Inside Track with John McIntyre
HEADING to Athenry last Sunday for Galway hurling’s biggest day of the year took me back to around 25 years ago when Sarsfields, the then reigning champions, were putting their senior hurling title on the line against Kiltormer in the county semi-final.
It was the second year of my coaching involvement with Sarsfields and I have a recollection of not feeling overly confident of repeating our 1989 convincing victory over the same opposition at the same venue at the same stage of the championship. We had more or less the same personnel on duty, but the team’s hurling wasn’t as fluid as 12 months earlier in the build up to the game.
That was partially due to the hangover from Sarsfields’ agonising defeat to Ballyhale in the All-Ireland club semi-final in Ballinasloe in February 1990, while Kiltomer’s desire for revenge also contributed to my sense of foreboding. We had beaten them well, 0-16 to 0-7, the previous year and I knew the heavy nature of that defeat had wounded them.
As it transpired, the 1990 semi-final was no great exhibition of hurling, but Kiltomer were revved up and they deserved to edge the verdict on a 0-14 to 0-12 scoreline. They went on to have five points to spare over Turloughmore (0-18 to 2-7) in the final and repeated that achievement when overcoming Athenry in the following year’s decider (3-9 to 0-15).
It was a great Kiltomer team and under the stewardship of John Goode, Michael Callaghy and the late Sean Cormican, they subsequently went on to defeat Birr in the All-Ireland Club final in the spring of 1992 when the team management made a match-winning move by switching Tony Kilkenny to centre back.
But it was their three epic semi-final jousts with Cashel of Tipperary which really live long in the memory. They went from Duggan Park to Cashel before the decisive third game took place at Croke Park. Huge crowds followed those matches and Kiltormer were cock of the hoop back then as one of the dominant forces in club hurling
With five county titles from 1976 to 1991, Kiltormer were also a model of consistency and the Silver Jubilee of their 1990 championship triumph was honoured at Kenny Park last Sunday. As the likes of Sean McKeigue, Sean Kelly, the Kilkennys, Ollie and Tony; the Dervans, Brendan and Pakie; the Stauntons, notably Aidan and Martin – now there was a ‘tough root’ if ever there was one – the Curleys, Damien and Fionan; Conor Hayes, Brian McManus, Tony Larkin, Ger Kelly and Dermot Cox (he still has the beard!) were introduced to the crowd, memories of when they were in their hey-day came flooding back.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.