Thurles Town close in on North Tipperary league title following 2-1 win at BT Harps

Brian McDonnell

Reporter:

Brian McDonnell

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bmcdonnell@tipperarystar.ie

Thurles Town close in on North Tipperary league title following 2-1 win at BT Harps

The Thurles Town team who were crowned Premier Division Shield champions on April 1st.

Thurles Town have closed in on the North Tipperary & District League Premier Division title thanks to a 2-1 away win over Blackcastle Templemore Harps on Sunday afternoon. Indeed, in an illustration of their pedigree as defending champions Noel Byrne’s side fought back from 0-1 down to win well against a determined BT Harps side. And, it was fitting that Aidan Keenan, the leader of this Thurles Town team, thundered home the winning header with just five minutes to play.

Blackcastle Templemore Harps hosted Thurles Town on Sunday in a contest which was always likely to decide the North Tipperary & District League Premier Division title race - with two rounds to play Thurles Town are now six points clear at the summit of the league. Indeed, Thurles Town can also take confidence from the side’s healthy scoring difference (+29) while second placed BT Harps have a scoring difference of +7.

Thurles Town made history last season when landing the club’s first-ever league title in emphatic style - Noel Byrne's side were in startling form on the domestic front and completed their league programme with a 100% winning record. Town were also crowned Premier Division Shield champions recently on April 1st when seeing off the challenge of Nenagh Celtic (1-0) away from home.

Blackcastle Templemore Harps, managed by Henry Newman, are chasing the club's first Premier Division league title since 2001, but BT Harps’ chances look very slim now. Indeed, the Templemore outfit need a miracle to catch Town.

A REAL EDGE

There was a real edge to this contest during the opening quarter and we had to wait until the 22nd minute for the first real chance - Conor English’s free kick for Thurles Town found the Harps’ wall, but Aidan Keenan gathered the rebound and picked out the unmarked (and onside) Paul Kirwan who dragged his shot wide.

A minute later Thurles Town created another excellent opportunity when Martin Darmody beat his man down the left and picked out Joe Moloney who was allowed to control the ball, turn and then fire over from the edge of the box.

BT Harps ‘keeper David Russell did especially well in the 27th minute to save a rasping Aidan Keenan free kick as the champions sought a vital opening goal. Ironically enough, BT Harps came closest to breaking the deadlock in the 34th minute when Aidan Fogarty’s cross was almost deflected home by Thurles centre-half John Burke - Town ‘keeper Graeme Loughman was alert on his line and conjured a terrific reaction save.

John Burke created a terrific opportunity for Páraic Fogarty in the 36th minute when his searching back-to-front delivery picked out the head of the midfielder, but Fogarty headed over the BT Harps bar.

Then, right on the stroke of half-time, Conor English beat the BT Harps ‘keeper, but right-back Dara Gleeson got back to hook English’s effort off his own line.

SECOND HALF

Six minutes into the second half Blackcastle Templemore Harps broke the deadlock - Cathal Scully gathered a sloppy Thurles Town clearance in the 51st minute and found Tommy Brophy who was fouled for a penalty which Johnny Coleman buried in the bottom left-hand corner (1-0).

Now this was a test for the Thurles Town lads: the defending champions had dominated the game, but found themselves behind. And, Thurles responded to the challenge posed very positively. Indeed, just three minutes later Town were back on terms when Páraic Fogarty headed home Joe Moloney’s corner (1-1).

Graeme Loughman did well to save a Tommy Brophy effort for BT Harps in the 59th minute, but, unfortunately, the Templemore winger was shown a straight red card in the 61st minute following a tangle with Thurles Town defender John Burke.

In the 69th minute Thurles Town carved ten-man BT Harps open - Páraic Fogarty and Adrian Cleere combined well before Conor English headed over a pin-point cross.

With fifteen minutes to go Blackcastle Templemore Harps bravely rolled the dice and elected to play three at the back with Johnny Coleman moving up front - BT Harps needed to win and to be fair to them they pushed hard. Indeed, in the 76th minute Éanna McBride created an opportunity for Jamie Bergin, but the ever-reliable Graeme Loughman batted Bergin’s effort away at the expense of a corner.

Then, with just five minutes to play, Thurles Town struck for the winner. A harsh-looking free kick was awarded against BT Harps’ Jack Kennedy; Conor English curled in a smashing delivery from the right flank and there was Aidan Keenan to thunder his header into the top left-hand corner (1-2).

Two minutes later the misfortunate BT Harps’ defender Jack Kennedy was shown a second yellow card while Thurles Town enjoyed two late opportunities to score a third goal, but the efforts of Conor English and Paul Kirwan were frustrated by the crossbar and the ‘keeper respectively.

MATCH DETAILS

Blackcastle Templemore Harps: David Russell, Dara Gleeson, SV Damme, Jack Kennedy, Johnny Coleman, Shane Scully, Aidan Fogarty, Cathal Scully, Jamie Bergin, Stevie Nolan, Tommy Brophy. Subs: (71st) Éanna McBride for Shane Scully, (77th) David O’Shea for SV Damme, (79th) Ben Stapleton for Aidan Fogarty.

Thurles Town: Graeme Loughman, Michael Byrne, Martin Darmody, John Burke, Aaron Ryan, Adrian Cleere, Páraic Fogarty, Aidan Keenan, Joe Moloney, Conor English, Paul Kirwan. Subs: (68th) Derek Loughman for Martin Darmody.

Referee: David Butler.

2017-2018 PREMIER DIVISION RESULTS

Blackcastle Templemore Harps 1-2 Thurles Town
Ballymackey FC 0-5 Thurles Town
Thurles Town 4-0 Portumna Town
Thurles Town 8-1 Cloughjordan FC
Thurles Town 3-1 Killavilla United
Thurles Town 2-1 Borroway Rovers
Nenagh Celtic 2-3 Thurles Town
Killavilla United 1-2 Thurles Town
Thurles Town 5-1 Blackcastle Templemore Harps
Thurles Town 2-0 Ballymackey FC
Cloughjordan FC 2-2 Thurles Town
Portumna Town 2-3 Thurles Town

Blackcastle Templemore Harps 1-2 Thurles Town
Ballymackey FC 0-3 Blackcastle Templemore Harps
Portumna Town 0-1 Blackcastle Templemore Harps
Nenagh Celtic 3-4 Blackcastle Templemore Harps
Blackcastle Templemore Harps 2-1 Borroway Rovers
Blackcastle Templemore Harps 3-2 Nenagh Celtic
Borroway Rovers 2-2 Blackcastle Templemore Harps
Thurles Town 5-1 Blackcastle Templemore Harps
Blackcastle Templemore Harps 3-2 Ballymackey FC
Cloughjordan FC 3-4 Blackcastle Templemore Harps
Blackcastle Templemore Harps 2-1 Portumna Town
Killavilla United 1-2 Blackcastle Templemore Harps

FURTHER READING

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