St Thomas had a splendid 0-15 to 0-7 victory over Loughgiel Shamrocks (Antrim ) in the All-Ireland club semi-final replay last Saturday in Clones.
It was a fantastic win and a team performance of which any management team and manager would be proud, and St Thomas manager John Burke was delighted to have progressed to the All-Ireland final.
"We are where we wanted to be. We were lucky enough to get to the knock-out stages in Galway, it is a tough place to be, but we are learning all the time. The lads never panicked and they hurled themselves out of any trouble in which they found themselves."
Burke, who is the father of a third of the starting15, and also regular substitute Eanna, has always said this young team could improve with more experience, and the drawn game with the Shamrocks gave them an opportunity to do just that.
“The drawn game was a big learning process for us,” he says. “We had a lot to learn and playing the All-Ireland champions was a great experience. We learned from that. Sat down and talked about what we needed to do in the replay. The boys got their heads right, knew what they had to do, knew what they were up against. Loughgiel are a super hurling team. Once we got our forwards moving, we were able to take it.” he said.
While the Galway champions won easily in the finish, it might have been a different story if Loughgiel had taken some of their few early goal opportunities.
“We were lucky enough,” Burke says. “ They opened us up a few times in the first half and they probably got three good goal chances in the first five or six minutes. If they had scored those, we’d have been left chasing the game. We never panicked though, we kept our composure and in the second half I think anything we hit went over the bar.
"We have to keep the feet on the ground now and get their heads right. There is no point being in a final, unless you win it."
Team captain Robert Murray from Castleboy was anxious to acknowledge his teammates and particularly man-of-the-match Bernard Burke.
“When Bernard is on form, he is unstoppable. He played like his life depended on it. Last week it was Conor Cooney, this week it’s Brendan. We have so many we can count on. If one lad is having a bad day, someone else will pick up the slack.
"We set down a marker for ourselves after winning the county title that we’d give it a lash in the All-Ireland series. We were up against the reigning champions, we felt we’d give them a good game if we played to our potential, that if our heads were right, we could even beat them. Thank God we did, but we have a real stern test now again against Kilcormac-Killoughey (Offaly ) in the final.”
St Thomas: Patrick Skehill, Cathal Burke, Sean Skehill, Sean Burke; Enda Tannian, Darragh Burke 0-1, Robert Murray (cpt ), David Burke 0-1, James Regan 0-1, Conor Cooney 0-6 (4fs, 1x65 ), Shane Cooney, Bernard Burke 0-4, Kenneth Burke 0-1, Richie Murray 0-1, Anthony Kelly. Subs: Eanna Burke 0-1 (Tannian 25 ); Ger Murray (K Burke inj. 45 ); David Sherry (Kelly 55 ).