The Senior Hurling Championship - 1993


Toomevara bridged a thirty-two year gap when they captured the Dan Breen Cup for the first time since 1960 in a thrilling county final replay at Semple Stadium on November 8. In doing so they beat their opponents of over three decades ago, Thurles Sarsfields, and took the premier hurling trophy to the north division for the first time since Borrisoleigh's triumph in 1986. It was Toomevara's eleventh senior title.

The long wait had made victory all the sweeter and the success was greeted with an explosion of joy and celebration by the supporters at the game and later in the evening in a crowded village, where the formalities lasted for almost an hour. Among the many speakers was Neil Williams, who is regarded as having played a major part in the revival of hurling in the parish, which culminated in this great victory. In the course of his remarks he said: 'There was a warrant out for the arrest of Dan Breen and Toomevara executed that warrant. We'll keep him in captivity for quite some time. He's home to stay'. The tremendous spirit, skill and determination shown by the team, especially in the second half, and the fact that the elders on the team are a mere twenty-seven years of age, none of them having been born when the club had their previous victory, may well prove Neil to be prophetic.

Divisional Finals

However, a year is a long time in hurling as Cashel found to its chagrin after scaling the heights in 1991. In the first of the divisional finals, played at Bansha on July 27, the 'Kings' failed to make it three-in-a-row before a spirited performance by a Declan Ryan-inspired Clonoulty-Rossmore, who went out easy winners by 2-15 to 1-11.

The south final was played at CLonmel on August 16. On that day Ballingarry returned to the throne of south hurling for the first since 1987, when they defeated title holders and neighbours, Killenaule, by 2-12 to 1-10. Star of the encounter was captain and 'Man of the Match' award winner, Don Lyons, who had a spectacular game, scoring seven points from play for the winners.

On the same day there was a replay of the mid final at Boherlahan. In this LoughmoreCastleiney staged a sensational recovery when they came back from ten points down with nine minutes to play and grabbed an injury-time equaliser to take the game to extra time. During the extra period they swept Thurles Sarsfields off their feet to win by 3-18 to 2-14. In the drawn game on the previous Sunday Thurles Sarsfields had survived by virtue of a last minute equaliser from centrefielder, Brendan Carroll to leave the scoreline Loughmore-Castleiney 1-9 Thurles Sarsfields 0-12.

MacDonagh Park, Cloughjordan was the venue for the north fmal on August 30. Eire Og, Nenagh ended a twenty· year wait when they trounced a tired and ineffective Lorrha by 1-18 to 0-8. Toomevara, the Hogan League winners, qualified for second north spot in the county quarter-finals, when they recovered from a disastrous start which saw them trail by 3-3 to 0-1, to beat a hapless Lorrha side by 1-14 to 3-5 at Nenagh on September 9.

 

Plenty of Controversy

The first two quarter-final games, between the mid and the west representatives, were fixed for August 23, the Sunday after the replayed mid-final. Or so the advertisement for the game stated in the 'Tipperary Star'. At a meeting of the county fixtures committee on August 18 the representatives of the mid board claimed a provision was agreed to at a previous county fixtures meeting that the quarter final would go back to August 30 in the event of a draw. The claim was rejected by county chairman, Michael Maguire, and, after the mid delegates walked out, the fixture was re-affirmed for August 23.

On the following day the two mid clubs secured eight signatures, as per rule to seek a full meeting of the county board to have their case heard. County chairman, Michael Maguire, turned down the request and the clubs decided to appeal his refusal to the Munster Coincil. On the Friday before August 23 fixture Loughmore-Castleiney and Thurles SarsfIelds announced they would not be fulilling the fixture.

The mid board issued a detailed statement on the affair on August 24 in the course of which they reiterated their claim that a proviso was agreed, to put back the quarter-final games to August 30 " in the event of a mid draw, at the county fixtures meeting of July 28. On the night following the statement a meeting of the county fixtures meeting decided to throw the two clubs out of the county championship because of their failure to play the quarter-finals as fixed.

 

Phoney War

After the events of August 24 a kind of phoney war developed. The mid teams were left is a limbo situation with an appeal to the Munster Council pending. Quite a lot of anti-county chairman propaganda emerged from scribes favourable to the mid stand. A county board meeting on September 14 did not discuss the matter. Instead it was announced that a special meeting of the board would take place the following Monday to deal with the matter.

At the special meeting of the board on September 21 the two clubs were reinstated at a cost. Thurles Sarsfields and Loughmore-Castleiney were each fined £2,000 as was the mid board for allegedly misleading the clubs. During the course of a lengthy meeting chairman, Michael Maguire, continuously resisted impassioned pleas from several delegates to allow the mid clubs take part in the quarterfinals. Yet, he failed to bite the bullet but instead kept coming back to the delegates in the hope of finding a way around such an unpopular decision. Eventually after a recess and continued pleaing, he left the decision to a vote by the members. The result was a narrow 35-32 vote to allow the mid clubs back in the competition and the vote in favour may hwe been achieved by a crucial intervention in favour of leniency by South secretary, Micheal O'Meara and chairman, Jimmy Collins, near the end of the discussion. Their intervention may have swung neutral south deleales in favour of reinstatement

Many issues

The whole affair raised many issues. The most obvious one was the need to have minutes kept of the proceedings at county fixtures meetings. There was, of course, the flouting of the county board's authority and this was the third occasion that the offenders came from the mid division. What role did the mid board play in the affair? Did it "mislead" the clubs as Pat Cullen of Loughmore Castleiney seemed to imply. What part did personalities play in the affair and how big a part did the "I'll get you" mentality surface. But, there were even greater issues. The major one was the power of the club. In this case the clubs put the gun to the head of the county board - by withdrawing from the championship and left it in an extremely difficult position. Should it take firm action and dismiss the two teams or should it take the strength of the clubs' feelings on the matter into consideration? In this case the county chairman took firm action and then relented. As Noel Morris pointed out at the special board meeting Lorrha took similar action effectively in 1984. There is also the other side of this coin, the attitude of the clubs who will gain from the suspension of clubs. In the case of Clonoulty and Cashel there was an element of blackmail. It was hinted to them that if they took the games they would be going against tradition in the matter. In the event both sides decided to back the county chairman. Traditionally clubs have not taken games and this puts board decisions in an impossible position.

Quarter-finals

The first of the quarter-finals were played at Semple Stadium on September 13 between the teams form the south and the north. The better of the two was the Toomevara-Ballingarry confrontation. The north side had qualified only four days previously when they beat Lorrha in the play-off between the league winners and the championship runners-up. They showed a lack of urgency in their play and whereas they were ahead for most of the game they could never shake off a determined Ballingarry side. Toomevara went ahead in the first quarter, were dragged back to level after twenty minutes but were in front by 2-4 to 0-6 at the interval. In the second half they continued in front despite some bad shooting and had five points to spare, 2-9 to 0-10 at the final whistle in spite of considerable late pressure from the south champions.

The second game saw Eire og, Nenagh coast to an easy victory against a very poor Killenaule side. After some early difficulties the north side established their superiority, were in front by 1-8 to 0-2 at the interval and were easy winners by 3-14 to 0-7 in the end.

 

Mid v West

The other quarter-finals, delayed by controversy, were eventually played at Boherlahan on September 27. The two mid teams came to the fray with the support of a huge and partisan crowd that was going to give the west, and the chairman who came from there, the answer they deserved.

On the day the displays of Thurles Sarsfields and Loughmore-Castleiney deserved the successes they won. In the first game Sarsfields were easily the better side in the first half but failed to translate their advantage into scores and at halftime the sides stood level at three points each. West champions, Clonoulty-Rossmore, were hoping to lift their game in the second half and looked placed to succeed but their forwards lacked penetration and they wasted possession just as the mid men had done in the first half. In the end there was only a point between the sides in a low scoreline of 0-6 to 0-5 in favour of Thurles.

In the second game Loughmore-Castleiney gave a superb performance and defeated Cashel by six points in a scoreline of 2-12 to 2-6. The difference between the teams was the hunger and zest of the mid champions in contrast with the listless performance of the Cashel team. Loughmore hunted everything with a fierce appetite and harried their opponents at every opportunity. Within five minutes the mid team led by 1-2 to nil.

Cashel came back to level by the twentieth minute but Loughmore were ahead by 1-5 to 1-3 at interval. With ten minutes to go Loughmore had stretched their lead to double scores, 2-10 1-5 but Cashel got 1-1 to their opponents 0-2 in the final minutes to give the scoreboard a more respectable look. In spite of Loughmore-Castleiney's super- iority Cashel could only regret their dismal failure from pIaced balls in the first half and their craze for futile solo running the second half when the quick delivery into the inside forward line might have paid greater dividends.

The semi-finals

After a superb display at Boherlahan Loughmore-Castleiney must have gone into their semi-final game against Toomevara on October 11 at Semple Stadium with reasonable confidence. However, whatever happened during the intervening two weeks had something of a debilitating effect on the team because the sparkle was not in evidence and overall they gave extremely tame performance. In fact, it as a very poor game with the last minutes lifted a little by the excitement of Toomevara coming from level to win by two points in an exciting finish Loughmore had a two point advantage 0-6 to 0-4 at half-time. Toomevara levelled early in the second half and the sides were locked at nine points each with a few minutes to go. During the final minute Toomevara got two points to win by 0-11 to 0-9.

The second semi-fmal was more exciting and saw Thurles Sarsfields came from three points down with about five minutes remaining to draw with Eire 6g on a scoreline of 1- 12 each . The north champions led by a point at the interval, 1-7 to 1-6 and played the better hurling for most of the second half only to lose their advantage in the closing minutes.

The replay was at Cloughjordan on the following Sunday and from the throw-in to the final whistle Sarsfields superiority was never in doubt. They led by 1-8 to 1-2 at the interval, the Eire Og goal coming from a Michael Cleary penalty. The second half became a parade for Thurles and their nine point superiority, 2-15 to 2-6, at the final whistle was no less than they deserved. To underline the Thurles superiority Nenagh failed to score from play until ten minutes into the second half and their second goal also came from a penalty.

The County final

As a result of their spectacular victory over Eire 6g at Cloughjordan, Thurles Sarsfields were slight favourites going into the county final at Semple Stadium on November 1. It was an intriguing contest in many ways. not least of which was that neither team held divisional honours. On the other hard each side represented a proud hurling tradition in the county with the Blues and the Greyhounds among the finest hurling pedigrees. Toomevara were appearing in their first final since 1961 while Thurles last reached this stage in 1979.

The crowd of about 10,000 did not get the kind of game they expected. The first half was a dull uninspiring contest at the end of which Sarsfields led by 0-4 to 0-3. In the second half Toomevara began to take control and not even a goal by Seamus Quinn in the ninth minute after the interval could halt their momentum and they scored five points without reply from Sarsfields. With three points up. the wind behind them and only eight minutes to go they appeared set for victory. But. inexplicably. they failed to drive home their advantage and Thurles came back to score three points in the final minutes and earn an unexpected draw. In the end it was a major disappointment for the north men to have apparent victory elude their grasp in the final minutes. The final score was Sarsfields 1-8 Toomevara 0-11.

The Replay

To many experts it appeared as if the men from the north had let slip the opportunity of bridging a 32 year gap. However, Toomevara went into the replay a week later with an increased confidence in their ability and they expressed that confidence in a much improved display. Yet Sarsfields had a point to spare at the interval in a scoreline of 1-4 to 0-6. their goal a fortuitous one by Connie Maher from a melee in the front of the goal. In the second half Toomevara's superiority became more pronounced but they were never able to pull out of the danger zone chiefly due to a tenacious defence by the Thurles backline, especially Michael Maher. Seamus O'Shea and Seamus Maher, until he retired with an injury. In fact many believed that the performance of the veteran, Michael Maher, deserved the Man of the Match award.

But there were sterling performances at the other end of the field also and as the game wore on we saw some superb defending by Declan O'Meara, George Friend and Man of the Match. Philip Shanahan, who was just half the age of the leading contender from the opposite side. The quality of the Toomevara defence can be seen in the paucity of Sarsfields' scores in the second half, a mere two points. The last ten minutes saw trojan efforts on both sides to gain the verdict and the excitement was intense up to final whistle, with only a puck of a bell between the sides, Toomevara 0-12 Thurles Sarsfields 1-6. It has been another day for defences and the game confirmed the low level of forward power in the county at the present.

Teams:

Toomevara: Jody Grace, Pat Meagher, Rory Brisbane, Michael O'Meara (Capt.), George Friend, Declan O'Meara, Philip Shanahan, Pat King, Tony Delaney, Tommy Dunne, Michael Murphy. Terry Dunne, Liam Flaherty, Liam Nolan, Tommy Carroll. Subs: Michael Nolan for Flaherty, Kevin McCormack for Carroll. Also: Sean Nolan, Kenneth McDonnell, John Ryan, Jimmy Dunne. Brendan Spillane, Kevin Delaney, Owen Cuddihy. Selectors: Fr. Michael Casey, Jim McDonald, Frank Ryan. Coach: P.J. Whelehan.

Thurles Sarsfields
: Pat McCormack, Michael Maher, Tommy Maher, Michael Sparrow, Jim Moloney, Seamus O'Shea, Seamus Maher, John Dorney, Liam Duggan, Eamon Walshe (Cap.t), Brendan Carroll, Connie Maher. Ml McCormack, Paddy Maher, Seamus Quinn. Subs: Clive Hanrahan for Moloney. Graham O'Connor for Walshe, Michael Hanrahan for S. Maher. Also: Kieran Carroll, Lar Barrett, Tony Coman, Andy Rossiter, P. J. Kavanagh, Tony O'Meara, John Kennedy, Kevin Cummins. Selectors: Tom Barry (coach), Denis Maher, Liam O'Donnchu.



Tipperary G.A.A. Yearbook 1993, pp 16-19