An eyebrow-raising result this, as Drom-Inch blitzed holders Thurles Sarsfields with three goals in the last quarter of a pulsating contest at Templemore on Sunday evening to claim their place in the semi-final of the Centenary Agri Mid senior hurling championship.
Drom-Inch and Sarsfields have had some rousing clashes in recent years and while Sarsfields have won more of the games that really mattered, there is little between the sides, with Drom-Inch always capable of beating their rivals .
What was significant about Sunday’s result was not that Drom-Inch won, but the extent of the victory, and the manner in which it came about, took everyone by surprise.
At the three quarter stage no one would have predicted such an outcome. Drom were ahead by one point, 2-18 to 2-17 but two Drom goals between the 49th and 52nd minutes, tipped the balance dramatically in the challengers favour, and with Sars in disarray, Drom added a further goal for good measure before the end.
The game certainly lived up to its pre-match billing, How often do you see forty four scores in an hour’s hurling, and many of them were quality strikes in an encounter that ebbed and flowed in thrilling fashion. The early exchanges went Sarsfields way and helped by a Michael O Brien goal in the 2nd minute off a Padraic Maher delivery, they were 1-4 to 0-1 ahead after only six minutes.
A minute later Drom-Inch were right into the action as a quickly-taken puckout caught the Thurles men sleeping and when the ball came to Seamus Callanan didn’t have to be asked twice, as he belted it to the net.
Sars, with Aidan McCormack and Stephen Cahill showing up well in attack, continued to enjoy the better of things and by the 17th minute they were 1-9 to 1-2 ahead, following further scores from O Brien, Pa Bourke, Michael Gleeson, Richie Ruth, and Cahill.
The Drom management brought Johnny Ryan from attack as an extra midfielder and the move worked a treat. James Woodlock was having a storming game, scoring three points, with Johnny Ryan, Seamus Callanan David Collins and Seamus Butler also finding their range, to outscore Sarsfields by ten points to four in a hectic second quarter. Having fullback David Kennedy unmarked was of little help to Sarsfields as Drom Inch used their midfield monopoly to pick off their scores in style.
The interval arrived with Sarsfields ahead by 1-13 to 1-12 but Drom’s great recovery suggested that the momentum lay with them if they could pick up where they left off. Pa Bourke had the first point of the second half for Sarsfields, but Seamus Callanan, David Butler and David Collins responded inside four minutes to get Drom going again and put them in front for the first time.
The lead was short-lived as in the 36th minute Stephen Cahill raced through from a Pa Bourke pass for a Sarsfields goal and the lead again. Seamus Butler had a piledriver beaten out by Sars goalie Patrick McCormack, but Drom’s tails were up and Callanan(2) and Seamus Butler points pushed them in front again by the 42nd minute. Pa Bourke levelled for Sarsfields but in the 44th minute Seamus Callanan got on the end of a high delivery to turn it into the Sarsfields net.
Sars snapped back with points by Ritchie Ruth and Pa Bourke but in the 49th minute David Butler reacted quickest when a ball came off the Sarsfields post, to clip it to the net. Three minutes later Joe Lupton shot another Drom goal as the Sarsfields defence was caught napping to put his side 4-18 to 2-17 ahead with eight minutes to go.
Sarsfields’ title was all but gone. Stephen Cahill raced through on the Drom goal but was smothered by a retreating defence, and three minutes from the end, after Seamus Butler had shot another Drom point, Sarsfields were awarded a twenty meter free but Pa Bourke’s blast for a rallying goal was stopped and cleared.
To set the seal on a great evening for Drom-Inch Seamus Butler set up David Butler for a fifth goal in the last minute and David Collins whipped over a point in injury time for a memorable twelve points win for Drom-Inch.
By any measure this was an impressive showing by Drom-Inch who will go into the semi-final with confidence high, no matter who the opposition. They recovered well from a sluggish start and the quality and quantity of their scores sets them out as potential county champions. Of course no trophies were awarded on Sunday evening, and more of the same will be required in the weeks ahead if their long-term ambitions are to be realised. However, while the final result on Sunday was a bit flattering, there was no doubting the merit of the win. The potential to win championships is clearly there. It is a matter of producing the goods at the right time.
As the scoring would suggest the stars of the show were in attack with David Collins, Seamus Butler, Seamus Callanan and Johnny Ryan having super games for Drom. James Woodlock had a great first half at midfield where his partner Liam Ryan also got through an awful lot of work. Eamon Buckley was the keyman in defence where Kevin Butler and James Ryan also had their moments.
Sarsfields now look to the county campaign to retain the Dan Breen Cup.
They will play worse than this and win many games but it has to be a concern that they have lost to both their arch Mid rivals, Loughmore-Castleiney and Drom-Inch in their only championship outings since their All-Ireland club semi-final, and in the process have conceded high scores. They were without Larry Corbett, Kevin O Gorman, Ger O Grady and Barry O Dwyer , all injured. Their return will strengthen their hand, but the glory of last year’s successful campaign at county and Munster level, seem far-removed right now.
Sarsfields will draw encouragement from the showing of some of their younger set with county minors Stephen Cahill, and Ronan Maher, and under 21 man Aidan McCormack doing very well. Padraic Maher did all in his power to drive the side on, while Pa Bourke, Michael Cahill, and the hard-working Michael Russell did their utmost to defend the title.
Drom-Inch – Damian Young; Kevin Butler, Micheal Butler, Michael Costelloe; Jamie Moloney, Eamon Buckley, James Ryan; James Woodlock(0-3), Liam Ryan; Johnny Ryan(0-3); David Collins(0-4), Seamus Butler(0-4); Pat Lupton, Seamus Callanan(2-4), David Butler(2-2); Subs – Oisin Jordan for P Lupton; Joe Lupton(1-0) for K Butler Paul Stapleton for E Buckley;
Sarsfields- Patrick McCormack; Stephen Maher, David Kennedy, David Maher; Ronan Maher, Padraic Maher, Michael Cahill; Michael Gleeson(0-1), Denis Maher(0-1); Pa Bourke(0-7), Michael Russell, Stephen Cahill (1-2); Richie Ruth(0-2), Aidan McCormack(0-3), Michael O Brien (1-1);
Ref – Brian Horgan, Knockavilla Kickhams.