Thurles Town: North Tipperary & District League champions.
Thurles Town landed the club’s first-ever league title on Friday night when a three-nil win over Roscrea United away from home sealed the North Tipperary & District League Premier Division with three games to play.
Noel Byrne's side has been in startling form on the domestic front this season. Indeed, Thurles Town have won all of their league games thus far - that is some transformation considering the fact that Thurles Town found themselves bottom of the division less than two seasons ago.
Thurles Town recently beat Nenagh Celtic, the defending league champions, 4-2 to set up Friday's league title-winning clash with Roscrea. And, Thurles sealed the league title thanks to a composed performance which featured goals from Aidan Keenan, Michael Foley and, of course, Barry Ryan.
"Job done, yes,” a delighted Thurles Town manager Noel Byrne told the Tipperary Star.
“I suppose you could say that it was a small bit of an anti-climax in the end. We knew after the Nenagh (Celtic) game (won 4-2 two weeks ago), who would have been our nearest rivals, that we had it put to bed. Mathematically, until you are over the line, there is no silverware on the sideboard. I was a bit worried coming over, to be honest with you - we have played everybody this season, but I have to say that Roscrea have been the best footballing side that we have played. So, we are delighted, we are absolutely thrilled."
Noel Byrne also revealed that he was delighted for the Thurles Town club, especially club stalwarts like John Murphy. Supporters of Thurles Town have waited a long time for the club’s first league title.
"I am absolutely thrilled because when I was involved with bigger teams Thurles Town were just also-rans,” Noel Byrne explained as he tried to get his head around why the club had not previously succeeded.
“I suppose it was a case of a lack of ambition - that is probably the right way to describe it. And, they didn't have enough of personnel to do the work off the pitch. It was left to John Murphy year-in year-out with nobody coming on board.
“I made the point when I came in this year that it needed a full root and branch review right the whole way down through the whole playing squad. That's what I did - I gave everyone a chance, especially the lads who had been with the club for the past ten to fifteen years. They all got a chance and I am glad to say there is half a dozen of them here tonight. But I would be the first to say that I brought in seven or eight players that I felt would bring to where we are here tonight.”
The following video features the moment when the final whistle blew during Thurles Town’s three-nil win over Roscrea United on Friday night and team captain Barry Ryan’s acceptance speech.
Although manager Noel Byrne was delighted with the collective application of his players the performance of two individual members of his squad deserved particular praise.
"One player I have to mention is Martin Darmody. Martin came on board at the start of the season,” Noel Byrne explained.
“He wasn't, how would you say, in my plans, but, out of the blue, Martin arrived at training and he has been excellent since. He has played everywhere for us - all over the park; a utility man would be a good description. And then, at the other end of the field Barry Ryan, with 32 or 33 goals this season, has been outstanding. It is a fair return for a chap who is 34 or 35 years of age. He's a goal poacher and you can't teach lads that. That is something you are born with."
Thurles Town have added the Premier Division league title to the Premier Division Shield, but Town are far from finished. Indeed, Noel Byrne insists that his side aims to add two more trophies to their haul this season.
"At the start of this season I had one ambition and that was to win the league. That's what was in my head and that's what I was telling the players - that was the point I was making to the players week-in week-out,” Noel Byrne explained.
“But we still have two cups to play for. We have already won the Premier Shield and we have now added our second piece of silverware and I won't be happy until there are four pieces of silver on that sideboard. And, I mean that."
Noel Byrne has enjoyed a storied career in football, but, for Noel, the success he has enjoyed with Thurles Town this season tops the lot.
"I would put this on top of everything,” Noel Byrne revealed to the Tipperary Star.
“To win this with my own team; a team that I put together myself and built, more or less, from scratch over such a short space of time. In a previous experience with Peake Villa I was building schoolboy teams for years. They all flourished and they all came through into the youths and the junior ranks and had great success. A lot of people don't know it, but when I was involved with Peake Villa we played in two FAI Junior Cup semi-finals. We were up there with the best of them - we played in three FAI Youths Cup finals. All of our schoolboy teams were a success and then the whole thing was brought forward into junior level. And, we won our first league in 2001 when we won the Premier League (Tipperary South & District League). It was being dominated by Clonmel Town and St Michael's and, of course, we came along and we spoiled the party. I have to say that Peake Villa are on the map ever since," Noel Byrne added.
"This is great for the town of Thurles. Soccer is being recognized in Thurles now and that was never the case. Both Peake Villa and Thurles Town have now put Thurles on the map as regards soccer," Noel Byrne said.
THURLES TOWN SQUAD
The victorious Thurles Town squad: Graeme Loughman, Michael Byrne, Ted O’Connor, Aaron Ryan, Stevie Coppinger, Michael Foley, Michael Comerford, Páraic Fogarty, Eoghan Vaughan, Barry Ryan, Paul Kirwan, Aidan Keenan, Liam Hickey, Martin Darmody, Jimmy Pearson, David Coppinger, Robbie Jordan, Fionn Ryan, Colm Pearson, Liam Mackey, Ben Brophy & Phillippe Samuels.
Thurles Town: North Tipperary & District League champions.