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Eanna Burke proves the St Thomas’ hero with majestic winning score

St Thomas’ 0-18

O’Loughlin Gaels 0-17

NOBODY can doubt St Thomas’ claim to greatness now. It’s been a long time coming but the Galway club’s second All-Ireland triumph at Croke Park on Sunday has finally removed any lingering doubts about their standing in the game.

What a few months it’s been for the Galway champions. A record-equaling sixth consecutive county senior hurling title followed by an epic victory over Ballygunner in an epic All-Ireland semi-final last month, before magnificently capping it all by edging out O’Loughlin Gaels in a final thriller.

Make no mistake, St Thomas’ had to stretch every sinew and strain every muscle to regain the Tommy Moore Cup after being reduced to 14 men when James Regan was harshly brandished a red card for a high challenge on opposition midfielder Jack Nolan early in the second-half. In the context of what had previously escaped the ultimate sanction, Regan was certainly hard done by.

To compound St Thomas’ troubles, up stepped O’Loughlin Gaels goalkeeper Stephen Murphy to land the resulting long-range free. Two points down, a man down, this was crisis time for Kenneth Burke’s charges, but they responded like champions to pull off a popular and hard-earned success.

It had been a difficult opening-half for St Thomas’. Though up for the battle, they weren’t performing with quite the same intensity as had typified their victory over Ballygunner. They also struggled to match O’Loughlin Gaels’ composure on the ball, highlighted by some errant shooting in a final which had to contend with a swirling wind.

It was against St Thomas’ for the first 30 minutes but that alone was not the reason why they were looking second best. O’Loughlin Gaels had a clear edge in mobility, they were also putting extreme pressure on the St Thomas’ player in possession, and their expert use of the cross-field delivery was proving a trump card.

We also had the astonishing situation where six of their 10 first-half points came from defenders: two each from half-backs Paddy Deegan and Jordan Molly, with goalkeeper Murphy (free) and David Fogarty also splitting the posts. They led 0-10 to 0-8 at the break, but it should have been more.

Pictured: St Thomas’ Oisín Flannery and Victor Manso in action against David Fogarty of O’Loughlin Gaels during Sunday’s All-Ireland Club Senior Hurling Final at Croke Park. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

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