Lacklustre Loughgiel lose crown

CHAMPIONS Loughgiel surrendered their All-Ireland Club Hurling title without much fight as they were well beaten by St Thomas in the semi-final replay on Saturday in a game which was switched from Parnell Park to Clones a few days earlier.

The key period at Clones was early on as Benny McCarry, Shay Casey and Liam Watson missed Loughgiel goal chances and if they had gone in the result could have been oh so different.

St Thomas showed greater accuracy to lead 0-5 to 0-2 although Loughgiel trimmed the margin to one by the break.

Bernard Burke’s move to the full-forward line paid major dividends for St Thomas as they took control.

Liam Watson’s free after the restart had levelled the contest at 0-6 to 0-6 but the Galway side responded with eight straight points with Conor Cooney and the outstanding Burke both contributing three points.

Richie Murray had been completely ineffective at full-forward in the first half but he looked a different player after being moved to centre half-forward after the interval.

Loughgiel will look back on the missed goal chances in the early stages of the contest.

McCarry blasted wide early and Casey then had his chance brilliantly blocked after a superb bit of fielding by McCarry.

Watson then flashed his goal opportunity wide on one of the few occasions during the hour when he managed to shake off his outstanding marker Sean Skehill.

A Watson point did level the contest at 0-2 apiece but scores by brothers Kenneth and David Burke helped the Connacht champions move into a 0-5 to 0-2 advantage.

Loughgiel responded with three of their remaining four scores before the break with Eddie McCloskey finally notching their first point from play in first-half injury-time.

The holders levelled the contest after the resumption following Watson’s fifth free and he was then presented with a sniff of a goal chance only for his control to let him down at the crucial moment.

The remainder of the contest was dominated by the young and energetic St Thomas outfit.

The outstanding Bernard Burke took the game by the scruff of the neck as he slotted three points from play.

Cooney went into overdrive with three points with Murray finally proving a handful for the Loughgiel defence after his move to centre half-forward.

History will now be made in the AIB GAA All-Ireland club senior finals on St.Patrick’s Day when new champions will be crowned in both hurling and football.

The novel pairings in a Leinster-Connacht double header will feature three clubs who will be playing in the finals for the first time while the fourth will be making a second appearance.

In hurling, Kilcormac-Killoughey (Offaly) and St. Thomas’ (Galway) will be bidding to win the title in their first appearance in the final; in football, it’s Ballymun Kickhams (Dublin) making their first appearance in the final v St.Brigid’s (Roscommon) who reached the 2011 final where they lost to Crossmaglen Rangers (Armagh).

St. Thomas’ saw off the challenge of defending All-Ireland champions, Loughgiel Shamrocks on a 0-15 to 0-7 scoreline in the hurling semi-final replay and have now turned their attention to extending Galway’s excellent record in the All-Ireland series.

Castlegar, Kiltormer, Sarsfields, Athenry, Portumna and Clarinbridge have all previously brought the Tommy Moore Cup across the Shannon and now it’s the turn of St. Thomas’ to take the Galway challenge into Croke Park on St.Patrick’s Day.

They will take on Kilcormac-Killoughey who will be attempting to follow Birr into the hall of fame as Offaly winners of the All-Ireland title.

In the replay of the AIB GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Club Championship semi-final between St. Thomas’ and Loughgiel Shamrocks, there was joy for the Galway side as they continued their miracle season by reaching their first ever All-Ireland decider.

St. Thomas’ defeated Loughgiel 0-15 to 0-7, having been denied victory in the drawn game last weekend when Liam Watson’s goal with the last puck of the game forced the replay.

St. Thomas’ boss John Burke said his side learned a lot from that game.

“We learned from that, sat down and talked about what we needed to do in the replay.

‘It was going to be a tough, hard game. The boys got their heads right, knew what they had to do, knew now what they were up against — Loughgiel are a super hurling team.

‘Once we got our forwards moving we were able to take it.”

They now face Leinster champions Kilcormac-Killoughey in the All-Ireland final on St. Patrick’s Day, and Burke said he hasn’t even thought about the Offaly side yet.

“I haven’t seen Kilcormac, we didn’t even think about them.

‘We’re taking one game at a time, that’s been the way since we started. We’re in the final now, where we wanted to be.”