The St Thomas hurlers and their loyal band of supporters and management team are off to Parnell Park again this Saturday (5.45pm), for the replay of the All-Ireland senior club hurling semi-final.
The Galway champions played out an epic 1-25 to 3-19 draw after extra-time, with current All-Ireland champions Loughgiel Shamrocks at the same venue last weekend.
It took a last-gasp goal by Antrim star Liam Watson to rescue a draw for his side as they trailed by three points going into injury time. However, Watson slammed home a 20-yard free in a sensational finish, to end a riveting encounter.
John Burke, the St. Thomas’ manager believes his side will have learnt a lot from last Saturday’s drawn game and he is confident that if his charges play as he knows they can, they will be heading to Dublin on St. Patrick’s Day.
“It was new territory for us last weekend. We had never been in an All-Ireland semi-final before and from that perspective we expect that we will have learnt a lot from the experience. We have a very young team and the lads will know now what to expect this Saturday.
“You cannot buy experience and Loughgiel are a more experienced outfit than we are. They are worthy All-Ireland champions and they never panicked the last day. They just kept doing what they had been doing all the game, even when they were behind in the last few minutes. We will have learnt from the drawn game and if we keep our work-rate at a really high level, allied to the experience from last Saturday we should be an improved unit.”
Burke who has managed this group of players at various grades has oceans of belief in his young panel, six of whom are his own sons.
“We believe that we are good enough to win. However we need to perform to our best to do so. We know the hurlers we have and if they hurl as they can and get to the performance levels they are capable of, we will be very hard stopped. Our aim last weekend was to be in this year’s All-Ireland club final and that has not changed. There is no point in going up to Parnell Park if you don’t believe you can do it. We have some very good hurlers and so have they, so it will come down to which team produces the goods on the day. It is as simple as that. We need all the lads to have a ferocious work-rate for the full game and if they do that, they have the hurling to come through.” he said.
Venue not ideal for either side
Both Burke and the Loughgiel Shamrock manager PJ O’ Mullan are not overly enamoured with Croke Park’s decision to re-fix the game for Parnell Park under lights.
The pitch was very soft last Saturday and was well dug up by the end of extra-time and it is impossible to imagine how that would have changed in the past seven days. There is also some concern over the quality of the lights for top class hurling.
“The pitch was well cut up by the end of the game last Saturday and it made for hard going for hurling. The lights are not ideal either and it is a pity, as you have two real hurling sides in action. It is not fair on either side really, to have such a massive game being played out in such circumstances. It would be a real shame if the outcome was decided on an error because someone lost sight of the ball with the lights, or some other mistake maybe due to a soft pitch. It would be better to have a 2pm throw-in at a different neutral venue.”
The St Thomas manager is a pragmatist though and he knows that regardless of the venue or time of throw-in, it is a game that offers a place in the All-Ireland final.
“We will be giving it our absolute best shot. And we are asking for as much support as we can muster this Saturday. The more Galway and St Thomas supporters that are there to cheer the lads on, the better. Loughgiel had huge support last weekend and we would love to match them in that department. So if anyone can travel to support us, we would be delighted to have you on board.”
Conor Cooney the scoring star last Saturday
Galway senior player Conor Cooney was the St Thomas scoring ace last Saturday shooting 0-12 (0-7 from play) including the point that sent the game into extra-time. In extra time, substitute Gerald Murray grabbed what looked like the winning goal and St Thomas looked poised to book their berth in the decider against Kilcormac-Killoughey.
However with the last puck of the game Liam Watson levelled the game to set up this Saturday’s replay.
The winners will face Kilcormac-Killoughney (Offaly) in the final. The Offaly champions saw off a fancied Thurles-Sarsfields by 1-20 to 1-14.
The replay is live on TG4.
St Thomas: Patrick Skehill, Sean Skehill, Robert Murray, Cathal Burke, Enda Tannion, Darragh Burke, Sean Burke, Kenneth Burke (0-3), David Burke (0-1) Shane Cooney, Conor Cooney (0-12, 0-2 sideline, 0-2f, 0-1 ’65), James Regan (0-3), Anthony Kelly, Richie Murray (0-1), Bernard Burke (0-4).
Subs: Eanna Burke for Kelly, Anthony Kelly for Eanna Burke, Eanna Burke for Cathal Burke, Gerald Murray (1-1) for Shane Cooney.
Loughgiel Shamrocks: D Quinn, P Gillan, N McGarry, M McFadden, James Campbell, M Scullion, J Campbell, B McAuley, T McCloskey (0-2), L Watson (1-7, all frees), D Laverty, E McCloskey (0-3), B McCarry (1-2), J Scullion (0-4), S Casey.
Sub: S Dobbin (0-1) for Laverty, O McFadden for McAuley