Ruairi Óg Cushendall 2-11
St Thomas’ 0-18
2013 champions, St Thomas’, survived a second-half comeback by Ruairi Óg Cushendal to book their place in the All Ireland hurling club final in Parnell Park this afternoon.
Despite a Neil McManus penalty in the fifth minute, Cushendall failed to make an impact in the first-half, falling to a seven-point lead at half time. However, the Antrim side outscored their opponents by 1-8 to five points in the second half.
A late point from young corner back, David Sherry, rescued the situation for Thomas’ deep into injury time, though Cushendall fluffed an opportunity to level the game.
James Regan opened Thomas’ scoring after two minutes, taking advantage of a misjudged puck-out by Eoin Gillan. Cushendall’s fortune changed, however, when Sean McAfee was pulled down inside the square, leaving McManus to bury the ball past Gerald Murray.
With the wind at their backs, Thomas’ responded in fashion with quick points from Eanna Burke and Kenneth Burke. The Galway side quickly took a foothold of the game, with wing-back, Fintan Burke mopping up possession in the half-back line. Brothers, Eanna and Darragh notched on further points to stretch their lead to four points.
It took until the 23rd minute for Cushendall to attempt their first point from play but the effort from McAfee sailed wide. Two minutes later, McAfee finally grabbed his side’s second.
With the Thomas’ half-forward line dominating possession, Cushendall’s discipline began to cost them dearly and Darragh Burke took full advantage, putting his side seven points in the clear which was the gap at half-time after Burke and McManus swapped fress.
The Antrim side emerged as a different outfit in the second-half. Spurred on by their sizeable support, McManus landed two points in quick succession, both from placed balls. Thomas’ were dealt a blow when Kenneth Burke limped off the field with a suspected knee injury. His replacement, Damien McGlynn made an immediate impact with a point from play but the Ruairi Óg brigade responded in fashion as Fergus McCambridge eased his way around the Thomas’ defence and buried their second goal.
With their half-back line and midfield now well on top, Cushendall pushed for the equaliser which they eventually found through two points from Paddy McGill with 49 minutes on the board.
Thomas’ were guilty of being wasteful in possession but they were eventually settled again through Burke, who scored his second point from play, and Regan. That lead was soon canceled out by McManus, who capitalised off Thomas’ frustration in the middle of the field.
With five minutes added on, Thomas’ went in search of the winner through Burke and Regan who sent their efforts wide. Eventually, Sherry made an excellent run up the wing and from the sideline, sent the winning point sailing over the bar.
Donal Naughton had a chance to level the game as he split open the Thomas’ defence but chose to take a half-hearted effort on goal instead which was quickly cleared.
Thomas’ will now face either Ballygunner or Ballyhale Shamrocks in the All Ireland final on March 17.
Ruairi Óg Cushendall: Eoin Gillan; David Kearney, Martin Burke, Sean Delargy; Eoghan Campbell (0-1), Arron Graffin, Paddy Burke; Fergus McCambridge (1-0), Neil McManus (1-4, 1-0 pen, 3f, 1 65); Donal Naughton, Eunan McKillop, Ryan McCambridge; Paddy McGill (0-2), Sean McAfee (0-1), Alex Delargy.
Substitutes: Conor Carson for R McCambridge, Stephen Walsh for S. Delargy
St Thomas’: Gerald Murray; Cian Mahoney, Cathal Burke, David Sherry (0-1); Donal Cooney, Shane Cooney (0-1. 1f), Fintan Burke; James Regan (0-2), David Burke; Darragh Burke (0-6, 4f), Eanna Burke (0-3), Bernard Burke (0-2); Brendan Farrell, Conor Cooney (0-1), Kenneth Burke (0-1).
Substitutes: Damien McGlynn for K Burke, Sean Skehill for Farrell.