In a riveting contest between two very evenly-matched teams, St Thomas’ proved themselves kingpins of Galway hurling yet again, taking this year's Galway Senior Hurling Championship title by 1-14 to 0-15.
They used all their know-how to grab the final’s last three points when it looked as though Turloughmore were on the verge of dethroning Kevin Lally’s side.
Having just taken the lead through Seán Linnane’s fourth point from play with barely five minutes of normal time to play, Turloughmore had a pep in their step, while St Thomas’ appeared to be showing signs of fatigue after two energy-sapping battles in the space of a week.
Joe Hession’s Turloughmore had pocketed four of the last five scores, despite the loss of their inspirational leader Daithí Burke to injury before half-time. Surely this was going to be their moment, but St Thomas’ had another surge left in the tank, while Turloughmore’s shooting went badly awry at just the wrong time.
Oisín Flannery, excellent throughout despite being hampered by a hamstring injury, won a free in the left corner that Conor Cooney did well to drive over to bring the sides level for the fifth time. Cooney’s early goal had given St Thomas’ breathing space, but Turloughmore’s defence were unfazed and coped well against a star-studded attack. When the need was greatest, though, St Thomas’ found a way to get their noses back in front as Eanna Burke swept up a loose ball and split the posts on 58 minutes.
Bernard Burke had also dropped deep as an extra defender and this move paid dividends, while a fresh pair of legs in substitute Brendan Farrell proved his worth with a well-taken point after Daithí Burke had been reintroduced for a now-desperate Turloughmore.
Four wides in a row, though, extinguished their chances of a recovery, as Fintan Burke proved an impenetrable barrier at full back for St Thomas’, aided by Shane Cooney in front of him.
Turloughmore will have regrets over the eight wides they shot while playing with the wind in the second half, but they will surely be back challenging for honours again in the coming years.
“It was a phenomenal battle,” St Thomas’ manager Kevin Lally said afterwards. “We love a battle. It’s as simple as that, we love going over the trenches and digging victories out and that’s how it transpired again today.
“We left a few scores behind us and a lot of our ball in in the first half was poor. Thankfully that improved in the second half and we sorted that at half-time, and thankfully that’s the way it panned out in the second half."
'An amazing group'
Picking up the Man of the Match award as well as finishing as the competition’s top scorer was a serious accomplishment for St Thomas’ captain Conor Cooney, who was keen to praise the more unsung members of the panel.
“I suppose it’s just a privilege to accept the cup there on behalf of the lads, it’s an amazing group. They have been through ups and downs and we have come out the right side again today, it’s an amazing feeling.
“There are lads driving sessions there every day. There’s lads who didn’t even get playing there today and they are so driven and so determined. It's that kind of standard-setting that I think has been the difference.
“You could have a very good team and lose that hunger, but we are very fortunate that we have very driven and very determined guys that just want to win.”
Cooney also acknowledged the importance of his goal, coming as it did within the first minute, but believed it was the team’s spirit and self-belief that were the key factors in the completion of a remarkable three-in-a-row.
“We knew we’d have to get a good start and that’s what we got. Luckily enough the ball went in, and that probably gave us the platform to go on and keep the lead then.
“They came at us hard in the second half, there was a strong enough breeze there and we knew we’d have to weather a purple patch at some stage. I suppose since they’ve brought in the water breaks there have been a lot of times where one team has come back strong after the break, and that’s what transpired.
“Again, we weathered the storm and just kept the heads down. We knew that if we kept working and kept grafting that we’d come out the right side and that’s what happened.”
ST THOMAS’: G Kelly; C Mahony, F Burke (0-1f ), S Skehill; J Headd, S Cooney, D Sherry; David Burke, J Regan (0-1 ); E Duggan, C Cooney (1-6, 0-6 fs ), Darragh Burke; E Burke (0-1 ), O Flannery (0-3 ), B Burke. Subs: B Farrell (0-1 ) for Duggan (50m ).
TURLOUGHMORE: M Fahy; M Morris, R Burke, M Murphy; D Loftus, J Holland, K Hussey; Daithí Burke, F Moore (0-2 ); C Walsh (0-4fs ), S Loftus (0-1 ), M Keating (0-2 ); B Callanan (0-1 ), G Burke (0-1 ), S Linnane (0-4 ). Subs: B Connolly for D Burke (30m ), B McDonagh for M Keating (4ms ), R Badger for G Burke (58m ), D Burke for B Callanan (58m ).
REFEREE: A Kelly.