Lucky O’Loughlin Gaels pose big threat to St Thomas’ title dreams

Inside Track with John McIntyre

OVER 12 years later, eight of the players who were involved in St Thomas’ first ever Galway senior hurling triumph – a 3-11 to 2-11 victory over Loughrea in November of 2012 – are still going strong and remain as hungry as ever despite collecting seven more Tom Callanan Cups in the interim.

The Burke brothers – Darragh, Cathal, David and Eanna – James Regan, Bernard Burke and the Cooney brothers, Conor and Shane, all featured in that milestone victory at Pearse Stadium on a day former county player Richie Murray pocketed a hat-trick of goals to help get St Thomas’ over the line.

Little did we realise then how they would go on to dominate Galway club hurling, completing a record equalling six-in-a-row last October. Yet, this is a team which remains unfulfilled, still feels it has something to prove. It all stems from capturing only a solitary All-Ireland title. Simply, they want more.

The fact that St Thomas’ lone national success came in the campaign following their domestic breakthrough in the spring of 2013 only adds to the club’s sense of frustration. There were subsequent semi-final losses to Ballyhale, Borrisoleigh, Ballyea and last year to Dunloy of Antrim. Throw in a final rout at the hands of the Shamrocks in March of 2019, it left questions hanging over St Thomas’ worth.

Were they just the best of a middling bunch in Galway? Furthermore, only beating an Antrim team (Loughgiel) and an Offaly team (Kilcormac-Killoughey) in the semi-final and final respectively on their way to capturing the Tommy Cup a dozen years ago left the sceptics wondering had they won a ‘soft’ All-Ireland.

When their injury-hit forces surrendered tamely enough to Dunloy in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final, the popular chorus was that this St Thomas’ team was on borrowed time. David Burke’s cruciate injury last March would only have added to the negative narrative surrounding the Galway champions.

However, the fire and ambition in these St Thomas’ players remained undimmed. Sure, a lot of them have been a long time on the road but, if anything, this protracted period of soldering together has only cemented the team’s spirit and commitment. They know how they have been labelled. It may have antagonised them, but it wasn’t going to define them.

Pictured: New coach Eamon O’Shea and Galway team manager Henry Shefflin heading to the dressing room at half-time during Sunday’s Walsh Cup encounter against Laois at Duggan Park. Photo: Joe O’Shaughnessy..

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