Thurles Sarsfields were left to rue wasted chances as their bid for a third Tipperary Water County Minor A Football Championship title came unstuck at Leahy Park in Cashel on Saturday evening when Grangemockler-Ballyneale won a first county pennant at this level.
Tipperary Water County Minor A Football Champion Final
Grangemockler-Ballyneale 2-11 Thurles Sarsfields 0-11
In what was an excellent contest all the way the Mid lads were on a par with their rivals, but the South champions had an edge in one key aspect of the game: taking their chances. Sarsfields’ lapses from play and from frees were to prove very costly; on three separate occasions the woodwork denied the Blues goals.
Grangemockler-Ballyneale had come through a very competitive South championship, taken big scalps on the way and they were strongly fancied to succeed, but the Thurles lads gave as good as they got and did not deserve to lose by two goals. Indeed, they had marginal territorial advantage for much of the first half and with Liam McCormack a big threat Sarsfields led 0-5 to 0-2 after twenty minutes.
The South lads finished the half strongly with three points in five minutes from Ben Comerford, and Jamie Walsh frees (two), but in injury time Liam McCormack had a goal-bound effort from a free come back off the upright and he grabbed the rebound to register a point for a 0-7 to 0-6 interval lead.
It was very much anybody’s game as the sides resumed. Grangemockler-Ballyneale knew that they needed to raise their game while Sarsfields needed to get a better return for the possession and opportunities they had enjoyed.
Sarsfields had a great goal chance in the second minute of the second half, but Liam McCormack was denied by the woodwork and in the 38th minute he was denied a goal by an excellent save from Grangemockler-Ballyneale custodian Shane Corcoran.
A goal from either of those chances would have been a big boost for Sarsfields. Instead, with Grangemockler leading 0-9 to 0-8, misfortune befell the Mid boys when Paudie O'Shea’s delivery was turned into the net by a defender. McCormack was again on target for Sarsfields, but in the 50th minute Mike Lyons got the vital touch to a high centre to score Grangemockler-Ballyneale’s second goal for a 2-9 to 0-9 lead.
Grangemockler were very much in the driving seat now, but Sarsfields kept pushing forward and couple of penetrating runs by Paddy Creedon threatened to produce the goal they needed to get them back in the fray. On one of his forays for goal in the 52nd minute he was hauled down resulting in a black card for the offender.
Two minutes from the end Liam McCormack again hit the woodwork from a free, but by then the title was Grangemockler’s and their delighted fans poured on to the field to hail the heroes at Michael Duffy’s final whistle.
Disappointment for Sarsfields who could not be faulted for effort and who showed the wealth of young football talent there is in the club. They need to be afforded the opportunity to carry this through to adult level. They have a Mid title to show for their efforts this year and with many eligible again next year they should again figure in the shake-up for honours. They had big games on Saturday from Liam McCormack, Darragh Stakelum, Jack Lanigan, Paddy Creedon, Kieran Costello, and Cathal Hayes.
It was Grangemockler-Ballyneale’s day, however, and how they relished it. These lads should provide the nucleus of adult teams in the coming years that will challenge for senior honours with players like Ben Comerford, Mark O'Meara, Leon Kennedy, Mike Lyons and the accurate Jamie Walsh hugely influential.
Grangemockler-Ballyneale: Shane Corcoran, Sean O'Meara, James Daly, Eibhin Hanrahan, Tommy O'Hanlon, Leon Kennedy, Paudie O'Shea (1-0), Ben Comerford, Mark O'Meara (0-1), Jamie Walsh (0-6 frees), Sean Daly, Joey Lyons (0-1), Conor Murphy, Mike Lyons (1-1), Tom Brett (0-1). Subs: Martin Murray (0-1), Harley Joy.
Thurles Sarsfields: Lorcan Cummins, Henry Fogarty, Cathal Hayes, Conor Fogarty, Paddy Stakelum, Kieran Costello (0-1 free), Jordan Fahy, Cian Stakelum, James Armstrong, Joe Dwan, Paddy Creedon (0-1), Darragh Stakelum (0-1), Liam McCormack (0-7, 0-5 frees), Jack Lanigan (0-1), Eoin Purcell. Subs: Darragh Minogue, Oisin O'Brien, Luke Fogarty.
Referee: Michael Duffy (Arravale Rovers).