Westside column – October 22nd 2011

Westside column – October 22nd 2011

posted an hour ago by sites tipperary

 

 

 

 

A drum roll of history at Semple Stadium on Sunday last as a new name inched its way onto the most coveted role of honour in the county. Three-time losers, Drom/Inch’s gutsy persistence finally pays off. A final to rank with the very best in modern times saw the new champs drag themselves out of deficit in each half before the final-quarter witnessed the coup de grace. It’s been a long time coming but the history-makers will surely celebrate in style after their finest hour on a hurling field.
Elsewhere in the O’Riain Cup final Moycarkey made it a Mid double outstaying Kickhams to pull well clear in the final phase. And the intermediate grade will be yet another Mid/West affair after Gortnahoe and Aherlow came through Saturday’s exciting semis.
I’m sure they’ll celebrate for some time out in the Ragg after finally ‘nailing’ a distinction that proved so elusive on their three previous visits to the decider. Three-times bridesmaids they’ve finally booked the bridal suite and I’m sure will relish the brief honeymoon now before facing Ballygunner in the Munster series on Sunday week.
I suppose when you’ve become so familiar with the bitter tang of defeat victory comes with an extra coating of relish. Seamus Callanan’s declaration that it surpassed the All Ireland win of 2010 was deemed by RTE’s editors worthy of inclusion in their Mondaymorning sports round-up. In Montrose it may have sounded like a headline assertion but not down the country where the club is king.
Few will begrudge Drom their golden moment. They’ve been knocking at Dan Breen’s door for most of a decade now and have endured more than their share of rejection. There’s something admirable about a side that takes defeat on the chin and rebounds repeatedly to finally claim a place in the sun. Even this year they were knocked back twice in the Mid, losing an early round to Brackens and the divisional final to Loughmore, before rallying, refocused and re-energised, to finally scale the highest peak. The moral of the story is obvious: keep coming back and you’ll have your day.
The manner of their victory will add to the satisfaction. Clonoulty, true to tradition, took them to the edge with major salvos early in each half. About twelve minutes in John O’Neill set up Sean Maher for the first major. The score now read 1-4 to 0-1. Given the baggage Drom carried from previous finals that would be enough to spook most teams into thinking ‘here we go again’. Yet they refused to be fazed and found the perfect retort when Pat Lupton planted a cracking goal into Killinan. The quality of some of the scores was a distinguishing feature of this final.
Ultimately Drom pulled themselves back to within a point of Clonoulty at half time but once again the Mid side got rattled heavily early in the second period. This time fumbling in defence cost Drom as John O’Neill stole possession to whip one past Damien Young. Once again Clonoulty were five-up and once again Drom had to chase the game.
By now it had developed into a cracking final. Both sides could point to missed opportunities in that opening half. Seamus Callanan looked altogether too casual when set up by David Butler; Declan O’Dwyer stood in the way. Later in the half Clonoulty twice came close. Timmy Hamersley’s solo run set up Ciaran Quirke but he tapped over with Damien Young advancing. Later still John O’Neill found Quirke unmarked in front of goal but this time Eamon Buckley got in the critical block. If he’d planted both of those Ciaran Quirke might have been the hero of the day. In big games the margins are very tight.
Ultimately this game was decided in the final quarter when Drom pushed home for victory. We were on the three-quarter mark when Johnny Ryan levelled the match; two minutes later Drom took the lead for the first time through a Callanan point. By now the Mid side was having the better of it in general play but were slow to kick on. Twice Callanan had goal attempts denied. Ominously though after a tame first half the Drom captain was beginning to find space and expression. Drom were growing in confidence while Clonoulty were visibly fading.
A few telling statistics indicate the drift of events in the final quarter. Two Hammersley frees were Clonoulty’s only flags in that critical spell; by contrast Drom hit five from play in the same period. Critically too a few of the Drom scores came from what the rugby guys would call turnover ball as Clonoulty defenders were caught in possession or sent a pass astray. Credit Drom though with the pressure that led to those errors.
Other factors too were influential. Kevin Butler was on for Drom and won a deal of possession, though failing to translate it into scores; he’s more a defender by instinct. And at the other end two long-distance frees by Hammersley failed to find the target. They were difficult efforts from either side of the pitch and into the wind.
In the end one felt Drom were having the better of it as Clonoulty emptied the bench but couldn’t find the inspiration to work rescuing scores. Ultimately Callanan had a major say in the outcome, hitting two of the final four points – David Butler and David Collins landed the others.
Clonoulty had thrown their best at the Mid side but when the final whistle sounded it was Drom who were the deserving champs. Years of underage promise had finally yielded a rich harvest.
After the opening skirmishes Clonoulty sent John O’Keeffe to police Seamus Callanan and the defender enjoyed a deal of initial success; one overhead fetch near half time was inspirational. Yet as the second half wore on Callanan’s influence grew and he was central to the winning push at the end.
But Callanan’s part aside perhaps an even more critical feature was the role of the other Drom forwards who really left an imprint on this game. I’m thinking of Pat Lupton (scorer of 1-2) and David Butler (scorer of 0-4) and David Collins (scorer of 0-3) and Seamus Butler (scorer of 0-2). For once it wasn’t a one-man show in the Drom attack and that made all the difference in such a tight final.
Drom had several candidates for man-of-the-match and I don’t think there will be too many quibbles with Johnny Ryan getting the award. He has long been one of the smoothest operators in club hurling, combining boundless energy with slick striking. The former All Ireland winning minor goalie is widely admired. His partnership with James Woodlock on Sunday gave Drom a vital edge in the centre of the field.
When discussing the man-of-the-match award I’m sure the name Eamon Buckley surfaced also. At centre back he was a vital part of the glue that held that defence together.
For Clonoulty it’s dispiriting to lose successive county finals but I’d suggest they have much more to be proud of this time than last year. In the end perhaps those absentees through injury proved just too much; when you’re trawling down the list of subs into the mid twenties while trying to rescue a game you’re in trouble. The absences of Thomas Butler and Paudie White in particular were crippling blows. Kevin Horan having to withdraw at the start of the second half added further strain on their resources.
Yet despite all the adversity they came so close to taking what would have been a remarkable title. They’ll look back in agony at that final phase of the game when a few mistakes made the difference between winning and losing.
For a lot of the game their defence stuck to its task doggedly though perhaps without stand-out individuals. Tom Butler did best for them at midfield where Sean O’Connor seemed to be still trying to shake off the effects of that shoulder injury. In attack John O’Neill scored 1-1, set up the other goal for Sean Maher and placed Ciaran Quirke for that chance which Eamon Buckley foiled – not a bad return for one recovering from an ankle injury. I’d credit Timmy Hammersley too with a lot that was positive – he scored two of the best points of the game. Sean Maher also played a strong part and there were individual items from others but as this game developed in the second half the attack was seeing less of the ball and the paucity of scores in the final quarter was central to their defeat.
Overall though Clonoulty played an admirable part in a final that gave great entertainment to the fans. If they get all their players back healthy they’ll surely be in the mix again next year though I know that’s scant consolation at this time.
The moment belongs to Drom, the men who simply refused to go away and would not be denied their day. They now carry the status of Tipperary champions and represent us all when they face Ballygunner on Sunday week.
The O’Riain Cup final went according to expectation with Moycarkey fancied in advance against a Kickhams team hit by emigration. It was tight enough in the first half with the Mid men  getting the game’s only goal, which gave them their interval lead of three. In the second half, however, and especially in the final quarter when Kieran Morris moved outfield, Moycarkey claimed the spoils convincingly. ‘Kiwi’ was the key man for the winners hitting seven points from play.
The win was consolation for Moycarkey after a poor year in the Mid. Kickhams, I suspect, won’t be too despondent in the circumstances. After a poor run in the championship they put in something of a spurt in this competition and were hurling up to the middle of October. Something to build on there perhaps.
That Cashel relegation saga is still in the boardroom apparently with the case now gone to Munster Council. Hopefully we’ll have a resolution there, followed by a resumption of action to finalise this item of importance.
At intermediate level we have a fascinating final on the cards after Aherlow and Gortnahoe came through last weekend’s semis. I’m told the entertainment value was high in those ties at Boherlahan last Saturday. Watch out for the final.
Finally the word that Benny Dunne was retiring from inter-county hurling came as no surprise. Being reduced to the occasional cameo appearance at his age gave little encouragement to embark on another winter training schedule. He’s had a chequered career especially with the county where he could never quite find a settled role either at half forward, midfield or half back. In later years his best contribution was in the role of impact sub; he tended to fluctuate too much if on from the start. No doubt his sending off in the ’09 All Ireland was a low point and it was great to see him gain redemption a year later. As a centre back with Toomevara he was one of the very best in the business and I’ve no doubt he’ll continue in that role for several seasons yet.

 

 

 

 

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