St Thomas’ left to rue getting going far too late in Thurles

St Thomas' Donal Cooney looks in control of this situation against Stan Lineen of Ballyea during Saturday's All-Irelannd club semi-final in Thurles.
St Thomas' Donal Cooney looks in control of this situation against Stan Lineen of Ballyea during Saturday's All-Irelannd club semi-final in Thurles.

Ballyea 1-19

St. Thomas’ 2-14

A valiant St. Thomas’ comeback – in which they reduced a 13-point deficit to the bare minimum in the final quarter – just came up short as Clare’s Tony Kelly hit Ballyea’s insurance point deep into injury-time to break the Galway champions’ hearts in what can only be described as a truly remarkable All-Ireland senior club hurling semi-final in Thurles.

Yes, St. Thomas’ hearts may be broken, but one suspects not their spirit. For the manner in which they attacked this contest when all seemed lost – they trailed 1-15 to 0-5 with 15 minutes left to play – showed true grit and character.

Indeed, what transpired over the closing stages was, quite simply, unbelievable. Firstly, Conor Cooney, who had struggled with his marksmanship up to this point, rifled a brilliant free to the Ballyea net to breathe a little life into the men from Peterswell and Kilchreest.

Ballyea’s Niall Deasy, who had tormented St. Thomas’ all evening and finished with a personal tally of 1-11, did reply with two points (free and play) but by this stage Thomas’ boss John Burke was in the process of revamping his team by restoring Eanna Burke and James Regan to the attacking unit and it worked a treat.

In a seven-minute spell St. Thomas hit as many unanswered points to close the gap to five with four minutes of normal time left to play. Darragh Burke tallied two of those from placed balls before Kenneth Burke, Shane Cooney, Regan, Donal Cooney and Eanna Burke picked off a plethora of sweet efforts.

All of a sudden, St. Thomas’, despite a miserable opening 45 minutes, were back in the game. This was the contest thousands had travelled to Semple Stadium for. St. Thomas’, at last, were bringing the thunder and lightning.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.