St Thomas’ in the zone for big battle with Cushendall

The in-form Darragh Burke who will be central to St Thomas' chances of overcoming Cushendall in Saturday's All-Ireland Club senior hurling semi-final at Parnell Park.
The in-form Darragh Burke who will be central to St Thomas' chances of overcoming Cushendall in Saturday's All-Ireland Club senior hurling semi-final at Parnell Park.

ANTRIM hurling teams have a knack of claiming scalps in the All-Ireland series when least expected but Galway champions St. Thomas’ are determined they are not going to become the latest victim of an ambush when they face Cushendall in their All-Ireland semi-final at Parnell Park on Saturday (3pm).

Indeed, having gone through the wringer in the 2013 All-Ireland semi-final, when they required a replay to see off a gritty Loughgiel Shamrocks, St. Thomas’ will certainly be on their guard, particularly as the drawn game in 2013 was played at the very same venue, Parnell Park.

That said, the vibe from the St. Thomas’ camp is that they are itching for this one and this is due to the fact that they believe they did not do themselves justice in their last All-Ireland semi-final appearance in February 2017, when they were turned over somewhat easily by Ballyea of Clare.

“There is probably a little bit of hurt there going back to a couple of years ago when they lost the semi-final to Ballyea,” acknowledges St. Thomas’ manager Kevin Lally. “They felt they let themselves down a little bit when they played Ballyea.

“They feel they just didn’t show up on the day and they felt there was loads more in them. So, there is a little bit of hurt there eating away at guys in the background and hopefully that little bit of hurt will carry through to the next day.”

For this one, St. Thomas’ have a clean bill of health, which means they can call on their host of big-game players including Fintan Burke, James Regan, the Burke brothers (David, Eanna, Darragh, Cathal and Kenneth), the Cooney brothers (Donal, Shane and Conor) and Bernard Burke.

According to Lally, preparation has gone well, with a number of challenges matches, including games against Oranmore/Maree and the Galway seniors, helping to sharpen up his squad upon their return to training after their short Winter break.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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