Thomas' ready for tough Ballyhale test

The odds may be stacked against St Thomas’ as they prepare to take on the might of Ballyhale Shamrocks in the All-Ireland senior club championship semi-final on Sunday afternoon at Semple Stadium (3.30pm ), but the Galway champions will surely relish the opportunity to dethrone the Kilkenny kingpins.

It should be a cracking contest between two clubs who both completed a four-in-a-row of county victories in 2021. Ballyhale, however, are on the verge of completing an unprecedented three-in-a-row on the national stage, a feat which eluded Cuala, Portumna, Athenry, Birr, and Sarsfields who all won back-to-back titles.

St Thomas’ were well and truly put to the sword in their second final appearance back in 2019, when Colin Fennelly’s early goal set the tone on a day to forget for the Galway men which ended in a 17 point defeat.

Ballyhale are not accustomed to losing at this stage of the competition either, having turned nine Leinster titles into eight All-Ireland wins, their sole semi-final loss coming against a Joe-Canning inspired Portumna back in 2009.

With a host of inter-county stars such as TJ Reid, Eoin Cody, and Adrian Mullen in their ranks, Ballyhale are undoubtedly a formidable side, but they were on the brink of elimination against Offaly’s St Ryangh’s only last month before a last gasp goal forced extra time.

St Thomas’ will be well aware of the task ahead, one which has been made more challenging by the unfortunate knee injury suffered by centre back Shane Cooney in a recent challenge game against NUIG that has ruled him out.

Keeping the Ballyhale forwards quiet will be no mean feat, and Fintan Burke’s importance to the cause cannot be underestimated. Evan Duggan and Cathal Burke are launchpads for plenty of attacks from wing back, while David Burke and James Regan have plenty of experience.

Conor Cooney will pose Ballyhale plenty of problems from the half forward line, but St Thomas’ have always had a good spread of scoring options. This game could well be a high-scoring affair. It will rank as one of St Thomas’ greatest wins if they can take the prized Shamrocks scalp.

 

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