St Thomas gunning for a second senior hurling title on Sunday

All roads lead to Pearse Stadium this Sunday for the eagerly anticipated county senior hurling final featuring Gort and St Thomas (3.30pm ).

Both sides know what is required to win in three days. Gort were Galway senior champions in 2014 and 2011, while St Thomas collected their first and only senior title four years ago in 2012.

In what was a majestic year for the parishes of Kilchreest, Peterswell and Castledaly, St Thomas also annexed the All-Ireland club title the following March, writing their names into the annals of club hurling.

Gort were narrow 1-17 to 0-18 winners over Craughwell in their semi-final victory with Gerard O’Donoghue hitting the crucial goal.

Their management team of Michael Finn, John Connors and Gerry Lally will be fully aware that their charges will need a superior performance to the one they produced two weeks ago if they are going to prevail.

A key player for them is wing-forward and free-taker Aiden Helebert, who notched 0-11 in the semi-final.

No doubt St Thomas manager John Burke will have stressed to his defence and midfielders that fouls will be severely punished and that good discipline will be key to winning a second county title.

Gort have other big performers up front in Albert Mullins, Richie Cummins, Michael Mullins and the high-scoring Paul Killilea, and all of those men will need to be in good form to get past a solid St Thomas defence.

Gort are well served at the back too, with full-back Mark McMahon, and a solid half-back line of Pakie Lally, county star Aidan Harte, and team captain Sylvie Óg Linnane.

Midfield should be a real battle zone. Gort have two fine players in the high-scoring Jason Grealish and Jack Grealish, who face current All-Star and Galway captain David Burke and the lively and hardworking David Sherry.

James Regan, who was prominent in their semi-final win, also grafts around there with good effect at times.

St Thomas do depend on county forward Conor Cooney for scores and he hit 0-8 in their 1-15 to 1-10 win in the semi-final over Loughrea.

Sean Skehill, Darragh Burke, Brendan Farrell, who goaled in the semi-final, and Eanna Burke have also impressed in their run to the final and they will need to bring their A game on Sunday if they are to make inroads on the Gort defence.

At the back St Thomas will be looking to Shane Cooney, Fintan Burke and team captain Patrick Skehill between the sticks to keep the Gort tally down to manageable proportions.

To advance to this final St Thomas responded well following a shaky start where they lost their first two championship matches, and only won one from the opening four. In fact they lost to Gort by 1-14 to 1-20 in their round four group game.

Speaking to GAA.ie earlier in the week, David Burke said despite those losses it was all about getting out of their group.

“We knew that if we stuck together and kept working we would get a few wins. It just worked out for us in the end, that we got over the line even though it wasn't in our hands in the last game.

“We were lucky enough to get through in the end, but we felt we had turned a corner in the Castlegar game [1-19 to 4-09].

“To come out of a close game with Beagh [in the preliminary quarter-finals] was a good result. The Portumna game was great to get over [2-25 to 4-15], so we have been improving steadily as the year went on.”

“The quality is there. We know Gort very well and it should be a good game for spectators, and hopefully we will come out on the right side of it.”

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