Sunday 29 January 2023 Dublin: 5°C
Bryan Keane/INPHO Mark Caulfield celebrates scoring a goal for St Thomas'.
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St Thomas' complete Galway five-in-a-row after holding off gutsy Loughrea challenge
A Mark Caulfield goal proved to be the decisive score as the defending champions held onto their crown.

St Thomas’ 1-15

Loughrea 0-17

Kevin Egan reports at Pearse Stadium

ST THOMAS’ HAD to draw on every ounce of experience and know-how to pull a tense a dramatic Galway senior hurling final out of the fire at Pearse Stadium this afternoon, but eventually the 2013 All-Ireland club champions were able to find that extra bit of composure to edge past a sharp and competitive Loughrea side in the last county final of the season.

Five-in-a-row doesn’t come easy out west – it was a feat that the multiple All-Ireland winning sides from Portumna, Athenry and Sarsfields never managed – but while there were plenty of games over the last five years where the sheer class of St. Thomas’ blew their opponents out of the water, this was a very different story today.

The narrative surrounding Loughrea from last week was that they left behind a glorious chance to break a 16-year championship drought, while the late dismissal of Darren Shaughnessy also proved to be a key decision that went against them.

Regardless of their own motivation, they exploded out of the blocks here too, and were full value for their 0-4 to 0-2 lead after five minutes, with Jamie Ryan and Joe Mooney striking highlight reel points.

St. Thomas’ settled however to reduce the gap to one, and then hit the front when a powerful run from Conor Cooney ate up 60 metres of ground and opened up the Loughrea defence, enabling Mark Caulfield to take the pass, step inside his man and pick out the top corner.

Loughrea responded well to that setback and while they briefly fell three points behind after Victor Manso made it 1-5 to 0-5 – the biggest lead of the game – they rallied again to draw level before the break.

However the switch of Caulfield to the forward line – notionally centre forward but also spending time on the edge of the square and on the wing – proved to be crucial, as the man who played centre back all year long picked off two majestic scores before the break to help St. Thomas to a 1-7 to 0-9 interval lead, and also to mark the card of the man of the match adjudicators, who eventually plumped for the big man.

That lead lasted all of 20 seconds after half-time thanks to Tiernan Killeen, and another nip and tuck 30 minutes got underway.

The scoring rate slowed considerably, not due to a lack of quality but instead due to in incredible level of physicality, allied to the quite lenient approach to robust defensive tackling applied by referee John McDonagh.

Tiernan and Caimín Killeen struck excellent points for Loughrea while Oisín Flannery and Caulfield picked off some superb scores on the St. Thomas’ side, but entering the closing stages, supporters on both sides must have suspected that these sides might well be headed for extra time.

Instead however, St. Thomas found their composure when they needed it most, while Loughrea, who had been incredibly accurate in their shooting all afternoon, suddenly found their radar failing.

Initially it looked like the younger and livelier Loughrea side might prevail when a superb score from Darren Shaughnessy edged them 0-16 to 1-12 in front with seven minutes remaining.

It wasn’t to be, as Conor Cooney nailed two long-range pressure frees and Éanna Burke completed a run of three vital points on the spin in the 59th minute, asking incredibly tough questions of the town club.

Galway senior panellist Tiernan Killeen stepped up to the mark with an accurate finish from out on the left wing.

But while the underdogs created three other decent chances to equalise, albeit all struck from 60 metres out or more, they were wide of the mark on all three occasions.

Neil Keary pushed a free and a strike from the right side of midfield wide of the left-hand upright to increase the sense of heartbreak in Loughrea, a sharp contrast to the jubilation that erupted in the packed stand among the St. Thomas’ contingent when their historic win was confirmed.

Scorers for St. Thomas’: Mark Caulfield 1-3, Conor Cooney 0-4 (0-3f), Éanna Burke 0-2, Bernard Burke 0-1, John Headd 0-1, Darragh Burke 0-1, Victor Manso 0-1, Cathal Burke 0-1, Oisín Flannery 0-1.

Scorers for Loughrea: Neil Keary 0-5 (0-4f), Jamie Ryan 0-4 (0-2f), Tiernan Killeen 0-3, Martin McManus 0-2, Joe Mooney 0-1, Caimín Killeen 0-1, Darren Shaughnessy 0-1.

St. Thomas’

1 Gerald Kelly

5 Evan Duggan

3 Fintan Burke

2 Cian Mahony

7 Cathal Burke

9 David Burke

4 John Headd

8 Bernard Burke

10 Darragh Burke

20 Victor Manso

11 Conor Cooney

6 Mark Caulfield

12 Damien McGlynn

15 Oisín Flannery

13 Éanna Burke

Subs Used: Brendan Farrell for B Burke (54 mins), Conor Headd for Manso (56).

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1 Gearóid Loughnane

3 Paul Hoban

4 Kieran Hanrahan

9 Johnny Coen

23 Darren Shaughnessy

8 Ian Hanrahan

20 Brian Keary

7 Oisín Coyle

12 Tiernan Killeen

10 Neil Keary

25 Dylan Shaughnessy

21 Anthony Burns

13 Martin McManus

11 Joe Mooney

14 Jamie Ryan

Subs used: Caimín Killeen for B Keary (33 mins), Shane O’Brien for Dylan Shaughnessy (39 mins), Tom Hoban for Burns (58).

Referee: John McDonagh (Kinvara).

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