Champions St Thomas made to sweat to keep title hopes alive

St Thomas survived a war of attrition against Tommy Larkins on Saturday afternoon to keep alive their dreams of retaining the county title for the first time, but they were really made to sweat by Ciaran Fahy’s side at a packed Kenny Park, prevailing 0-16 to 0-14.

This quarter-final may not have been pretty on the eye, but Larkins knew they were better off to make it a dogfight than try to outhurl the reigning champs, and a massive shock was on the cards when they led by one almost five minutes into stoppage time.

However, there was still time for Darragh Burke to level the game with his seventh free of the day before David Burke lit up an otherwise drab afternoon with a superb sideline cut to nudge his side improbably in front.

There was still time for Larkins to respond after a half that had been niggly and stop-start in nature, but it was another St Thomas star, full forward Conor Cooney, who rounded off an important final quarter contribution with the last score of the game to leave Tommy Larkins heartbroken.

St Thomas came into the tie as raging hot favourites, but although they hit two early points through David Burke and the impressive Oisín Flannery, by the 20-minute mark Tommy Larkins had established a deserved 0-6 to 0-3 advantage

Jason Flynn was on target with three frees and another from play, while Conor Gardiner and Kevin McHugo also chipped in. They were not being economical enough in front of the posts, though, and St Thomas were back within one by the half as Darragh Burke kept his poise to convert three placed balls.

Flynn slapped over another long-range free to get Larkins up and running in the second half, but any hopes of a more free-flowing contest were quickly quelled as both sets of attackers struggled with the intensity of the battle. Darragh Burke again was St Thomas’ go-to man for scores as he landed three on the trot and was denied a goal by an excellent stop by Eanna Murphy.

Larkins responded with five of the next six scores, with all bar one coming from Jason Flynn. At 0-13 to 0-10 down with 50 minutes played, St Thomas were staring into the abyss, but when Conor Cooney sprang to life late on, he was involved in two of the scores that helped draw Kevin Lally’s side back level.

Ronan Murphy nabbed a fine score from a tight angle to give Larkins the advantage again, but when the chips were down St Thomas found the answers, and their upcoming clash with Turloughmore on semi-final day will be one to savour.

ST THOMAS: J Barrett; S Skehill, D Sherry, C Mahoney; D Cooney, S Cooney, C Burke; J Regan, David Burke (0-2, 1 ‘sl ); E Burke, Darragh Burke (0-10, 7fs, 2 ’65s ), B Burke; O Flannery (0-3 ), C Cooney (0-1 ), B Farrell. Sub: D McGlynn for Farrell (55 mins ).

TOMMY LARKINS: E Murphy; O Forde, C Tuohy, J Sheil; B McCormack, C Nevin, N Gorman; K McHugo (0-1 ), C Flynn; C Gardiner (0-1 ), J Flynn (0-10, 9fs ), D Duggan; C Hanley (0-1 ), R Murphy (0-1 ), D Hickey. Subs: K Hooban for Hanley (62 mins ), E Nevin for Hickey (64 mins ), S Comar for Gardiner (65 mins ).

REFEREE : P Fahy.

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