Thurles Sarsfields captain David Bourke pictured in action. Photo: Eamonn McGee
Thurles Sarsfields put Kilkenny and Leinster champions John Lockes to the sword in emphatic style at Raheenagh, Limerick on Sunday and duly booked their place in the All-Ireland Junior B Hurling Championship final on Sunday, February 18th against Kilnadeema-Leitrim.
All-Ireland Junior B Hurling Championship Semi-Final
Thurles Sarsfields 3-14 John Lockes (Kilkenny) 0-10
In two weeks’ time the Blues will take on Galway champions Kilnadeema-Leitrim who beat Killavullen (Cork) in their respective semi-final 0-14 to 0-11 - Killavullen proved too strong for Sarsfields in the provincial final (0-10 to 0-5), but that contest was played in atrocious conditions. And, given the quality of Thurles’ most recent display the Tipperary champions should confidently face into the decider.
Sarsfields dominated this contest from start to finish and may well have more than thirteen points given the prevailing pattern of this contest. Indeed, Thurles Sarsfields were really impressive in this semi-final. John Lillis and Stevie Fewer dominated at full-back and centre-back respectively while up front Conor Moloney and Mathew Kelly shone out. The hard-running Pa Crone, however, was the outstanding candidate for the man of the match award at midfield - Crone’s general work rate, driving runs and ability to take a score was a telling factor in this contest.
Sarsfields plundered their opening goal in the first minute when Conor Moloney smartly broke a delivery into the path of Mathew Kelly - Kelly then drew the cover before finding Séamus Doyle with a terrific hand pass. Doyle made no mistake from close range and the Blues were off to an encouraging start.
John Lockes responded well to the challenge and three successive points tied this contest up by the ninth minute (1-0 to 0-3) - those scores arrived courtesy of Pádraig Purcell, John Paul Corcoran (free) and Paddy Kennedy.
Mark Purcell fired Thurles back into the lead before Mathew Kelly belted over an impressive long-range free in the tenth minute (1-2 to 0-3).
Eleven scoreless minutes were brought to a conclusion in the 21st minute when John Paul Corcoran converted another John Lockes free before the Blues created a terrific goal-scoring opportunity - Mathew Kelly had goal on his mind, but a very mean stroke took the sting out of the Thurles man’s shot. David Bourke converted the resultant free and a mere caution for the infraction seemed lenient to say the least.
With three minutes to play in the half Pa Crone won a terrific turnover ball in his own half and charged forward before belting over another Sarsfields point while Jim Corbett curled over a sensational effort from an impossible angle in the 29th minute to leave four between them (1-5 to 0-4).
John Paul Corcoran responded with a placed ball for John Lockes, but the Blues converted two successive frees (thanks to Mathew Kelly and Tom Tierney) before a Paddy Kennedy effort from play brought the opening half to a conclusion (1-7 to 0-6).
Conor Moloney, with a smashing stick pass, set up Pa Crone for a Sarsfields point in the 32nd minute and although Paddy Kennedy hit back for John Lockes two minutes later the Blues were threatening to score goals now on a regular basis. Indeed, Conor Moloney found the side netting in the 34th minute before a scramble in the Kilkenny champions’ goalmouth with twenty minutes to play saw a Mathew Kelly pull blocked and there was Séamus Doyle to bury the rebound (2-8 to 0-7).
John Lockes managed a converted ball in response, but Sarsfields were well on top and Pa Crone’s rasping shot was well saved by ‘keeper Eoin Byrne in the 48th minute. Mathew Kelly (free) and John Paul Corcoran traded points soon after before Thurles plundered their third goal in the 50th minute. Pa Crone dropped the ball in on this occasion; the combination of Mathew Kelly and Séamus Doyle caused consternation before Mark Purcell buried his pull (3-9 to 0-9).
Pa Crone, Mathew Kelly, Mark Purcell and David Bourke then added points to the Thurles tally while Mathew Kelly set up David Bourke for another goal chance in the 54th minute - Eoin Byrne, however, saved brilliantly before Sarsfields ‘keeper Christopher Carew exceeded the exploits of his colleague at the opposite end of the field in the 56th minute when the custodian dived full length to deny Paddy Kennedy - an extraordinary save.
Jack Lynch brought the scoring to a conclusion from a John Lockes point of view in the 61st minute before Mathew Fogarty saw his shot deflected out at the expense of a ’65 which Tom Tierney converted to close out this contest.
Thurles Sarsfields: Christopher Carew, Gary Healy, John Lillis, Peter Maher, Glen Kirrigan, Stevie Fewer, Conor Cassidy, Pa Crone (0-3), Tom Tierney (0-2, 0-1 frees, 0-1 ‘65s), David Bourke (0-2, 0-1 frees), Jim Corbett (0-1), Mathew Kelly (0-4, 0-3 frees), Mark Purcell (1-2), Conor Moloney, Séamus Doyle (2-0). Subs: (42nd) Mathew Fogarty for Conor Moloney, (49th) Jack O’Dwyer for Séamus Doyle, (59th) Patrick Bowden for Mathew Kelly, (60th) Jack O’Dwyer for Peter Maher, (62nd) Eddie McCormack for Mark Purcell.
Management: The Thurles Sarsfields team is managed by Pat Ryan, Martin Fitzpatrick, Jamie Barrett and Liam Duggan.
John Lockes (Kilkenny): Eoin Byrne, Eoin Fahey, Robert Jackman, David Phelan, Jack Lynch (0-1), John O’Neill, Brian Kirwan, Jim Power, Patrick Power, Cian Bogue, John Paul Corcoran (0-5, 0-4 frees), Paddy Kennedy (0-3), Brian McCann, Pádraig Purcell (0-1), Conor Murphy. Subs: (19th) Luke Burke for Cian Bogue, (19th) Eoghan Scriven for Brian McCann.
Referee: Mike Sexton (Limerick).
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