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Sarsfields' missed opportunity, O'Callaghan's frightening talent and other club hurling talking points

Glen Rovers also added to the magic of this year’s championship by reaching their first Munster decider in 40 years.

1. Missed opportunity for Thurles Sarsfields

THURLES SARSFIELDS’ PLAYERS likely still woke up this morning wondering how they let it slip…again.

Leading Clare’s Ballyea — who won their first county title a week previously — by seven points with 10 minutes to play, it looked almost certain that the Tipp champions would advance to this year’s Munster decider.

When you consider their dominance in Tipperary in recent years — winning six of the last eight county titles — the latest slip-up must be hard to stomach.

In the grander scheme of things, with the likes of Portumna, Ballyhale Shamrocks and reigning champions Na Piarsaigh already out of the race for honours on St Patrick’s Day, many had tipped Sarsfields to go all the way and claim All-Ireland glory for the first time.

But thanks to a last-minute equalising goal from football All-Star nominee Gary Brennan, and an inspirational display from former Hurler of the Year Tony Kelly, in normal and extra-time, Sarsfields somehow came out on the losing side yesterday.

Cusack Park is fast becoming a destination of Sarsfields misery; it was just two years ago that they fell to Cratloe at the same venue after losing Denis Maher to a red card at the throw-in.

Tony Kelly and Padraic Maher Padraic Maher in action for Thurles Sarsfields yesterday. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

The plans of Maher brothers Padraic and Ronan, and Michael Cahill, to back up their All-Ireland success with the Premier County with a club All-Ireland medal fell apart much sooner than many had expected.

2. Con O’Callaghan’s frightening talent

Con O’Callaghan shot to prominence as a footballer this year, starring for Dublin’s U21s before making substitute appearances for Jim Gavin’s All-Ireland-winning seniors in their three Leinster outings.

O’Callaghan was a late inclusion for Cuala — following full-forward Nicky Kenny’s withdrawal through injury — against maiden Laois champions Borris-Kilcotton yesterday and he grabbed his chance with both hands.

The talented dual star ran riot, bagging 4-3 from play, as the Dublin champions eased to a comfortable victory.

He has form for accumulating big tallies in both codes, amassing 3-24 in four matches for Dublin’s U21 footballers this year and scoring 3-6 from play in last year’s Dublin Junior ‘A’ club final against Scoil Uí Chonaill.

Con O'Callaghan finds the net for Cuala. Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

You would think he has played his way into a well-balanced Cuala team on the back of his display at Parnell Park, particularly as the Dalkey club had netted just twice in their previous three matches in the Dublin championship.

O’Callaghan, whose brother Cian is a permanent fixture at full-back for Dublin and the Dalkey club, might have caught Borris-Kilcotton off guard yesterday but you can be sure Carlow champions St Mullins will have their homework done ahead of the semi-final on 20 November.

Fans of the small-ball code in the capital could be waiting quite a while to see the younger O’Callaghan line out in blue however, as he has already stressed his desire to concentrate on inter-county football for the foreseeable future.

3. Glen Rovers’ progress against the odds

The hurling club championships have already offered up plenty of storylines this year — Ballyea’s aforementioned achievement, Slaughtneil becoming the first Derry club to win in Ulster, and Brian Hogan captaining O’Loughlin Gaels to a surprise Kilkenny final win against Ballyhale, to name but a few.

But the achievement of Cork champions Glen Rovers in reaching their first provincial decider in 40 years also deserves recognition, especially considering the financial struggles the club have overcome.

Once again led by the sharp shooting of Patrick Horgan, they saw off the challenge of Limerick’s Patrickswell on Sunday by the narrowest of margins.

Patrick Horgan Glen Rovers' Patrick Horgan. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

In doing so, Rovers set up a provincial decider against Ballyea, which means Munster’s champions won’t be coming from Limerick, Tipperary or Waterford for the first time since Cork’s Newtownshandrum prevailed in 2009.

Ballyea, meanwhile, are hoping to become the first Banner club to be crowned provincial champions since Sixmilebridge in 2000.

A word of warning for other contenders down the line should Rovers succeed in Munster — the previous two times they claimed provincial honours they went on to add All-Ireland honours.

4. Oulart-The Ballagh showing no signs of easing up

The reigning Leinster champions could face Cuala in the provincial decider should they both progress in two weeks’ time.

But before they start considering a title defence they must get over the significant challenge that will be posed by Kilkenny champions O’Loughlin Gaels.

Oulart are showing no signs of sluggishness after a number of long seasons on the road — winning 10 of the last 13 county titles — and still saw off Offaly’s St Rynagh’s comfortably despite playing nearly half of the game with 14 men and being without a number of key players.

The bookmakers can’t split O’Loughlin Gaels and Oulart at the moment, and as a result Dublin champions Cuala are priced as favourites for provincial honours.

But after Oulart got across the line in Leinster last year, winning their first provincial crown and ending a cruel run of defeats at the final hurdle, you’d be brave to back against them repeating the feat.

Aidan Treacy is tackled by Rory Jacob St Rynagh's Aidan Treacy is tackled by Rory Jacob of Oulart-The Ballagh. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

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Alan Waldron

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