Jonjo Farrell scored the late goal that won Thomastown the League final
The Kilkenny intermediate hurling competitions have run true to form.
The two most consistent teams in 2019 have qualified for the championship showdown on Sunday having contested the League final earlier.
Thomastown, the League champions, and Tullaroan have proven themselves to be the best of the lot over the entire season.
Now they are set to renew their rivalry in UPMC Nowlan Park in the championship final a little over a month after Thomastown all but stole the League title.
A late, late goal from Jonjo Farrell earned them a 3-19 to 3-18 win with what was the second last puck of the match.
Tullaroan cried foul afterwards, and with fair justification, claiming the referee added on too much time.
The winning score came between the 66th and 67th minutes.
That is all water under the bridge now, but the result added to the hardship suffered by Tullaroan in recent years during which they have lost five finals at this level.
Defeat was their lot in four league finals (2019, 2018, 2017 against Thomastown and 2015) in recent times, while they grabbed the honours in 2016 when beating Carrickshock.
Alas, a championship defeat against neighbours Graigue-Ballycallan last year was another knock for a panel that is committed and talented but appears to have difficulties closing out games.
It is not that Tullaroan are short of good players who should be able to gel into a nice team.
They have them, but there is a missing piece and finding it has proven to be extremely difficult.
In the semi-final against up-and-down Young Irelands (Gowran), Tullaroan showed that they could cope with the heat of championship battle. They had to dig out a win in the end, needing a strong late burst to get them through.
They rose to the challenge when the need was greatest, so perhaps that might be the turning point for a group that has suffered more in terms of results, much more, than any other in the county in recent decades.
No doubt manager, Jimmy Coogan and selectors, Peter Dukelow, Liam Keoghan and Damien Cleere will be hoping that is the case.
Most certainly, in players like Padraig Walsh, the two Tommy Walshs, Peter and Shane Walsh, John Walton, Ken Coogan, Stephen Maher Martin Keoghan - he was inspiring in the latter stages against ’Irelands - and others they have gifted performers.
Why the combined individual talent, which is very considerable, is not morphing into a winning combination is hard to make out.
You see there is consistency there if you look back at the number of finals Tullaroan have qualified for down the years. Bad teams don’t get to finals, certainly not as many as Tullaroan have been involved in anyway.
Only those in the Tullaroan camp can find the solution.
A League victory
Thomastown, meanwhile, are beside themselves with joy heading to the end of a season that has already thrown up a League victory.
A shot at a League/Championship double is a big deal, and one that has sparked great excitement in the club and area.
The arrival of the well walked Maurice Aylward, as manager, has worked very well. He has enjoyed championship successes with Ballyhale Shamrocks and St Patrick’s (Ballyragget) at both local and national level, and he has helped spark new enthusiasm in the club.
Mr Aylward and his selectors, Shane Lanigan, Richard Murphy and Alan Roche have brought the players along nicely.
Their work has centred mainly around instilling belief in a group they felt had huge talent but was under performing.
They have put a nice shape to their team, picking players in positions that really suited, and the results have flowed.
They are unbeaten in eight League and championship matches.
A 100% clean sweep was spoiled by playing a 2-16 each draw with St Martin’s (Muckalee) in round four of the League.
Clubs dream about putting a run like that together. Achievements like that, for it is an achievement of serious merit, boost belief and confidence, which helps make good players better.
The thing for Thomastown now is to remain level headed if they want to drive on.
A lot done, but much more to be achieved was more or less the line from Mr Aylward.
The ’Town report an okay bill of health as they go in search of what would be their second intermediate championship win, and first since 1983.
Tullaroan have been plagued by injuries over the last six weeks.
They are down three players who started last year’s final - Ger Looby and Shane Cuddihy (both had knee operations) and Bill Gaffney broke a finger in the quarter-final against Fenians.
On top of that, Richie Maher went over on an ankle in the semi-final. He had the ankle in a boot for the last week, so he is a doubt.
Stephen Maher is only coming back from a broken finger, so their resources are stretched a little.
Mighty Tullaroan, the biggest winners of the senior crown with 20 victories, won the intermediate title in 1988.
Tullaroan should have no fears. They looked the better team for most of the League final, but Thomastown’s grit and determination kept them in it.
And they nicked a win in the end. Tullaroan’s injuries have mounted since, and that might cost them now.
Thomastown - Paul Barron, Brian O'Hanrahan, James Burke (capt), David Prendergast, Craig Butler, Cian O’Mara, Brian Murphy, Barry Whelan, Brian Staunton, Des Dunne, John Donnelly, Robbie Donnelly, Jonjo Farrell, Stephen Donnelly, Adrian Burke, Darragh McGarry, Daithí Barron, Richard O’Hara, Eddie Donnelly, Dylan Caulfield, Johnny Barron, Danny Monks, Ned Kirwan, Jack Cullen, David Griffin, Diarmuid Galway, Colin Conway, Shane Maher, Jamie Lanigan, Jack Holden, Jack Cahill, Stephen Connolly (inj), Thomas O'Hanrahan (inj), Aaron Kehoe.
Tullaroan - Paul Buggy, Diarmuid Doheny, Jack Keoghan, Stephen Dowling, Tommy Walsh (Village), Padraig Walsh, Ken Coogan, Tomás Dunne, John Walton, Martin Walsh, Stephen Maher, Martin Keoghan, Peter Walsh, Tommy Walsh (Mountgale), Shane Walsh (capt), Richie Butler, Adam Tallis, Richie Maher, Dylan Simpson, Mark Walsh, John Maher, Billy Cuddihy, Jim Moore, Tommy Walton, Gavin Joyce, Liam Teehan, Sean Cuddihy, Joe Coughlan, Sean Buggy, Joe Norton, Tom Fitzgerald, Ger Luby (inj), Bill Gaffney (inj), Shane Cuddihy (inj), John Moore (inj).
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