Magnificent St Thomas’ rise to the occasion in flooring title hot-pots!

Inside Track with John McIntyre

SOME observers didn’t think St Thomas’ had that kind of performance in them. The Galway champions have been pigeon-holed as the consistently best of a moderate lot in the county, only to be found wanting when the club hurling championship moved onto the All-Ireland series.

Well, that theory was fairly blown out of the water in Portlaoise on Saturday evening when St Thomas’ quality, desire, aggression, intensity, commitment, and sheer heart saw them dump title favourites Ballygunner out of the championship after a classic contest which lasted almost two hours and 20 minutes between extra-time and the penalty shoot-out.

With nearly all the pre-match talk about how good and slick the Waterford champions were and continuing doubts about their own pedigree at the highest level, St Thomas’s had something to prove heading to O’Moore Park. They were nearly the forgotten team and rated rank outsiders to pull off an upset.

Whatever sense of grievance or motivation was in their baggage on Saturday evening, St Thomas’ channelled it into surely producing the team’s most compelling display ever. They should have been rocked by the concession of two early goals, but nothing was going to break their spirits. The number of times their players emerged with the ball from rucks and clusters was telling.

Granted, St Thomas’ had questions to answer after losing four of their six All-Ireland semi-finals, with their two previous victories at this stage of the championship coming against Antrim opposition. Lesser men would have given up the ghost, but Kenneth Burke’s team remained ambitious and determined. They knew there was more in them.

It manifested itself with a swashbuckling effort on Saturday evening. From the off, St Thomas’ body language screamed defiance. It didn’t matter how good Ballygunner were, Galway’s standard bearers were prepared to empty themselves in pursuit of success. That’s what they had to do to get over the line in the end.

Pictured: Ballygunner’s Kevin Mahony comes under strong pressure from St Thomas’ Eanna Burke and Shane Cooney during Saturday’s All-Ireland Club Senior Hurling semi-final in Portlaoise.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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