I AM well aware that both these side are still very prominent leaders of the county junior hurling market, but such observations were not visible in sunny Mullinavat on Saturday when they came forehead to forehead in a classic South junior championship final. Thomastown won by 2-15 to 0-22 against Piltown, writes Barrie Henriques.
This was a game that stirred the cells. The older generations in the fine crowd were busy making comparisons with the South deciders in their time, while the younger breed were busy simply watching and marvelling. From the gun, I felt that Piltown, winners of the All County League last week, looked the sharper and the more likely winners.
They may have an Achilles heel close to their own goal, but they have a sharp set of forwards who know where the posts are and know what to do when in possession and in sight. I would have to admit that I felt that Piltown would win.
Quite simply, they looked the more likely. Daniel Norris is an excellent leader up front, while the mercurial Richie McCarthy, the turbulent Robbie Culleton, the flying Martin Power and the impish Philly Kenny carry a fine degree of potency.
However they didn’t win, and the reasons why, will cause them to analyse and address a few things. It wasn’t all down to Thomastown either, if they are honest with themselves.
This is an honest Thomastown team. Well, they must be. They played second fiddle for most of the game, but came thundering through in the final furlong to breast the tape first.
Both sides had failings. Thomastown wasted a huge amount of hard-won possession in persistently trying to clatter home goals when points were readily available. Piltown presented a number of needless chances from insignificant snatches of indiscipline.
Thomastown were fortunate to get as close as they did at the end of normal time. Piltown had a cushion of three points or so for most of the second half, but they just couldn’t hang on. Nobody will know better than themselves why that was.
One of the reasons, in my opinion, was the sterling work ethic of one of the more senior players on the Thomastown team, the ageless Dessie Walsh. This guy’s brain is as sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel. When Piltown were wilting, Dessie was central to their every faltering step.
May I give you a comparison?
With the game at the added time level, and Piltown leading by a single point, Thomastown were awarded a line-ball some 30 yards out. While a flotilla of advisers presented their tuppence-worth to Dessie, the man knew his own capabilities, and with a courage that roared “I can do this”, he bent the sideline ball between the Piltown posts.
Compare that to the brilliantly accurate James Norris from Piltown. The game tied at 0-19 apiece, and the awarding of a free midway between the centre and the sideline, some thirty yards out. To win the game, it was fired wide.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man! One felt sorry for the Piltown youngster, nonetheless.
Playing against the strong, difficult breeze in the first half, Thomastown were cast in the mould of hanging on to the Piltown shirt-tail. It was a big ask, because they found it difficult to cope with the likes of Andrew Norris, Andrew McCarthy, Peter McCarthy and Shane Kinsella.
The long-distance striking of Peter McCarthy was phenomenal, driving frees over the Thomastown bar from 100 metres at his ease.
Piltown led at the break by 0-12 to 0-8. It could well have been more but for the heroism of young goalie Darragh McGarry, who made three amazing saves. The regular Thomastown custodian, Dylan Walsh, has county under-21 duties with Kilkenny this weekend.
It seemed for a long time in the second half that Piltown just might hold their always three-point lead. However, the Dessie Walsh sideline cup gave Thomastown a chance of extra-time. Piltown totally imploded, and goals by Jon Jo Farrell and substitute, Adrian Burke in the first period of extra-time cooked the Piltown goose.
The losers should have won in normal time, and probably deserved to. Thomastown won the game in the extra-time, and certainly deserved to. These are two good junior outfits. They still might meet in the county final.
Thomastown had marvellous warriors in Darragh McGarry, Sean Mahoney, Shane Lanigan, Brian Murphy, Richard O’Hara and the two O’Hanrahans’. Dessie Walsh was a strong leader, while Jon Jo Farrell, Mick Donnelly and Adrian Burke were the pick of the attackers.
For Piltown, Andrew Norris, Peter McCarthy and Shane Kinsella defended well. Nollaig Brophy won plenty of ball around midfield, while Martin Power, James Norris, and Robbie Culleton were the pick of the attackers.
Scorers: Thomastown - Jon Jo Farrell (1-5, two pointed frees); Michael Donnelly (0-6, three frees); Stuart Waugh (0-4, frees); Adrian Burke (1-0); Robert O’Hanrahan (0-3, frees); Dylan Waugh (0-2); Dessie Walsh (0-2, one lineball); Darren Burke, Davy Prendergast, Gary Lehane (0-1 each). Piltown - James Norris (0-9, eight frees); Daniel Norris, Richie McCarthy (0-3 each); Martin Power (0-2); Peter McCarthy (0-2, frees); Nollaig Brophy, Philly Kenny, Kevin Walsh (0-1 each).
Thomastown - Darragh McGarry, Sean Mahoney, Shane Lanigan, Brian Murphy, Robert O’Hanrahan, Peter O’Hanrahan, Richard O’Hara, Dessie Walsh, Barry Whelan, Michael Donnelly, Stuart Waugh, Darren Burke, Thomas O’Hanrahan, John Jo Farrell, Davy Prendergast. Subs - Dylan Waugh, Gary Lehane, Adrian Burke, Edward Tennyson.
Piltown - Andrew Norris, Brendan Norris, Andrew McCarthy, Michael Burchill, Peter McCarthy, Shane Kinsella, Neil Kelly, Kieran Norris, Nollaig Brophy, Martin Power, Daniel Norris, Philly Kenny, Richard McCarthy, James Norris, Robbie Culleton. Sub - Kevin Walsh.
Referee - R. Dowling (Kilmacow).