By Liam Hogan at MacDonagh Park, Nenagh
North Tipperary Senior
Hurling Semi Final
Borris-Ileigh 0-22 AET
Toomevara needed extra time to qualify for another North Tipperary Senior Hurling final when they narrowly defeated a brilliant Borris-Ileigh side in a pulsating North Tipperary senior hurling championship semi-final played in a very wet MacDonagh Park last Tuesday evening.
The holders looked a beaten side in ordinary time when they trailed by six points with twenty minutes remaining before they stubbornly reduced the deficit with the help of Ken Dunne from placed balls, a Benny Dunne long distance free and quality points from play by John O’Brien and David Young before Willie Ryan landed the equaliser, three minutes from the end of normal time.
The comeback proved what the champions were made of. Extra time began and one minute in, Ryan was on hand to avail of a mistake by Borris-Ileigh keeper, Jody Harkin, to kick the ball over an unguarded goal line from five metres.
The three-point cushion provided Toomevara with the space needed to defend their title, but not before they saw Borris-Ileigh fight back with David O’Connor striking a brace of points, the first from a free. In response, the unerring Ken Dunne fired over another distance free (his ninth point) from half way to see Toome with a two-point lead at the break.
After the change over, Ciaran Cowan narrowed the gap to one but another Ken Dunne free left Toome, two points ahead. The excitement remained and the quality hurling continued with both defences hanging on for dear life.
The brilliant Brendan Maher’s secured a late free to leave one point between the teams again. Three minutes remained and one final Toomevara break away saw Mark McCarthy break inside the Borris-Ileigh cover to leave Jody Harkin at his mercy but the Borris ‘keeper saved and the danger was averted before full time was called some fifty seconds later.
Toomevara were the winners. They had survived one hell of a game where Borris-Ileigh had them by the throat but like a slippery eel, the champions crawled their way back into contention and they can thank the experienced Benny Dunne, Ken Dunne, John O’Brien and Paddy O’Brien who returned to action after a long absence.
The champions must meet Portroe in the decider.
Toome came up against a Borris-Ileigh side who were brilliant on the night and were fully deserving of their 0-13 to 1-5 lead at the break. The Toomevara goal looked to be a square ball but it stood and it gave them enough oxygen to stay alive until half time at least.
While the goal helped, there were other contributing factors in the comeback not least the free taking of the excellent Ken Dunne who held his nerve when a stringing a number of valuable scores from all distances. Benny Dunne was as usual picking up the pieces in defence with David Young, the reliable Andrew Ryan and Denis Kelly doing the needful in defence. Francis Devaney battled hard at midfield while John O’Brien, Willie Ryan and Mark McCarthy nibbled at the Borris lead.
Borris-Ileigh must now look to the county championship as they reflect on what might have been. The excellent Brendan Maher lorded matters at midfield. Dan McCormack ruled the same area with vital back up coming from Martin Maher, Sean McCormack and Paddy Stapleton at half back. Philip Maher never panicked at full back and Sean Maher and Martin Treacy fulfilled their roles in the corners.
Mark Bourke did most for the cause up front and scored an excellent six points from play. He could do no more with the battling Ciaran Cowan giving it everything along with Keith Ryan and Vincent Stapleton.
Lacking creation in goal scoring was a blot in Borris-Ileigh’s copy and when it mattered most, Borris-Ileigh missed far too many chances both from play and frees with the normally reliable David O’Connor off form in the second half. Granted the heavy rain was no help.
In what was the best game of the year with excellent hurling served up from time to time. Scores were level four times in the opening nine minutes with Borris taking the lead each time after the excellent Mark Bourke, Dan McCormack, Vincent Stapleton and David O’Connor scored only to be matched by John O’Brien’s opener from play plus three Ken Dunne scores the first from play followed by two frees.
The Borris defence had the measure on Toome with Sean McCormack producing many clearances while Brendan Maher, Dan McCormack and Ciaran Cowan were prominent up front.
As the game continued, the driving rain failed to dampen the Borris lads as they went five points clear after twenty three minutes thanks to scores by Paddy Stapleton, Ciaran Cowan, David O’Connor, Mark Bourke and Keith Ryan. Indeed the lead could have been greater had Cathal Bourke not elected to go for goal from a twenty metre free in the nineteenth minute when his rasping drive was saved by Benny Dunne’s shoulder and Toome were happy to see the ball cleared.
An upset looked on the cards but Toome received a lifeline when David Young raided the right wing. His effort for a point dropped into the square and with Willie Ryan, Martin Treacy and goalkeeper, Jody Harkin looking, the ball sailed all the way to the net. Borris-Ileigh queried a square ball but the goal stood.
The setback didn’t hamper Borris-Ileigh who remained focused with David O’Connor replying from a free and Mark Bourke adding an excellent point from play. Ken Dunne was clear in front of goal but Harkin saved well. Brendan Maher won a free at the other end and David O’Connor increased the lead and with half time approaching, the final score fell to Brendan Maher who pointed after further assistance from David O’Connor. Half time, Borris-Ileigh 0-13 Toomevara 1-5.
After the break, Mark Bourke continued to lead by example but his run was unfairly halted by Benny Dunne, leaving O’Connor to point the resulting free. Two quick points for Toome, including a Ken Dunne (free) plus one for Francis Devaney kept Toomevara in view of the leaders
But in the 37th minute, Borris managed to stretch their lead to six points after Bourke pointed again followed by a David O’Connor’s free when Paddy Stapleton was fouled in the Toome half. Borris looked safe at this stage.
However, Toome refused to panic as Ken Dunne, replied with a free after Mark McCarthy was fouled. David O’Connor failed to point a free at the other end. Jody Harkin had to come off his line to deny McCarthy but Toome continued to keep their focus and John O’Brien found space to score and leave Toome four adrift with seventeen minutes remaining.
From the resulting puckout, Mark Bourke won possession and scored. Ken Dunne replied with a sixty five but he failed to convert two long range frees in the follow up.
The game reached a critical stage when Toome were beginning to create scores.
David Young’s long diagonal ball reached John O’Brien who hit the target and Benny Dunne landed a 100 metre free before he put David Young through for another score from he wing.
The introduction of Paddy O’Brien was another vital ingredient in helping the champions find their feet as the former Tipp man displayed coolness and good use of the ball.
Meanwhile, Mark Bourke had Borris back on radar with a point after assistance from Declan Maher but Ken Dunne replied with a sixty five, seven minutes from time.
Both sides tried desperately for vital scores as David O’Connor’s lengthy free dropped short before Willie Ryan missed the target at the other end. However three minutes from time the left corner forward made no mistake with his next possession. Both sides continued to create options as the final whistle loomed but they failed to see a lead point and the final whistle in normal time arrived with the heavy rain continuing to pour. Nobody left. Toomevara 1-15 Borris-Ileigh 0-18.
Willie Ryan’s goal was the required medicine for Toome at the start of extra time. David O’Connor’s two points left Borris one adrift before Ken Dunne created breathing space for the champions at play reached the interval. Borris dominated play in the Toome end of the field for the next five minutes but managed just one point through Ciaran Cowan.
John O’Brien won a free for Toome and Ken Dunne converted with five minutes remaining. Borris-Ileigh replaced David O’Connor and Brendan Maher was on free taking duty as he pointed a free two minutes later. Ken Dunne missed the target with a free at the other end and Mark McCarthy could have eased Toome’s fears had he decided to opt for a point instead of a goal with Harkin to beat. It wasn’t needed. Toome marched into the final by the skin of their teeth.
Scorers: Toomevara - K Dunne 0-10 (0-5f, 0-3’65); D Young and W Ryan 1-1 each; J O’Brien 0-3; B Dunne (free) and F Devaney 0-1 each. Borris-Ileigh - D O’Connor 0-8 (0-6f); M Bourke 0-6; C Cowan and B Maher (0-1f) 0-2 each; D McCormack, V Stapleton, P Stapleton and K Ryan 0-1 each.
Toomevara: Darren Cuddihy; Cathal Kennedy, Andrew Ryan, Denis Kelly; David Young, Benny Dunne, Darren Delaney; David Kennedy, Francis Devaney; Conor O’Meara, John O’Brien, Ken Dunne; Mark McCarthy, John Delaney, Willie Ryan. Subs: Bob Duff for Kennedy (28); Paddy O’Brien for C O’Meara (38).
Borris-Ileigh: Jody Harkin, Martin Treacy, Philip Maher, Sean Maher; Martin Maher, Sean McCormack, Paddy Stapleton; Dan McCormack, Brendan Maher; Mark Bourke (C), Ciaran Cowan, David O’Connor; Cathal Bourke, Vincent Stapleton, Keith Ryan. Subs: Declan Maher for C Bourke (26); Benny Harkin for D Maher (1 ET); Noel Kent for O’Connor (12 ET).
Referee: Philip Kelly (Ballinahinch).