St Thomas’ do enough to set up final battle with Gort

Loughrea's Neil Keary is chased by St Thomas' Bernard Burke during Sunday's county senior semi-final at Kenny Park, Athenry. Photos: Joe O'Shaughnessy.
Loughrea's Neil Keary is chased by St Thomas' Bernard Burke during Sunday's county senior semi-final at Kenny Park, Athenry. Photos: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

St. Thomas’  1-15

Loughrea 1-10

THOSE who turned up to Kenny Park looking to see a fire and brimstone clash between neighbours St. Thomas’ and Loughrea in the county senior hurling semi-final on Sunday may have left the venue sorely disappointed, but that will matter little to St. Thomas’ who advance to a second decider in four years.

When you get to the concluding stages of any competition, these SHC games are all about winning and, to this end, St. Thomas’ – who have been steadily building momentum throughout this campaign – were full value for this victory.

Slicker, composed and boasting a great deal more method to their play than their rivals, St. Thomas’ – as they did against Portumna in the quarter-final – also showed the fortitude to absorb an early setback of a Loughrea goal, responding in kind by tallying an answered 1-3 in the ensuing seven minutes.

No doubt, St. Thomas’ look a different animal now than they were in the group stages, in which they incredibly lost three games. It shows what can be achieved when you keep the faith and, just as important, get your best players on the field.

In this respect, Conor Cooney, who has had his fair share of injuries in the past, has really stepped up in the quarter-final and semi-final, scoring 0-11 (0-7 placed balls) and 0-8 (0-7 placed balls) against Portumna and Loughrea respectively. With Galway captain David Burke also hurling like a man possessed and others getting a new lease of life in a re-jigged team formation, St. Thomas’ are well poised for a county final showdown against another of their neighbours, Gort.

This semi-final, though, was a lifeless affair, reflected in the subdued nature of the atmosphere and the indifference, by and large, of the crowd. Other than a few flashes of individual brilliance, there was little to grab or excite the imagination. It was lacking something.

On this front, Loughrea must shoulder a great of the blame. Love them or hate them, the Town have been fantastic for senior championship hurling over the past decade but, on Sunday, they failed to tap into that quality that has seen them become one of the top clubs in Galway.

That quality is rage – unbridled, uncompromising rage. It has been the fuel in their engine and when the battle was needed to be waged in the past you could always be assured they would chew iron to get the job done.

Okay, it didn’t always work out – their defeat in their last county final appearance against St. Thomas’ in 2012 a case in point – but they never lacked passion or desire. The wheels just came off the wagon in those instances; beaten by a better team.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.