County Under-21A Hurling Final
Rampant Loughmore Castleiney Claim Title and Make History

Loughmore Castleiney 2-20 Burgess 0-6

Loughmore Castleiney 2-20

Burgess 0-6

Another glorious chapter in the annals of the famed Loughmore Castleiney GAA club was written in Templederry on St Stephen’s Day when their U-21 charges captured, for the first time, the county A title to go alongside their many other crowns.

The perfect finale to the season for the Mid Club of the Year, the Loughmore Castleiney lads blitzed their opponents in the second half with a powerful display of hurling which saw them bag a whopping 2-14 to match the 0-6 they had amassed in the first. They had led by just one at the break, but even this was significant as they had played into the teeth of a very strong breeze, and were still in front, even if the margin was minimal.

Indeed, the Burgess lads must have questioned how they were only one in arrears at the break considering that the Mid champions had forced two wonderful saves out of their keeper Paddy Looby, who denied Noel McGrath in the 13th minute and then Liam Treacy in the 28th from point blank range.

Burgess came into the game fancying their chances and when their talisman Stephen Murray cut a sideline ball over the bar for the games opening score in the 3rd minute, the strength of the breeze was there for everyone to see – he simply got the ball airborne, ensured it’s direction, and the elements did the rest. It was a beautiful score but sadly for Burgess it was to be one of their rare highlights – a similar effort from the same player in the 19th minute proving another.

Loughmore Castleiney responded with the hard working Liam Treacy and efficient Cian Hennessy helping them to the lead, before Murray drove a huge long range free between the posts. Then came Looby’s brilliant save from Noel McGrath and his heroics seemed to inspire his teammates because Stephen Murray repreated his sideline cut feats with another beauty and Kevin Seymour overheaded on a long range Murray free to double the scores 0-4 to 0-2 with seven to go to the break.

The underfoot was as close to perfect as one could hope for at this time of the year, but the strong gale and driving rain didn’t help matters at all. Burgess struck five wides in the half, and one felt that they would need a cushion if they were to face the elements and the Mid wave in the second half. As it happened, they had neither the cushion they craved, not the wind behind them.

Liam McGrath and Liam Treacy levelled the game before Looby beat away a Treacy effort from close range after he had been put through. But, John McGrath shoved his side in front after his brother Noel set him up and eventhough totemic defender Aidan McGrath and Stephen Murray traded pointed frees before the break, it was the Mid champions who made their way towards the dressingroom, the happier. With a one point advantage for company, they were surely in a confident mood.

The hurling had been tough and uncompromising, the exchanges robust and wholesome. Indeed, it was a battle of committed and both sides were proving that they were not deficient in this department – the title was there for the taking and both sets of players were out to claim the spoils. Boxing Day it might have been, but the sides, thankfully, were intent on concentrating on the ball and played the game in the most sporting of manners, using the hurls rather than the dukes to provide the entertainment. The huge attendance loved every minute of it - Templederry has rarely seen as large a crowd with as many neutrals present as supporters and the opportunity to watch a bit of primetime during the Festive Season proving a big hit. County Board must surely have been smiling at the returns from the fixture.

Any hopes of this one going all the way to the wire were very quickly dispelled after referee Philip Kelly (Ballinahinch) resumed action following the break. Within four minutes, Loughmore Castleiney had doubled the score; within sixteen, they had trebled it.

The Rout

Noel McGrath had started the rout with a beauty in the 2nd minute and he was followed by his brother John, Eamon Connolly and Cian Hennessy – all inside the four minute mark. Then, Noel had another , followed by Liam, Noel , Noel and Liam. It was all over as contest.

Loughmore Castleiney had found gear in a big way and they were simply irresistable. They bossed proceedings using their slick movement and wonderful hurling skills – the Burgess lads simply could not contain them and were consigned to trying to limit the damage rather than solving the problems, and there were many.

Burgess Problems

Those problems for Burgess started in the Loughmore Castleiney defence where, despite being short John Meagher, Joseph Nyland and Darragh Butler, they were totally dominant with Willie Eviston and Aidan McGrath leading through the centre. John and Noel McGrath were unstoppable at midfield. And, in attack, the range of scoring options ensured that ball delivered into any sector was reaping dividends – sub Brian McGrath proving it with a point shortly after introduction, while Tommy Maher also set up one for Liam McGrath when he came on.

Cian Hennessy’s goal in the 19th minute, after he took on the defence and fired low past Looby, confirmed Loughmore Castleiney as victors, while John McGrath’s 33rd minute blast put the icing on an already sweet tasting Christmas cake for the champions.

One could only but feel for Burgess at the end of this one. They felt they were still in the game at the break and ended up on the wrong end of a twenty point deficit. But, they were the first to acknowledge the superiority of their opponents and offered their congratulations at the end despite their own huge disappointment. They didn’t do themselves justice in the second half and that will be their big big regret when the dust settles on this one.

Stephen Murray was their main man while John Mulqueen, John Dwyer, Eoin Hogan, Michael O’Flaherty and keeper Paddy Looby were best on a hard day for them.

Glory the Champs

Glory Glory Loughmore Castleiney. The first time is always the sweetest and this one was particularly sweet for them.The say the cream always comes to the top and Loughmore Castleineys “cream” rose to the occasion to deliver a well deserved title. A classy outfit with key players all over the field, Loughmore Castleiney seemed to get the balance just right with their selection. The drive of Liam Treacy at centre forward, coupled with the solid-as-you-go Aidan McGrath at centre back, in front of the staunch Willie Eviston, helped anchor the side, while Noel and John McGrath at midfield had attacking prowess as well as a strong work ethic – they contributed 1-7 between them and were not shy about chasing down attackers either to regain possession for their side. Cian Hennessy, a man who did so much in the semi-final to bring his side through, bagged 1-2 on the day while Liam McGrath chipped in with 0-6. Henry Maher had a fine game at half back while Lorcan Egan and Paddy Moynihan were also prominent as were Joe Hennessy, Eamon Connolly and Tomas McGrath who helped supply much ammunition to the sharp shooters– Padraic Egan also assisting in this regard. It was a real team effort and it meant that keeper Craig Cleary, a man who had done plenty during the course of the season, had little enough to do on the day.

Congratulations to Loughmore Castleiney on reaching another milestone. The current generation are doing much to embellish the reputation garnered in previous epochs – many of those are now steering the ship from the sidelines and all the signs are that their proteges will be every bit as successful, if not more so.

They have an extremely strong work ethic running right throughout their teams and even when things are not running right for them, they don’t panic. Add to the mix, the very high skill levels and it is clear to see why Loughmore Castleiney swept all before them in Mid Tipperary in 2011. They had won the Mid Club of the Year crown even before the County U-21 title had been annexed and are odds on favourites to defend their senior crown successfully again in 2012, with many of the U-21’s in toe.

Loughmore Castleiney are not going away.

Teams and Scorers

Loughmore Castleiney: J Cleary, L Egan, E Eviston, J Hennessy, P Moynihan, A McGrath 0-1, H Maher, N McGrath 0-4, J McGrath 1-3, E Connolly 0-1, L Treacy 0-2, T McGrath, C Hennessy 1-2, L McGrath 0-6, P Egan. Subs used: T Maher, B McGrath 0-1.

Burgess: P Looby, W Ryan, J Dwyer, D Donoghue, J O’Flaherty, J Mulqueen, P Hill, M O’Flaherty, K Ryan, J O’Brien, S Murray 0-5, T O’Halloran, E Hogan, K Seymour 0-1, D Ryan. Subs used: K O’Flaherty; V Kearns; T Hogan; B Carroll; J Coady.

Referee: P Kelly (Ballinahinch).