St Thomas celebrate hurling win

The outpouring of raw emotion and sheer joy by the St Thomas players, the management team, and loyal supporters had to be seen to be believed after the final whistle in the Salthill Hotel Galway Senior Hurling Championshipfinal on Sunday at Pearse Stadium.

It was a beautiful moment. Sport at its purest. And an historic day that would melt the heart of even the most caustic of cynics.

What is seldom, is wonderful. And the people of Kilchreest, Castledaly and Peterswell had waited a very long time - Peterswell were county champions in 1907 - to see anyone from those parishes hoist the senior county cup.

It was a miserable, wet, dark and cold day on Sunday, but the hurling was really top-notch and the celebrations after the game mirrored that high quality.

As the ebullient and eloquent St Thomas captain Robert Murray said in his victory speech: "It has been a long time since a man from our area walked up these steps and I have a fair bit to say. So, settle down there now."

Murray spoke well and with great gusto, but he and his teammates had done all the real talking on the field of play as they chalked up a hugely impressive 3-11 to 2-11 victory over Loughrea.

They started in whirlwind fashion when former All-Ireland minor winning captain with Galway in 2000, Richard Murray, latched onto a good delivery from David Burke, rounded Damien McClearn and drove the ball low into Nigel Murray's net.

It was a massive start for his side and gave them the ideal tonic to get into their groove immediately. Any possibility of some stage fright was gone with only 60 seconds on the clock.

Unfortunately for Nigel Murray, it was only the start of his namesake’s flag-raising exploits, and the St Thomas full-forward ended up with 3-0 to his name by the time Eoin O'Shaughnessy blew the full time whistle.

Amazing achievement by St Thomas

St Thomas's success last Sunday was an amazing achievement for a club with only 200 houses in the catchment area and it is a reflection of the superb and dedicated hard work that has been put in with this group of players.

As team manager John Burke, whose six sons all saw action last weekend, said after the club’s historic success: “ It did not happen overnight.

"We have been pushing these lads since u-12 in 2002. We said to them then to stick together and they might go places. It is a great day for the club, and brilliant for the parish. We are only a small club and it is great to finally emerge now and win it."

While it was an amazing day for the club, it was also a pretty spectacular one for the Burke family too, and the team manager. Five of his sons, Kenneth (28 ), Seán (25 ), David (22 ), Cathal (20 ) and Darragh (19 ) all started the game, and 17-year-old Eanna was introduced.

As family days out in Salthill go, it will take some beating.

Tough on Loughrea

As county hurling chairman Joe Beirne pointed out after the game, there can only be one winner, and there has to be a loser.

Those words have been directed at Loughrea far too often over the past decade. The town has now lost five county senior finals in the past decade, and that is very tough to take.

With the age profile of some of their top players moving on, it will not be easy, physically or mentally, to have another crack at adding to their 2006 success.

Spare a thought, too, for their most potent forward Johnny Maher, who was only married last Friday, and no doubt had to "Bí Curamach" at the matrimonial day. He still did not get any reward for his commitment last Sunday.

Loughrea were too dependent on him and, while he did hit 2-2, he was well marshalled by Robert Murray at full-back.

There can be no arguing that St Thomas was the superior team on the day, driven on by the sheer brilliance of All-Star David Burke at midfield who controlled the game for vast periods.

It was a momentous victory and could set down a marker for the coming few years if the St Thomas squad can stick together.

They are seriously talented and young - and nine of the side won county u-21 medals last year. Plus the hugely impressive Shane Cooney and Eanna Burke are only teenagers.

It is unlikely there will be a 105-years gap between last Sunday and their next senior title.

St Thomas: P Skehill, S Skehill, Robert Murray (Cpt ), C Burke, E Tannion, Darragh Burke, S Burke, K Burke 0-1, David Burke 0-2; B Burke 0-3, C Cooney 0-4 (2fs ), J Regan 0-1, G Murray, Richie Murray 3-0, A Kelly. Subs, S Cooney for G Murray (36 ), E Burke for Kelly (52 ).

Loughrea: N Murray, E Mahony, D McClearn, B Mahony, J Coen, Paul Hoban, S Sweeney, G Keary (Cpt ) 0-2, E Mahony, J O’Loughlin 0-1, V Maher, Patrick Hoban; N Keary 0-6 (4f ), J Maher 2-2 (1-0f, 1-0pen, 0-1f ), K Colleran. Subs, T Regan for Colleran (44 ), J Ryan for Patrick Hoban (44 ), J Dooley for Sweeney (50 ), N Shaughnessy for E Mahony (57 ).

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