THEY may be playing in a change of strip and all white colours, but there will be no flag of surrender waved as far as Thomastown are concerned in the All-Ireland club junior hurling semi-final against Cork’s finest, Kildorrery in Sunday’s semi-final in Cashel (2pm).
The Kilkenny and Leinster champions are chomping on the bit in expectation of a cracker against a team that can destroy their All-Ireland dream.
“There will be only one winner. We want to be that team,” insisted Thomastown manager, Paul Treacy, as the Cats wound down their preparations for what will be their most difficult test of the campaign to date after sailing through the Leinster championship.
Because of a clash of colours, Kildorrery and Thomastown tossed to see who would change strip. The Noresiders lost that head-to-head. They hope that will be end of their reverses against a team that bounced back to win the Cork junior title in 2012 after losing the final the previous year.
Kildorrery won the championship after a thrilling replayed decider against Brian Dillon’s (2-8 to 0-13). As ever, their main man was free taker Peter O’Brien, but he received magnificent support from the likes of Eamon O’Connor and Dave Kelly up front, while Michael Walsh, Shane Fitzgerald, Michael Lillis and John Howard were the other stars right through that campaign and in Munster.
O’Brien the star man
In the Munster final the Leesiders beat St Kieran’s of Limerick by 1-11 to 0-12. They were 0-8 to 0-9 behind heading into the last quarter, but then O’Brien struck for 1-2 within a few minutes and the dynamic of the match changed.
Earlier Butlerstown of Waterford were beaten with consummate ease (4-19 to 0-11) with O’Brien weighting-in with 2-9, while Glanworth (twice), Kilworth and Ballyhooly all fell to the power of Kildorrery – the club was formed in its current guise in 1949 – in the Cork championship.
“They will take some beating. We know that, and we are up for the challenge,” insisted Mr Treacy. “We have no complaints coming into the game. It won’t be for the lack of effort or planning if we fail.”
A few players have suffered a bout of flu and so on recently, but everyone should be fit for the game.”
The buzz around the parish and club is tremendous at the moment. At training during the week the numbers have swelled to 26 or 27 lads. On Sunday, 33 attended training in Grennan.
“You can see the improvement in all the players,” the manager continued. “They are mad for action. The involvement in this championship has given the whole parish, never mind the club, a huge boost.
“Winning the Kilkenny championship was the priority. To go on and win Leinster added to the enjoyment. I felt our players were good enough to win the Kilkenny title, but to go on and achieve it took a bit of doing.
“Potential is one thing, but you have to turn it into achievement and our players did that in 2012. The players are really determined to kick on. The majority of the players are there since 2005 when they felt the disappointment of losing in Leinster.
“They want to get to Croke Park. This is a big chance, perhaps the only one they will get in their careers. They are leaving no stone unturned in the effort to be successful.”
Get all involved
The ’Town took nearly three weeks off after winning the Leinster title. In recent weeks they returned and played challenge matches against Leinster senior champions, Kilcormac of Offaly and Clara, who just happen to be the Leinster intermediate kings.
“We hurled very, very well the day against Kilcormac,” Mr Treacy revealed. “We were beaten by only a point after leading most of the way. The idea was to get as many players on the field and get in a good selection as possible. That was a decent result. We had a full team and the players were really up for the challenge.”
They played Clara the following week and were beaten by five points.
“Clara are a serious side,” was Mr Treacy’s assessment of the Kilkenny intermediate champs who face Silvermines (Tipperary) in the All-Ireland club intermediate semi on Sunday. “They won’t be out of their depth in the senior grade.
“For us, playing good teams like that can only benefit us. You learn what you have when you play quality opposition. That is the way to learn. You might think you are going well, but when you play a top team you find out quickly exactly what you have.
“The players are eager to do well. The thing is to get the balance right on the day between determination and effort. Some times you can try to hard. The secret is to get the balance right, a sort of controlled aggression.
“I keep telling them that if they play as a team rather than anyone taking on too much, that is where their strength lies,” he added.
The ’Town officials saw Kildorrery play in the Munster final, and, needless to added, they were impressed.
“We know that when we qualified for the competition all we heard was that this Kildorrery team was the one to beat,” Mr Treacy revealed. “They are Cork and Munster champions. You don’t win those titles easily. The stories we heard weren’t wrong. They looked good.
Better for experience
“If our lads hurl well I would be happy that we would have a good chance. Every team is beatable, including us. You have to realise that. Leinster wasn’t as strong as it might have been, but you can only beat what is in front of you.
“Maybe sometimes you have to stand back and give your own lads credit. These players will be better for the experience of playing in this competition. The squad is reasonably young. There is a fair future in a lot of the players.
“They are getting a great chance to achieve something huge. They realise that. It is every players dream to play in Croke Park. We have a chance to do that, but that is all it is at the moment. We will do all in our power to drive on this Sunday.”
November 11 – Thomastown 0-17, Lusmagh, Offaly 0-7.
November 18 – Thomastown 1-24, Naomh Eanna, Wexford 0-10.
December 2 – Thomastown 2-13, Rathmolyon, Meath 1-7.
Thomastown panel – Dylan Walsh, Sean Mahony, Shane Lanigan, Brian Murphy, Barry Whelan, Peter O’Hanrahan, Richard O’Hara, Dessie Walsh, Dylan Waugh, Michael Donnelly, Derek Lanigan, Darren Burke, Thomas O’Hanrahan, Jonjo Farrell, David Prendergast, Darragh McGarry, Michael Mahony, James Hoyne, Gary Lehane, Robert O’Hanrahan, Colin Clarke, Adrian Burke, Michael Cullen, Edward Tennyson, Padraig Caulfield, Fergal Challoner, Patrick Whitty, Kieran Treacy, Andy Walsh, Paul Barron, John Fitzgerald, Luke Blanchfield, Neil O’Meara, Eddie Corrway. Stuart Waugh.
Team officials – Paul Treacy (manager); Ray Challoner, Mark Coone, John Donnelly (selectors).