St Thomas’ survive stern test from gritty Beagh

St Thomas' Donal Cooney and Beagh's John Moylan are in a race for possession during Sunday's senior hurling preliminary quarter- final at Kenny Park. Photos: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

St. Thomas’ 0-19

Beagh   0-17

St Thomas’ may have been highly fancied to advance unchecked to the quarter-finals of the Galway senior hurling championship but they were made sweat it out all the way by a Beagh outfit that just never knew when to quit in this entertaining preliminary quarter-final in Athenry on Sunday.

Really and truly, St. Thomas could have been out the gate and heading back to the clubhouse in Castledaly by the three-quarter mark, having come from behind at half-time to outshoot Beagh by seven points to three in the 15 minutes proceeding the change of ends. They had all the momentum.

John Burke’s men, without the injured Conor Cooney (calf) and suspended Sean Skehill, continued to hold the upperhand right up to the final stages – leading 0-19 to 0-14 with six minutes remaining – only for Beagh to mount a gritty comeback by hitting three points without reply heading into added time.

The impish Padraig Landers, who spent most of the afternoon under the thumb of his man-marker Eanna Burke, hit two of those points with a converted free from Rory Gantley sandwiched in between to make it 0-19 to 0-17.

With minutes of added time still to be played, Beagh pushed for the goal that would snatch the victory and when Brendan Gantley’s men were awarded a free just over 20 metres from the Thomas’ goal following a foul on Landers, it set up the possibility of an outrageous finish to the contest.

Unfortunately for Beagh, Kevin Keehan went high with his effort and it was parried well clear of the goalmouth by Thomas’ custodian Patrick Skehill. The final whistle sounded, a small ruck ensued, order was restored, and the Peterswell/Kilchreest boys marched on to the last eight.

St. Thomas’ were worthy winners. They had dominated under the puckout in both halves and created a greater number of scoring chances but it was their indiscipline in the tackle that saw Beagh rewarded with a plethora of needless frees and Rory Gantley duly obliged by converting nine of them.

Then again, there is no better team than Beagh to turn the screw on opponents. The first prerequisite to defeating them is to out-work them; the second is keep frees to a minimum; while the third is to be able to adapt your structures, because Beagh, invariably, will ask the questions and probe for weaknesses.

To this end, manager Burke and St. Thomas’ had their work done and while some were bemused with seeing Eanna Burke and Shane Cooney in the corner back positions, James Regan back in defence, and centre-half back Darragh Burke at centre-forward, Thomas’ won this contest because they had their team set-up to do so.

That said, it wasn’t easy. Beagh, as you expect, were well organised and after 18 minutes looked to have Thomas’ in trouble as they led by double scores, 0-8 to 0-4. Points from John Moylan, Rory Gantley (free) and Jamie Diviney saw Beagh race quickly out of the blocks.

A brace of Gerald Murray frees did get St. Thomas’ off the mark and these were supplemented by efforts from lively duo David Sherry and Colin Fallon as Thomas’ secured the lead for the first time in the fixture on 10 minutes.

As noted though, the concession of frees hurt St. Thomas’ and of the five unanswered points Beagh tallied subsequently, four of those were placed balls converted by Gantley – the other was a neat effort from Jamie Diviney.

Full coverage in this week’s Connacht Tribune