St Thomas punish Loughrea in last quarter for solid win

Cathal Burke of St Thomas and Loughrea's Emmet Mahony in action from the Salthill Hotel Galway Senior Hurling Championship quarter-final replay at Kenny Park, Athenry, on Sunday. 						Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Cathal Burke of St Thomas and Loughrea's Emmet Mahony in action from the Salthill Hotel Galway Senior Hurling Championship quarter-final replay at Kenny Park, Athenry, on Sunday. Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

The county senior hurling quarter-final replay between Loughrea and St Thomas in Kenny Park on Sunday afternoon was a tame affair compared to the drawn match.

John Burke's side always looked a bit too smooth and cohesive for the 2006 county champions, who were forced to line out without two key men in county star Johnny Coen and full-forward Johnny Maher. 

Both players were big losses, and the absence of a genuine target man in front of  the square always meant Loughrea did not ever really look like getting in for a much-needed goal.

In the duration of the game, St Thomas's net minder Ger Murray only had to make one single save, a penalty he saved from Neil Keary in the first half.

St Thomas led by 1-08 to 0-6 at half time and their first goal was a glorious effort by Richie Murray, who took a deft ground flick off David Burke before unleashing a bullet that gave Gavin Keary no chance in the Loughrea goal.

Conor Cooney a handful for Loughrea rearguard

The fit again Conor Cooney was also a handful for the Loughrea rearguard and he notched 0-4 (3fs ) in the first half to keep the scoreboard ticking over for the 2012/2013 All-Ireland club champions. They had other scores in that half from the impressive David Burke at midfield, Seán Burke at wing-back, and Kenneth Burke and Shane Cooney.

A major problem for Loughrea was their overdependence on both Neil Keary and Gearoid Loughnane for scores, especially from placed balls.

Keary hit 0-3 (1f, 1 45 ) in the first half, but he almost missed a few scorable efforts, and his penalty was well saved by Ger Murray too. Loughnane hit a few points from frees in the second half, but both were well contained in general play by Fintan Burke, Sean Skehill and Cathal Burke.

While St Thomas did look the better team from the outset, it took two well-taken goals in the last quarter to really put Enda McDonnell's team away. 

Richie Murray showed a real poacher's instinct to grab a rebound off the post to rifle past a helpless Gavin Keary, and Brendan Farrell followed up with a fine effort  to leave absolutely no way back for Loughrea.

Others who caught the eye for St Thomas included centre back Darragh Burke, Eanna Burke, who hit a lovely point in the second half, and midfielder Bernard Burke, who had the most distinctive boots of both squads on show - a loud orange pair that made him highly visual at all times.

Best for Loughrea

Despite being beaten by 12 points, 3-15 to 0-12, Loughrea battled hard for the first 50 minutes.

They had some fine performances from full-back Damien McClearn, who cleared a lot of ball, centre-back Paul Hoban, who hit a superb individual point in the first half, and Sean Sweeney, who worked very hard at midfield and also hit a nice score.

However, the Loughrea lads will have no complaints as they were well beaten at the end of the day. No doubt, if they had a fully fit Johnny Coen and Johnny Maher, it would have been a closer run thing.

That said, St Thomas did look the superior squad over the two days and they will be many people's favourites to beat Craughwell this Sunday too and qualify for the county final.

The game was well refereed by Alan Kelly. He kept a tight rein on things all through which meant that the players knew quickly what was, and what was not, acceptable, and allowed them to get on with the hurling. 

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