The Thurles Sarsfields players pictured celebrating their win over De La Salle at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Cork after the 2012 Munster club hurling final.
The big game this weekend, from a Gaelic games point of view, is Sunday’s AIB Munster Senior Club Hurling Championship quarter-final between Thurles Sarsfields and Waterford champions Ballygunner at Semple Stadium, Thurles (2pm).
And, hurling supporters will be hoping that Thurles Sarsfields can make a big impression in this year’s provincial championships. Indeed, the performance of the Tipperary champions in the province has not been all that encouraging in recent years.
Since the provincial championships were extended in 2003 to include the junior A and intermediate ranks Tipperary clubs have won just seven hurling titles (Cork 16, Limerick seven, Waterford five, Clare four and Kerry zero). Is seven from the 39 hurling titles on offer good enough for Tipperary? Is this something to be concerned about?
During this thirteen-year period Thurles Sarsfields (2012), Loughmore-Castleiney (2007) and Toomevara (2004, 2006) have claimed senior provincial honours while Kiladangan (2004) and Silvermines (2012) have won intermediate titles. The only junior A title collected by the Premier County came courtesy of Moyle Rovers in 2007.
Tipperary’s 53% win percentage is dwarfed by Cork (68%) while Limerick (51%) are closing fast and threatening to overtake the Premier on the club front. Indeed, Limerick clubs have won four of the last five Munster senior hurling club titles.
In 2015 Limerick’s Na Piarsaigh collected the Munster senior club title and progressed to win the All-Ireland, but only after squeaking past Ballygunner in the provincial final. Na Piarsaigh were particularly distressed in that contest and trailed at the break before a Shane Dowling goal broke the resistance of a Ballygunner team who fielded without injured talisman Pauric Mahony (2-11 to 2-18).
From early this year the rumours suggested that Ballygunner were on an absolute mission to get back to a Munster final. Last Sunday Ballygunner collected a third successive Waterford title when beating Passage (4-20 to 1-12) in the decider while manager Denis Walsh (Midleton, Cork) immediately called on his players to fulfil their Munster potential. Indeed, Walsh publicly challenged his Ballygunner players to exorcise their underachievers tag.
Ballygunner will feature inter-county stars Stephen O’Keeffe, Barry Coughlan and the Mahony brothers (Philip and Pauric). The side also features up-and-coming under-21 star Peter Hogan while former Waterford inter-county player Wayne Hutchinson is just a sub.
This game has the look of a potential cracker and we are sure that the Thurles Sarsfields players would appreciate your support on Sunday in Semple Stadium.
The winner of this weekend’s quarter-final will be asked to face into a semi-final against the Clare champions (Clonlara or Ballyea) on Sunday, November 6th away from home.
Fethard, the Tipperary intermediate football champions, take on their Kerry counterparts Kenmare in a Munster quarter-final on Sunday, October 30th in the Clonmel Sportsfield at 2pm - the prize of winning that clash is a home semi-final on Sunday, November 13th against Kilfenora (Clare).
Supporters of Tipperary football will be hoping for a good performance from Fethard this weekend. Since the provincial club championships were extended to include the junior A and intermediate grades in 2003 Tipperary have won one Munster title (Clonmel Commercials were crowned senior champions in 2015). Waterford have won no Munster club football title during that period, Limerick have won one, Clare two and Cork nine while Kerry have annexed a stunning 26 (six senior, nine intermediate and 11 junior titles).
Despite Clonmel’s famous 2015 win Tipperary still retain the worst win percentage record in the province - the Premier champions have won just 22% of their games since 2003 trailing Waterford on 24%, Limerick 33%, Clare 43%, Cork 58% and Kerry on a staggering 85%.
The Tipperary senior football champions (Loughmore-Castleiney or Moyle Rovers) will be in provincial action away from home on Sunday, November 13th facing the winner of the quarter-final clash between Dr Crokes (Kerry) and Kilmurry-Ibrickane (Clare). The junior A football champions will launch their Munster campaign against the Clare or Cork champions in a semi-final which is scheduled to take place on Sunday, November 20th.
Newport, the Tipperary intermediate hurling champions, will face either the Cork or Waterford champions in a provincial semi-final on Sunday, November 6th away from home while Ballybacon-Grange will represent the county in a Munster semi-final on Sunday, November 13th away from home against either the Waterford or Kerry champions.
There is also plenty to whet the appetite of fans on the domestic front this weekend with the Tipperary Water Senior Football Championship final taking place on Sunday, October 30th at 2.30pm in Leahy Park, Cashel - Loughmore-Castleiney, fresh from their victory over Munster champions Clonmel Commercials, take on Moyle Rovers in the decider.
On Saturday the junior A football championship semi-finals take place - Ballingarry take on Clonoulty-Rossmore in Holycross (2.30pm) while in New Inn Carrick Davins and Loughmore-Castleiney face off (2.30pm). The county junior B hurling championship semi-finals also take place on Saturday - Templetuohy will host Portroe’s clash with Carrick Swans (2.30pm) while in Clonoulty (2.30pm) Upperchurch-Drombane and Cashel King Cormacs clash.
An interesting county intermediate Camogie final takes place on Saturday, October 29th when Nenagh Éire Óg take on Drom & Inch’s second team in The Ragg Camogie Grounds at 12 noon. Nenagh Éire Óg are a club on the rise having won the junior A Camogie championship in 2015 while the pedigree of Drom & Inch goes without question; Drom & Inch won the intermediate league title this year when beating Éire Óg in the decider.
Meanwhile Burgess-Duharra, the Tipperary senior Camogie champions, make the trip to Ballingarry, Limerick (2.30pm) to face Granagh-Ballingarry in a provincial semi-final on Saturday. Granagh-Ballingarry proved too strong for Burgess-Duharra when the sides last encountered one another in 2014.
The Ulster Bank League returns this weekend with both Cashel RFC and Nenagh Ormond in action. On Saturday, October 29th Cashel RFC host Blackrock College in Spafield at 2.30pm and are badly in need of an encouraging result - if you can make the game we are sure that the Cashel players would appreciate your support. Meanwhile Nenagh Ormond, who have made a positive start to the season, are away to Malone in Gibson Park at 2.30pm.