There was a mighty crowd in Kenny Park last Sunday afternoon to witness two big surprises in the county hurling semi-finals.
In the first game, Craughwell produced a superb display to beat St. Thomas’ by 1-20 to 0-22.
A Niall Healy goal for Craughwell in the first half saw Stephen Glennon’s charges in front by 1-9 to 0-11 at half-time, however John Burke’s men roared back to take the lead, as they shot seven or eight points in a row to take control of proceedings.
The former All-Ireland club champions led by 0-17 to 1-10 after almost forty minutes and looked the more likely victors at that stage. However, Craughwell refused to go away and with Healy showing great composure and accuracy on frees, they stopped the rot and got back into the tie.
They stayed chipping away at St. Thomas’ and deep into injury time they were awarded a long range free that Healy nailed to edge the win by the narrowest of margins. That winning score sparked some fantastic and spontaneous celebrations, and understandably so, as the victory sees the club into their first county final in 83 years.
Healy was their match winner with 1-10 over the hour and they will now be hoping to collect the club’s first senior title since 1930 when they face Sarsfields on Sunday week.
Sarsfields defeat county champions
In the second semi-final, Sarsfields also sprung a surprise when defeating current county champions Gort, by 0-21 to 0-17, to set up a first final appearance since 2002 when they were beaten by Athenry in the final.
Sarsfields were full value for their win despite starting very slowly in the first half when they had a few bad wides and also had one or two dubious umpire decisions given against them. However they settled very well and once Niall Morrissey got his eye in as regards free-taking the whole team seemed to grow in confidence.
Team captain Joe Cooney won some good ball all around the field and he had good support from Kevin Hynes, Niall Quinn, Eamon Cleary, Noel Kelly, Ronan Quinn and Alan Ward.
Their game plan in the second half of getting extra bodies around the half-back line and keeping things very tight at the back, with space for their forwards worked very well and Gort struggled to make any real headway up front.
Sarsfields last county title came in 1997 when they beat Clarinbridge by 1-11 to 1-6 in Athenry and no doubt their management team of Cathal Murray, Francis Madden and Padraic Earls will be extremely keen to bridge the 18 year gap since their last success.
The Sarsfield’s club have won the county title on six occasions since 1980, and have annexed two All-Ireland titles (1993 and 1994 ) which is very impressive going considering the club only came into existence in 1966 with the merger of Bullaun, New Inn and Woodlawn. (1980, 1989, 1992, 1993, 1995, 1997 were the years they won the senior title ).
Craughwell have won the senior title on four occasions, with their last title coming in 1930. (1908, 1915, 1918, 1930 ).
The final is fixed for November 8 and should be a great occasion with such a novel pairing in place.