Croke Cup All Ireland PPS Senior Hurling Semi-Final
Thurles CBS 0-14
Presentation College Athenry 0-15
Thurles CBS were on the receiving end of yet another agonising one point loss, this time at the hands of Presentation College Athenry in the second Croke Cup All Ireland Senior Hurling semi-final played in St Brendan’s Park, Birr earlier today.
In a game where there was never more than one score between the teams, it was ill-discipline from the Tipperary school that ultimately cost them in the game as young Aaron Niland was in punishing form along with his team captain Tiarnan Leen who scored 0-4 from midfield in an excellent individual display.
Another tough loss for Thurles after their Harty Cup loss to Cashel Community School will be a bitter pill for Eamon Buckley and his players to swallow, but they were beaten by the better team on the day despite giving it their all in an attritional game which was primarily played between the two 45’s as neither goalkeeper had a save of note to make all game.
Athenry setup defensively and the game was played on their terms from start to finish as they played the more accomplished hurling, with Thurles just not able to get in front at any stage despite their best efforts.
In comparison to the first semi final this game started with a lot more of a defensive setting from both teams with neither willing to cough up any space in their full back lines, as Cian Donoghue and Jim Ryan operated as loose men, but it was the Galway men who got the scoring off the mark through their captain Tiarnan Leen in the third minute.
Thurles named an unchanged line up from the quarter final win over Colaiste Eoin, and they had themselves off the mark from a Robbie Ryan free after a ten minute wait, but it was the Athenry school who were hurling that bit better in the early stages, with Ryan’s free being followed closely by points from Leen again, and Matthew Tarpey to put Thurles behind 0-3 to 0-1 after 11 minutes.
Darragh Kelly started his first game for the team in the quarter final win a fortnight ago, and he showed why he was kept in the line up in the 12th minute when he showed good strength to shrug off his marker close to the sideline and then float over a lovely score from play.
A lot of the pre match preparations from Thurles would no doubt have centered around keeping Aaron Niland quiet, but the Clarinbridge man showed his class with a worldie of a point a minute later, flicking the ball up in full flight and soloing through to slice over a beauty off his left.
Indeed, Thurles were slowly working their way into the game now and points from Robbie Ryan and Tommy Maher (free) either side of a first free from Aaron Niland had the teams in close company at 0-5 to 0-4 after twenty minutes.
Athenry were looking well set in defence and were winning the bulk of the deliveries in during this time, and they were drawing cheap frees out of the Thurles backs in the next few minutes from the balls in, with Aaron Niland pointing another free while centre back Michael Fallon hit a lovely score from distance to open a three point lead with six minutes of the half remaining.
However, Thurles came into a mini purple patch towards the end of the half and hit four of the final six scores before half time, with James Doyle and Robbie Stapleton scoring two lovely efforts along with well struck points from Tommy Maher and Joe Maher, with Athenry taking a slender 0-9 to 0-8 lead in at the break thanks to a pair of Aaron Niland frees.
Tiarnan Leen was having a prominent game so far in the game having registered two first half points from play, and he was quick to add to that total after the restart scoring a floated effort on the run within a minute to open up a two point lead for his side.
Thurles soon went on a scoring spree though, coming in the next five minutes as they scored three points from play to take a one point lead, with scores from two class efforts from Darragh Kelly and a Joe Egan point after the midfielder was picked out with a lovely cross field pass from Bill Flanagan.
Indiscipline were proving costly for Thurles as they continued to cough up frees for Aaron Niland to line up and he hit two in succession in the 39th and 42nd minute to nose the westerners back in front at 0-12 to 0-11 and this game had all the impressions of one down was going to go down to the wire.
Cian Donoghue was having a very influential game for Athenry as the spare man at the back, as the Thurles full forward line were starved of possession, and it was up to corner back Liam Doyle to bring the game level again on 47 minutes, picking up a ball in a crowd around midfield before taking on three players to run through and finish from the 21 after a powerful run. All to play for.
However, Thurles were proving to be their own worst enemies with more poor tackling coughing up what looked like a routine chance for Aaron Niland, but he just dragged his effort to clip the outside of the post and out wide to let Thurles off the hook; but the men in maroon did soon retake the lead with Tiarnan Leen playing a captains role to point a class effort yet again after 53 minutes.
There was a nervous tension in the ground with players and supporters alike and frees were the order of the day for both teams with Tommy Maher, Robbie Ryan, and Niland again notching frees as the game was ticking into the final minutes of the three minutes of added time with Thurles trailing 0-15 to 0-14.
And, in the end, it wasn’t to be for Thurles who had glimmer of a chance to equalise late on when Jimmie Lahart got possession in a crowd around the 45 and had an easy hand pass to a supporting teammate to his right but just lost his balance as he tried to give the hand pass in what was the final play with Johnny Murphy sounding the final whistle and signal more heartache for the CBS.
Scorers: Thurles CBS: Tommy Maher (0-3, 0-2f), Darragh Kelly 0-3, Robbie Ryan (0-3, 0-2f), Liam Doyle, Joe Egan, Joe Maher, James Doyle, Robbie Stapleton all 0-1 each.
Presentation College Athenry: Aaron Niland (0-9, 0-8f), Tiarnan Leen 0-4, Michael Fallon, Matthew Tarpey 0-1 each.
Thurles CBS: Eoin Horgan (Knockavilla Kickhams); Liam Doyle (Holycross Ballycahill), Evan Morris (Holycross Ballycahill), Padraig O’Dwyer (Killenaule); Eoin O’Connell (Loughmore Castleiney), Jim Ryan (Holycross Ballycahill), James Doyle (Holycross Ballycahill), Tommy Maher (Thurles Sarsfields); Joe Maher (Moycarkey Borris), Bill Flanagan (Moycarkey Borris), James Doyle (Holycross Ballycahill); Robbie Ryan (Holycross Ballycahill), Darragh Kelly (Eire Og Annacarty), Robbie Stapleton (Thurles Sarsfields).
Subs: Aidan Stakelum (Thurles Sarsfields) for Flanagan (43); Jimmie Lahart (Holycross Ballycahill) for Stapleton (47); Daniel Rossiter (Durlas Òg) for J Doyle (53); Darragh Fitzpatrick (Drom & Inch) for R Ryan (59); Kieran Purcell (Durlas Òg) for O’Dwyer (61).
Presentation College Athenry: Darragh Walsh (Turloughmore); Aaron Shannon (Clarinbridge), Conor Lawless (Athenry), Sean Murphy (Clarinbridge); Darragh Counihan (Clarinbridge), Michael Fallon (Clarinbridge), Aaron McDonagh (Killmordaly); Darragh McCartin (Craughwell), Tiarnan Leen (Craughwell); Gearoid Fahy (Turloughmore), Matthew Tarpey (Turloughmore), Orin Burke (Padraig Pearses); Aaron Niland (Clarinbridge), Eoin Byrne (Craughwell), Cian Donoghue (Clarinbridge).
Subs: Nigel Kelly (Craughwell) for Byrne (48); Shane Monaghan (Killmordaly) for McCartin (61).
Referee: Johnny Murphy (Limerick)