Thurles Sarsfields' Billy McCarthy pictured in action against JK Bracken's. Photo: John O'Loughlin
Holders Thurles Sarsfields dismissed the challenge of JK Bracken's in a Centenary Agri Mid Tipperary Senior Hurling Championship semi-final played at Templetuohy on Wednesday evening, but the nineteen-point victory for the Blues was overshadowed to a great extent by a serious knee-injury to inter-county man Billy McCarthy at the three quarter stage.
Centenary Agri Mid Tipperary Senior
Hurling Championship Semi-Final
Thurles Sarsfields 5-26 JK Bracken's 2-16
Sarsfields, the defending county champions, were hot favourites to triumph and even without Ronan Maher (who is in America), the injured Lar Corbett, Stephen Maher, Jack Derby and Conor Lanigan they were in a different class to opponents who themselves were short-handed with Cathal Scully, Michael Delaney and goalie Damian Russell not in the line-up.
The Thurles lads, however, had the stronger back-up and by half-time had this game put to bed when leading 4-13 to 1-10 having played into the breeze.
If such were needed Sarsfields laid down a marker as to their ambitions for the year with a display in that period that would have stretched any team in the country.
The conditions were ideal for their high grade stick work, precise passing-game and quality team-work, but they will not need reminding that championships are won in much less favourable conditions and the challenge for them is to carry this level of performance through to the end of the campaign.
The big talking point after the game was the injury to inter-county man Billy McCarthy. He scythed through for Sarsfields' fifth goal in the 48th minute (his second of the evening), but was fouled in the process and hit the ground heavily. It was immediately apparent that McCarthy had incurred a serious knee injury as players from both teams signalled to the sidelines for assistance. Play was held up for some minutes before McCarthy was stretchered off and later he was removed by ambulance to hospital.
Eoin Fitzpatrick (JK Bracken's) was red-carded for the foul by referee Sean Everard to add to the woes of the Templemore lads who were, by then, trailing 4-17 to 2-13.
The injury and the associated stoppage time had an obvious impact on the remainder of the game which was played out at a leisurely and non-competitive pace.
JK Bracken's started well and had points from Paddy Cadell and Shane Scully inside two minutes, but then the Sarsfields machine began to grind and the scores flowed. Sars were leading 0-5 to 0-4 in the 13th minute when Conor Stakelum reacted swiftest to the break of an Aidan McCormack '65, which came off the post, to slip home Sarsfields’ first goal.
JK Bracken's were playing quite well and responded within seconds when Shane Scully rifled home a goal for them, but two minutes later Billy McCarthy got his first goal after Stephen Cahill created the opening. From here to the interval the Blues were rampant and they crowned a splendid first half with goals from Aidan McCormack and Pa Bourke during a two-minute period before the break. Thurles led 4-13 to 1-10 at the half-way stage.
NO WAY BACK
There really was no way back for JK Bracken's and though Andrew Ormonde netted for them six minutes after resuming, they were making little headway against a Sarsfields side who had taken the foot off the pedal. Billy McCarthy’s goal, which led to his injury, set the seal on the win for Thurles and confirmed their place in the final.
The growing absentee list will be a concern for Sarsfields as they prepare for the Mid final and they will be hoping that some of last week’s injuries will be cleared. Stiffer tests lie ahead with the county championship clashes also looming, but last week’s performance was most encouraging from a new-look side where the Purcell brothers Michael and Rory added freshness and David Corbett also caught the eye at wing-back. Denis Maher had a good outing in a new role at full-back, but with Sarsfields winning almost all of the individual battles, judgement on their potential will be reserved until a more demanding examination is encountered.
JK Bracken's played reasonably well for three quarters of the game and their score tally, with seven names on the score sheet, would win many games. That will give them encouragement as they face into the O Riain Cup campaign for which they will hope to be at full strength.
Tom Murphy was excellent at the heart of the defence with Shane Scully, Andrew Ormonde and Paddy Cadell also worked hard while Lyndon Fairbrother’s contribution from placed balls (ten points) was considerable.
Thurles Sarsfields: Patrick McCormack; Michael Purcell, Denis Maher, Cathal Moloney; David Corbett (0-1), Padraic Maher (0-1), Stephen Lillis (0-1); Michael Cahill (0-1), Rory Purcell (0-2); Aidan McCormack (1-7, 0-4 frees), Billy McCarthy (2-2), Conor Stakelum (1-2); Stephen Cahill (0-2), Rory Dwan, Pa Bourke (1-6). Subs: John Maher (0-1) for McCarthy, Pa Dunne for Lillis.
JK Bracken's: Nick Keane; Michael Egan, Keith Kennedy, Jack Fogarty; Eanna McBride, Tom Murphy (0-1), Eoin Fitzpatrick; Aidan Fogarty (0-1), Paddy Cadell (0-1); Shane Doyle (0-1), Adrian Bourke, Shane Scully (1-1); Andrew Ormonde (1-1), Lyndon Fairbrother (0-10, 0-10 frees), Jack Kennedy. Subs: David O'Shea for A Bourke, Jordan Moloney for Egan, Dean McEnroe for Doyle, Paddy Delaney for J Kennedy, James Bergin for J Fogarty.
Referee: Sean Everard (Moyne-Templetuohy).
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