Cratloe 1-18 Thurles Sarsfields 0-14
Venue: Cusack Park
County Champions Cratloe have advanced to the Munster Club Senior Hurling Final after they prevailed over Tipperary counterparts, Thurles Sarsfields in a stern encounter.
The sending off of Thurles’ Denis Maher after just twenty seconds severely weakened the cause of his side but nonetheless the Tipp champions pushed Cratloe to the pins of their collars. Seven points separated the sides at full time but the tie was a lot closer than what the scoreline suggests.
Immediately after Cathal Mc Allistar threw the sliotar in to start proceedings, there was controversy as Denis Maher struck back on Cratloe captain, Liam Markham and the Cork official had no option but to show red to the Tipperary Senior hurling panellist. 2013 All Star Conor Mc Grath was first on the scoresheet as he pointed with one minute on the clock. Despite not featuring in their County final win over Loughmore Castleiney, Tommy Doyle was first off the mark for Sars with three minutes played. Mc Grath and Doyle exchanged scores again on the seventh minute to leave nothing between the sides. Corner back, Michael Cahill pointed to put Thurles in front after linking up well with Lar Corbett with nine minutes gone.
Liam Markham got his first of the day on the thirteenth minute after Sean Collins offloaded to Cathal Mc Inerney who in turn found Markham who hit straight between the sticks. Points from Conor Mc Grath and Cathal Mc Inerney put Cratloe two clear at the halfway stage.
Thurles custodian Patrick Mc Cormack was called upon to deny Conor Mc Grath with nineteen minutes played as his quick reactions proved decisive. Podge Collins opened his account with twenty one minutes gone after showing exemplary workrate to turnover possession from Padraic Maher and fire the ball over the crossbar. Sean Collins followed suit with a white flag on the twenty second minute from an acute angle. Captain, Pa Bourke got his side’s first score for fifteen minutes as his placed ball split the posts on the twenty sixth minute mark. Liam Markham replied a minute later after good work from Cathal Mc Inerney and a fine touch from Sean Collins set up the Cratloe captain.
One of the big turning points in the game came in the thirtieth minute as Conor Ryan dispossessed Tommy Doyle who was about to score and found Conor Mc Grath in space, Mc Grath had the option of taking a score but outstanding vision from the marksman ensured he picked out Gearoid Considine on the edge of the square who batted the sliotar down to Podge Collins and he slotted the sliotar past Patrick Mc Cormack to raise the only green flag of the contest. The goal gave Cratloe a seven point lead at the break and was a real confidence boost heading in at the interval.
Momentum stayed with the South Clare side at the beginning of the second half as efforts from Conor Mc Grath and Liam Markham sailed between the posts with over one minute played. Thurles’ comeback commenced with three minutes gone as Pa Bourke slotted over a placed ball, Conor Lanigan fired over off his right side and Bourke was on target with another free to cut the gap to six points with five minutes played. Mc Grath added a 65 with nine minutes on the clock but man of the match for Sars in their County Final, Stephen Cahill responded shortly after.
Two frees in succession from Conor Mc Grath increased his side’s lead but Pa Bourke added two points at the midway stage to bring the gap back to six points. Podge Collins and Conor Mc Grath were on target for Cratloe again on the seventeenth minute. Thurles fought back however with points from Bourke and one from midfielder Billy Mc Carthy. Two further points from Mc Grath increased Cratloe’s lead with twenty four minutes on the clock. Bourke and Mc Grath exchanged frees with twenty nine minutes played. Substitute Michael O Brien had an opportunity to find the back of the net but his effort hit the side netting of Gearoid Ryan’s goal and with that Thurles Sarsfields’ Munster campaign ended while Cratloe booked their place in the final.
The general question the people of Thurles will be asking themselves after today’s encounter will be; what would have happened had Denis Maher avoided the red card. Maher hit five points in their County Final win and his presence up front was greatly missed, losing a player in any match is critical to a side but when it is someone of Maher’s ability it is often fatal. Sars didn’t create enough scoring chances, they had twenty two in comparison to Cratloe’s thirty three, surprisingly 2010 Hurler of the Year, Lar Corbett didn’t have any scoring chance although he did set up Michael Cahill for a point in the first half. Thurles were superior when it came to the aerial battle as they constantly won the high balls all over the field. Michael Cahill despite having difficulty with the menacing Conor Mc Grath at times proved Eamon O Shea wrong for not starting him in either game for the All Ireland Final this year while Pa Bourke, David Maher and Ronan Maher stood out also.
Cratloe’s marvellous 2014 continues, this tie was arguably their most difficult hurling assignment this year, despite having to fight back against Ballygunner it always appeared they were dominating while the same cannot be said for this semi-final. Thurles appeared to have their homework done and targeted the fact that on the wings the height of the Cratloe men is below the average side and so their objective was to hit the ball high, this worked to an extent, Pa Bourke won every ball in the air while when the sliotar was dropped Cratloe won all the turnovers. Despite being slightly beaten with the aerial battles, it didn’t affect Cratloe as they as always continued with their excellent link up play and their passing was extremely accurate throughout.
For the victors, Conor Ryan’s presence at centre back was felt by his Thurles counterparts as he stayed solid throughout, Liam Markham continued his excellent form of late with a fine game in the middle of the park while the ever reliable Conor McGrath picked off scores for fun and was conspicuous for the entire contest despite having a great battle with Michael Cahill.
Next up for Cratloe is a Munster Football Semi-Final in Dungarvan next Sunday against the Nire, while on the hurling side of things Kilmallock await in the Munster Hurling Final to be played on November 16th.
The final will see former Club and County teammates Ger ‘Sparrow’ O Loughlin and Alan Neville face off while Brian Lohan will also go head to head against his teammate from the historic Clare team of the 1990s.
Cratloe: Gearoid Ryan, Shane O Leary, Michael Hawes, David Ryan, Sean Chaplin, Conor Ryan, Enda Boyce, Liam Markham (0-03 1f), David Collins, Shane Gleeson, Podge Collins (1-02), Sean Collins (0-01), Cathal Mc Inerney (0-01), Gearoid Considine, Conor Mc Grath (0-11 5f 165). Subs: Damien Browne for Considine (34:57) (Inj), Barry Duggan for D Collins (54:26).
Thurles Sarsfields: Patrick Mc Cormack, Michael Cahill (0-01), David Maher, Stephen Maher, Ronan Maher, Padraic Maher, Michael Gleeson, Stephen Cahill (0-01), Billy Mc Carthy (0-01), Denis Maher, Tommy Doyle (0-02), Aidan Mc Cormack, Conor Lanigan (0-01), Pa Bourke (0-08 7f), Lar Corbett. Subs: Richie Ruth for A Mc Cormack (37:35), Michael O Brien for Doyle (41:47).
Referee: Cathal Mc Allister (Cork)