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Dublin: 6 °C Thursday 14 November, 2019
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47-year wait ended as North Tipperary dominates last four in senior hurling race

Kiladangan, Nenagh Éire Óg, Borris-Ileigh and Kilruane MacDonaghs are all in Sunday’s senior semi-finals.

It'll be a massive day of action in Thurles.
It'll be a massive day of action in Thurles.
Image: INPHO

AS THE RESULTS filtered through over the course of last weekend, the pattern started to emerge.

Kiladangan were the first club to plant a flag in the semi-finals for the north division of Tipperary. Nenagh Éire Óg joined them later on Saturday afternoon in the county senior hurling semi-finals.

Borris-Ileigh prevailed by two points in Sunday’s first game and then Kilruane MacDonaghs took care of business in the last of the quarter-finals to complete the set.

The north may be regarded as a stronghold for hurling in the county with 13 clubs operating at senior level but Sunday will mark the first time in 47 years that the Tipperary senior hurling championship has reached the semi-final juncture and it is a race that will be only run by teams from their division.

Borris-Ileigh are the only one of the current quartet who featured back then in 1972, they face Kilruane MacDonagh in Semple Stadium with Kiladangan meeting Nenagh Éire Óg in the curtain-raiser.

Interest is naturally spiked in the club campaign of a county that attains All-Ireland honours. The intrigue in Tipperary is rooted in the novel picture that has been painted since Seamus Callanan hoisted the Liam MacCarthy Cup into their air on 18 August.

Consider Tipperary’s recent All-Ireland triumphs and the subsequent winners of the Dan Breen Cup. After they defeated Galway in the 2001 decider, Toomevara went on to complete four-in-a-row locally.

The 2010 and 2016 victories over Kilkenny both preceded county final wins for Thurles Sarsfields, the first a retention of their title and the second a third on the spin. 

But the 2019 championship has a groundbreaking feel to it in Tipperary. The removal of recent kingpins in recent weeks has paved the way for some team to claim a milestone win. The exit of Thurles Sarsfields in mid-September was noteworthy, their five-in-a-row dream had only ended in a county semi-final tie last October. Since 2000 they have appeared in 13 finals and achieved glory in eight. That illustrates their era of marked dominance.

Loughmore-Castleiney, twice champions in modern times, bowed out in a preliminary quarter-final of the county section and last weekend marked the end of the road for Toomevara, multiple victors in the 90s and 00s, the 2011 winners Drom-Inch and the reigning title-holders Clonoulty-Rossmore.

john-devane-celebrates-with-his-players Clonoulty players and management celebrate last year's county final victory. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

Have a look at who’s still standing then.

Nenagh Éire Óg, who suffered on county final day last year and have had similar afternoons of hardship on four other occasions since they last won it in 1995. Kiladangan have never won the title. Borris-Ileigh’s most recent success was back in 1986, for Kilruane MacDonagh’s it was twelve months previously in 1985.

So it’ll either be a first-time champion or a barren spell of 24, 33 or 34 years that will be broken.

There has been signals that this quartet are coming forces though. Nenagh have knocked on the final door without gaining entry in 2013, 2015 and 2018. Kiladangan lost their maiden final in 2016 to Thurles Sarsfields, the same outfit that administered defeat to Borris-Ileigh in 2017. Kilruane are back in a semi-final after losing out four years ago.

And consider the volume of players supplied by the clubs to the Tipperary panels that swept to All-Ireland titles in August.

Senior

  • Kiladangan – David Sweeney, Willie Connors, Barry Hogan, Alan Flynn.
  • Nenagh Éire Óg – Jake Morris, Barry Heffernan,
  • Borris-Ileigh – Brendan Maher, Dan McCormack.
  • Kilruane MacDonaghs – Jerome Cahill, Niall O’Meara, Cian Darcy.

U20

  • Kiladangan – Billy Seymour, Sean Hayes.
  • Nenagh Éire Óg – Conor McCarthy, Jake Morris.
  • Kilruane MacDonaghs – Craig Morgan, Jerome Cahill, Kian O’Kelly.

There is also the calibre of names directing matters on the sideline for them. Kiladangan have ex-Kildare manager Brian Lawlor and Portumna’s Sean Treacy, with his wealth of Galway hurling experience, involved.

Na Piarsaigh’s All-Ireland winning pair of Shane O’Neill and Darragh Droog have moved from Limerick to help out in Nenagh with club stalwart Noel Maloney at the core.

Johnny Kelly, recently appointed to work alongside Michael Fennelly in Offaly, is directing matters for Borris-Ileigh. Eamon O’Shea is helping Kilruane along with Cormac McGrath, both having had coaching jobs with Liam Sheedy’s flagship side this summer.

It all combines for a semi-final day that creates major opportunities with county final spots on the line.

It’s already been a memorable year for Tipperary hurling with that double achievement on the All-Ireland stages in August.

Four clubs are left with the chance to create more memories they can savour before the close of 2019.

Well, it’s finally here. Andy Dunne, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey make a call on Ireland’s World Cup quarter-final with New Zealand.


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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