A brilliant second half hat trick of goals from the inspirational Loughlin Ryan paved the path to victory for Upperchurch Drombane over rivals Moyne Templetuohy to claim the Horse and Jockey Kia, Mid Tipperary Under 21 B Hurling title on Sunday afternoon last at Templetuohy.
Looking to be carrying a knock Ryan was ushered in full forward before the interval.
Upon the restart the alteration in role appeared to be a masterstroke. His first goal was the pick of the bunch and gave Upperchurch the perfect way to start the second period, seconds after the restart. Paul Shanahan delivered high from the right half forward position. As the ball broke Loughlin reacted with razor sharp instincts, he shortened the grip on the hurley one handed jab lifting the ball, jinked then bolted past his lead footed opponent and with the shortened grip fizzed the ball to the roof of the net from his right hand side.
Ten minutes later Ryan pounced again. This time the problems were all of the Moyne defences making.
A long delivery from John Ryan appeared to be harmless, but as the defenders and keeper tried to let it run over the dead ball line the impish Loughlin Ryan had other ideas. The ground was too heavy for the ball to run out, and Ryan gave chase. He snuck in between two defenders and goalkeeper who peered on and flicked the ball from an acute angle back across the goal and into the vacated net.
On the three quarter point of the match the hat trick was complete along with the destination of victory in the same moment. Brian Sheridan harried the keeper who had caught a Niall Grant effort that fell short. However the custodian could not manufactured the required space to execute a clearance. The ball eventually broke and on cue Loughlin Ryan whipped on it to the back of the net.
The match had a very similar opening to both halves. Upperchurch had landed the first blow of the afternoon in the fourth minute. Loughlin Ryan on this occasion launched a free from just inside his own half. As the ball was dropping hands soared into the air on the edge of the square. None of the enthusiastic raised hands claimed the sliotar cleanly only managing to deflect it. The deflection brought the ball into the path of the grateful Brian Sheridan who with an outstretched hurley redirected the ball flight to the back of the net.
It took time for Moyne to grow into the contest but as the half advanced they slowly did territorially, even if the scoreboard did not agree. In the 23rd minute they made their breakthrough. The Upperchurch rearguard appeared to be in control of the situation and set to clear their lines. Brilliant pressure from Chris Lalor and the heavy conditions under foot saw the ball pop kindly into the path of Thossie Hamill.
The former inter county man advanced his allotted four steps before firing off his left hand side. The ball skimmed the surface at pace deceiving the keeper and into the net. This left the half time score 1-3 to 1-2 in favour of the “Church”.
The play was more open after the break. Moyne reacted well to the hammer blow just after the restart with points from Jamie Morrissey and Thossie Hamill bridging the gap. The two goals in the space of four minutes at the three quarter mark of the match all but killed the challenge from the home side. They were reduced to 14 men in the closing stages as Sean Moloney was dismissed as their spirit drained.
Upperchurch held their nerve and some fine scores from frees and play by Jack Butler kept the gap steady until the final whistle.
Upperchurch Drombane: TJ Butler; G Grant, D Carey, R Gleeson; J Jordan, J Ryan (J), PJ Bourke; L Ryan (3-1), J Butler (0-6, 3F, 1-65); N Grant, P Shanahan, C Ryan; P Bourke, D Sheridan, B Sheridan (1-0).
Moyne Templetuohy: C O’Sullivan; B Fanning, D Lowe, M Ryan; E Ryan, R Larkin, E Gorman; T Hamill (1-4, 1F, 1-65), D Leahy (0-1); T Moloney, S Moloney, M O’Meara; C Lalor, D Russell, J Morrissey (0-5, 5F). Subs: E Bourke for T Moloney (47), S Ryan for C Lalor (54).
Referee: Kevin Jordan (Thurles Gaels).