The semi-final pairings for this year’s county senior hurling championship were revealed following St Thomas’ epic one-point victory over Clarinbridge in the fourth and final quarter-final tie on Sunday.
Already lying in wait for the winners of Sunday’s clash were defending county champions Liam Mellows, 2015 county champions Sarsfields, and last year’s beaten county semi-finalists Cappataggle.
The draw last weekend has paired Mellows and Cappataggle, along with Sarsfields and St Thomas, and those two semi-finals take place this Sunday in an exciting double header in Kenny Park, Athenry.
Sarsfields and St Thomas first up
First up at 1pm will be the meeting of county championship favourites St Thomas and Sarsfields in what promises to be an intriguing tie.
Winners of the county title in successive years, St Thomas and Sarsfields last met in the championship in the final round of group games last year, with St Thomas winning out by a tight margin of 0-20 to 0-18.
Both sides topped their respective senior A groups this year and since then Sarsfields have scraped over the line against Castlegar in their quarter-final tie, while St Thomas ended the run of Clarinbridge with a 1-23 to 2-19 victory after extra-time last Sunday.
Sarsfields have had an ideal two-week break since that game against Castlegar, while St Thomas face a seven-day turnaround following their exertions this past weekend, so much will depend on how they can recover between now and this Sunday in determining who will come out on top.
Fintan Burke will be their primary injury concern this week after being forced from the field at the end of normal time, but it must be remembered that while they are at a disadvantage with a short turnaround, Sunday’s game was St Thomas' first in a month since they comfortably dispatched of Castlegar in their final group game.
That game against Clarinbridge will have shaken off whatever few cobwebs there may have been for Kevin Lally’s side and going on both sides’ recent displays against Castlegar, there should be only one winner this Sunday – the men from south Galway.
Big games do not always workout that way, however, and expect Sarsfields to seriously test this St Thomas side.
That said, come full-time, the Castledaly/Peterswell men should be the ones moving onto their first county final since 2016.
Champions Mellows take on Cappie
The other semi-final sees Liam Mellows and Cappataggle clash in a repeat of last year’s county semi-final which Mellows won by a point, 0-13 to 1-9 (2.30pm ).
It was a heartbreaking defeat for Cappataggle to take after their late fight back fell just short, but what they learnt and that experience in what was the club's first ever county semi-final, could prove invaluable this time around.
Cappataggle have been impressive in their past couple of rounds in disposing of the challenges of Turloughmore (after extra-time ) and Loughrea, and their ability to come out on top in those tight games should stand them in good stead here.
Liam Mellows have gone about their business quietly, which is exactly how manager Louis Mulqueen would have wanted it.
Impressive without ever being forced to go all-out in their last outing with Tynagh/Abbey-Duniry, this is a serious test of the champions' credentials as they aim to become the first team since Portumna’s three in-a-row winning side between 2007 and 2009 to defend the Tom Callanan Cup.
That being said, there is a reason why defending a county title is so difficult and if it is tight down the home stretch, the hurt from last year and perhaps a slight edge in hunger may see Cappataggle pull off the upset and advance to their first ever county final.