St Thomas’ dig deep to advance to club final

Darragh Burke of St Thomas' celebrates after scoring a point during the AIB GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match between St Thomas' and Ruairí Óg at Parnell Park in Dublin. Photos: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile.
Darragh Burke of St Thomas' celebrates after scoring a point during the AIB GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Semi-Final match between St Thomas' and Ruairí Óg at Parnell Park in Dublin. Photos: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile.

St. Thomas’ 0-18

Ruairí Óg Cushendall 2-11

Sailing through this contest at one stage, St Thomas’ had to pull the proverbial rabbit from the hat in injury-time to finally see off a courageous and resurgent Cushendall outfit in this absorbing All-Ireland senior club hurling semi-final at Parnell Park on Saturday.

This was as close as it gets. By half-time, a wind-assisted St Thomas’ had led 0-13 to 1-3 and it looked as if safe passage into next month’s All-Ireland decider at Croke Park – against Ballyhale Shamrocks of Kilkenny – had all been but assured. However, Ruairí Óg Cushendall had different ideas.

In the second period, the Antrim champions came thundering into the game and by the 50th minute had tied up the fixture at 0-15 to 2-9 after a Fergus McCambridge goal on 41 minutes imbued Cushendall with a newfound confidence that flowed like lava through the side.

Quite simply, St Thomas’ were in big trouble, having been outscored 1-6 to 0-2 in this 20-minute spell, and were it not for a bold move by the management, the Galway representatives may well have lost this tie – as unthinkable as that was at the interval.

Taking a gamble, they pushed corner-back David Sherry forward. Sherry had lined-out in the attack in previous seasons but his sterling displays in his new defensive role has made him an intricate part of the St Thomas’ rearguard.

At any rate, Sherry advanced and in the fourth minute of time added on, it was to pay dividends. With the two teams level, Sherry took a pass from Bernard Burke and showing unerring accuracy he split the posts for the winner. The score was reminiscent of Domhnaill O’Donovan’s effort for Clare in the 2013 All-Ireland final – and no less invaluable!

That said, this did not provide the last action – or drama – of the game as a minute later, Donal McNaughton had a chance to equalise for Cushendall but instead of taking his point he opted to try to kill the fixture dead. He went for goal with a low shot, but retreating Thomas’ full-back Cathal Burke got a hurl to it and deflected the sliotar to safety.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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