SUNDAY turned out to be a good day at home and away for Kilkenny teams when Thomastown won a Leinster title in a far off place, and Claa won one at home.
Thomastown picked up an early Christmas present with success in the Leinster club junior hurling final against Meath minnows, Rathmolyon, who turned in a gutsy performance before surrendering at Páirc Táilteann, Navan. Thomastown won by 2-13 to 1-7. Clara won the club intermediate championship.
There was no debate about the outcome in Navan after Dublin referee, Gerard McGrath ended the contest as the light began to fade. Still the Kilkenny men were relieved to have survived a potentially tricky assignment.
Thomastown had every reason to be confident ahead of the final following fine wins in the previous rounds over Lusmagh (Offaly) and Wexford champions, Naomh Eanna in the semi-final.
Full of praise
However, the relief was reflected in the speech by Thomastown captain, Jonjo Farrell who was full of praise for the efforts of his own players, but also gave great credit to the Meath champions.
“It was a tough hard game. We got what we expected. This was one of our most difficult games so far and I hope we can go on now to win the All-Ireland title,” he said to loud cheers from the large contingent of travelling supporters.
The atmosphere throughout was electric, a fact that Leinster Council chairman Martin Skelly mentioned during his speech.
“The supporters really got behind their teams. There was a great atmosphere, and it was an exciting contest,” he remarked.
While Thomastown were worthy winners, the scoreline reflects a little unfairly on a huge Rathmolyon effort. The Kilkenny men grabbed two goals as the clock ticked into second-half injury-time.
Rathmolyon had battled tenaciously to get the deficit down to three points, but that was as much as they could manage. Thomastown richly deserved to take the silverware back to the south-east.
It was probably fitting that a Kilkenny man was instrumental in winning the Rathmolyon penalty from which Gary Cole rifled the sliotar to the net with four minutes remaining.
Rathmolyon substitute, Tom Henderson was wrestled to the ground in the small square by a tackle that earned Thomastown custodian, Dylan Walsh a yellow card.
The Meath men were unable to build on that and displaying real quality, Thomastown reacted positively with that late brace of goals, the first from Adrian Burke and the second from Thomas O’Hanrahan.
The goals added a realistic look on the scoreboard as Thomastown were sometimes woeful in the finishing department and tallied a dozen wides, eight in the first-half, a statistic that manager Paul Tracey and his selectors Ray Challoner, Mark Coone and John Donnelly will have to address ahead of the next test.
The Cats next exgagement will be in the All-Ireland semi-final on the weekend of January 26/27 against the as yet unknown Munster champions.
“We are looking foward to the All-Ireland series,” said Thomastown manager, Paul Treacy. “The players, all of them, have their mind on the job. Winning Leinster was great after scoring three good wins. We are a bit in the dark as to how to progress from here, but we will work it out.”
Away with Army
Rathmolyon were also without one of Meath’s finest hurlers at county level for the last 20 years, Mike Cole, who was deployed to Chad last month with the Irish army.
Manager Martin Curran suggested that Cole would have relished the chance to play against quality opposition like Thomastown.
“Mike Cole would have made a big difference for us. I’m not offering excuses, but he would have caused problems for the Thomastown defence. We knew that he would miss the final if we got to it. I’m proud of all our players,” stated Curran.
Played at a fast pace from the throw-in, the Kilkenny champions attempted to blow Rathmolyon out of the water, but found that the Royal County men were up to the challenge during a frantic opening quarter.
Rathmolyon, after leading briefly, were worthy of parity (0-3 apiece) at the end of a pulsating first-quarter. Michael Donnelly had two pointed frees on the ’board for Thomastown inside the opening two minutes, one from a huge effort from his own 65-metre line
However, three unanswered points from Jack Fagan (two frees) and Cole settled Rathmolyon and gave them a narrow lead until Dessie Walsh’s 15th minute point from play drew the sides level.
Thomastown dictated the trend of play during the remainder of the half, but some woeful finishing, coupled with some fine Rathmolyon defending kept the game alive. Thomastown were deservedly ahead by 0-8 to 0-4 at the interval with the points added by Jonjo Farrell and O’Hanrahan (two each) and Donnelly.
Great goal chance
Farrell also had a great goal chnace, but fluffed his lines when one-on-one with Rathmolyon goalkeeper, Joey Gantley close to the interval.
Gantley blocked well and cleared and the Meath men added a Cole free to close the gap to four points at the break.
Rathmolyon dug deep during the third quarter and each side managed a brace of points with Cole (65) and Fagan for the Meath side countering efforts from Thomastown’s Farrell and Donnelly.
That left four points in it. The gap remained the same after Donnelly and Fagan traded points from frees. It would have to be added that Thomastown’s inability to hit the target as they tallied some more terrible wides was a contributory factor to that state of affairs.
Further points from Donnelly and Farrell increased Thomastown’s lead to six points, but the Kilkenny men were rocked when Cole converted that penalty for Rathmolyon with four minutes remaining.
That was the wake up call that Thomastown needed. With Rathmolyon pushing forward they replied with those two quick goals that sealed a memorable victory.
Scorers: Thomastown - Michael Donnelly (0-6, five frees, one 65); Thomas O’Hanrahan (1-2); Jonjo Farrell (0-4); Adrian Burke (1-0); Dessie Walsh (0-1). Rathmolyon - G. Cole (1-3, goal penalty, point free, one 65); J. Fagan (0-4, frees).
Thomastown - Dylan Walsh; Sean Mahony, Shane Lanigan, Brian Murphy; Barry Whelan, Peter O’Hanrahan, Richard O’Hara; Dessie Walsh, Derek Lanigan; Dylan Waugh, Michael Donnelly, Darren Burke; Thomas O’Hanrahan, Jonjo Farrell, David Prendergast. Subs - Stuart Waugh for D. Burke 45 mins; Edward Tennyson for Murphy 46 mins; Michael Mahony for Prendergast 48 min; Adrian Burke for D. Lanigan 55 min.
Rathmolyon - J. Gantley; A. McEnroe, G. Whelan, N. Cole; M. Lynch, A. Fagan, E. Regan; N. Fagan, T. Cosgrove; J. Fagan, T. Lynch, G. Cole; J. Farrell, K. Fagan, G. Doherty. Subs - D. Morgan for Doherty 41 mins; T. Henderson for T. Lynch 48 min.
Referee - Gerard McGrath (Dublin).