer, were to provide memorable opposition in the All-Ireland semi-final which wasn't to be resolved before 210 minutes of hurling had elapsed. The games will be remembered for great struggles that interested not only the respective supporters of both teams but the people of Tipperary and Galway and the followers of hurling in the country at large.
The first encounter between the sides was at Leahy Park, Cashel on February 23. The home side's expectations were very high but the players and their ardent supporters in a crowd of about nine thousand got the shock of their lives when superb hurling by the Galway champions gave them a deserved lead of eight points after twenty minutes.
Cashel woke up to the fact that they had a fight on their hands and an opposition of quality that included players of the calibre of Conor Hayes, the Kilkenny brothers, Aidan Staunton, Brendan Dervan and Justin Campbell, all of whom had worn the Galway jersey in one grade or another. The home side gradually found their rhythm and hit a glorious patch shortly before the interval which yielded goals by Jamsie O'Donoghue and T.J. Connolly. As a result they trailed by only three points at half-time in a scoreline of 2-2 to 1-8.
On the resumption Cashel had to be optimistic with the advantage of the wind and this was confirmed within ten minutes when Tommy Grogan with two points from frees and brother John with a point from play evened up the score. It seemed as if it was going to be Cashel's day but in the remainder of the half the sides scored only two points each to give a final tally of Cashel 2-7 Kilcormer 1-10. Both sides missed chances that might have been and in the end the opinion of neutrals was that it was a fitting result.
Ballinasloe was the venue for the replay on March 8. The feeling in Cashel was that the home side could never play as poorly again and there was hope of a much improved performance. On the other hand there was an awareness that Kiltormer were a fine side capable of a fine brand of hurling with strong-running forwards capable of taking on a defence and that it would take a top performance by Cashel to dispose of the Galway side.
The day could not have been better and Duggan Park was in excellent condition. Again the expectations were high and the supporters travelled in great numbers. In the end Cashel were extremely lucky when Kiltormer wing-forward, Damian Curley drove a last minute 20 metre free wide and gave Cashel a third chance.
On the other hand the result was a tremendous tribute to the resilience of the Cashel side who came back from five point deficits on no less than three times in the course of the game! Cashel had to line out without John Grogan and he was replaced by Timmy Moloney, who made a major contribution to Cashel's display. Although well forewarned from the game in Cashel, the King Cormac's were slow to start and were five points behind after fifteen minutes. Not until the 16th minute did Cashel score, a kicked goal by T.J. Connolly. This rallied the visitors and brought them within a point of Kiltormer, 0-6 to 1-2, at the interval.
Full of determination Cashel took the field for the second half but again it was Kiltormer who took the initiative. In a game in which scores were at a premium Kiltormer went three points in front after ten minutes. Then disaster for Cashel when a Timmy Moloney penalty was stopped. This was followed by two more points for the home side which restored their five point lead. Then when heads began to drop Cashel were awarded a penalty for a foul on Cormac Bonnar and this time Timmy Moloney found the net. This score inspired Cashel and they looked as if they might make it after Tommy Grogan and Timmy Moloney brought them level. In the end there were missed chances on both sides but for Cashel there was a T.J. Connolly effort that might just have been. At the final whistle the score was Cashel 2-5 Kiltormer 0-11.
The only time Cashel led in this marathon contest was after two minutes of the first half of extra time when Tommy Grogan point put them ahead by 2-6 to 0-11. The omens looked good. However, they flattered only to deceive. During the following ten minutes the Kiltormer men came storming back to score 1-3 and open up a five point lead for the third time in this incredible contest. Cashel had to rise from the dead for a third time and did so in heroic fashion by scoring three points, two from Timmy Moloney and one from Tommy Grogan, during the three minutes before half-time to leave them only two points adrift, 1-14 to 2-9. The final half is a short tale to relate. In a gripping finish Cashel scored twice, after six minutes when T.J. Connolly hit a point and a few minutes alter when Tommy Grogan hit a marvellous leveller from a free. In the end Cashel had to endure the agony of Damian's Curley's close-in free and the ecstacy of his miss. The final score was Cashe1 2-11 Kiltormer 1-14.
The national headquarters on St. Patrick's Day ought to have been the occasion for the All-Ireland club final. Instead it was the venue for the third meeting of the inseparable twins.
In the end it was a puck of a ball that separated the sides. With four minutes left and the sides level referee, Dickie Murphy of Wexford, gave a controversial free against John Grogan. The resultant long range free dropped right into the heart of the Cashel defence. Breaking behind the inner backline substitute, Tony Furey, raced after it. John Ryan came off his line to challenge him but Furey got his shot in and scored the goal that decided the marathon encounter. Cashel, who came back so often in previous encounters, just hadn't time.
However, the game was won and lost in the first half when Cashel, with wind advantage and the backs playing exceptionally well, failed to capitalise on their territorial advantage and went in at half-time trailing by 1-3 to 0-5.
During this period none of the Cashel forwards had scored from play. Raymie Ryan had hit two points from play, Conal Bonnar one from play and one from a free and Tommy Grogan from a free.
Cashel had an uphill battle in the second half. After only nine minutes Kiltormer were ahead by 1-6 to 0-5 and Cashel's chances looked slim. But again, when chances looked their worst, Cashel came back. Tommy Grogan pointed a free. Brother John got a great goal in the thirteenth minute and Tommy put Cashel ahead a minute later with another free. Things were looking up for Cashel but again the omens were deceptive. Colm Bonnar went off with a suspected broken finger and he was to prove an unbearable loss and with ten minutes to go Aidan Staunton whipped over the levelling point for Kiltormer. Cormac Bonnar restored Cashel's lead only to see Sean Kelly erase it within a minute. This left the sides deadlocked at 1-8 each when Tony Furey struck his mortal blow four minutes to time.
In the end one side had to lose but there was no consolation for the losers. They may have been honourable in defeat but there is no substitute for victory. It is a sad state of affairs but winning is the only thing. Congratulations to worthy champions, Kiltormer!
In the six games played Cashel scored 8 goals 69 points and conceded 6 goals 48 points. The following is the list of the panel, with the number of their appearances and scores.
John Ryan (6), Tony Slattery (6). Pat O'Donoghue (6), Michael Perdue (6), Raymie Ryan (6),(0-2), Pat Fitzell (6), Conal Bonnar (6) (0-2), Colm Bonnar (capt.) (6) (0-2), Willie Fitzell (5). James O'Donoghue (5) (2-4), T.J. Connolly(6) (2-9), John Grogan (6) (1-7), Tommy Grogan (6) (1-35), Cormac Bonnar (6) (01), Ailbe Bonnar (6) (1-0), Timmy Moloney (3) and Sub (3) (1-7), Joe Minogue Sub. (2), Declan McGrath Sub. (3), Seanie Barron, Sean Slattery Sub. (1), Sean O'Donoghue Sub. (1), Joe O'Leary, Peter Fitzell, Ger Slattery, Sean Morrissey, Liam Devitt, Don Higgins. Selectors:
Brendan Bonnar, John Darmody, Justin McCarthy (Coach) Aongus Ryan.
Tipperary G.A.A. Yearbook 1993, pp 53-54