Lovely hurling on Paddy's Day: five club finals that'll live long in the memory
16 March 2017
Na Piarsaigh's clubman Willie Mulcahy celebrates with the players.
The All-Ireland Club SHC final on St Patrick’s Day is always a magnificent occasion. As Cuala of Dublin and Clare kingpins Ballyea prepare to do battle in a novel decider on Friday, we take a look back at five landmark deciders.
1994/95 – Birr (Offaly) V Dunloy (Antrim)
This was the 25th staging of the All-Ireland club hurling championship and these two teams had never met before. Both were bidding for their maiden All-Ireland success and a hard-fought decider in dreadful conditions went right down to the wire before Tony McGrath’s injury-time strike earned the Ulster raiders a replay at the end of the lowest-scoring final ever – 0-9 each. Birr bossed the replay and won by 3-13 to 2-3 to become the first Offaly club to claim the Tommy Moore Cup.
2004/05 – James Stephens (Kilkenny) V Athenry (Galway)
Previous winners in 1976 and 1982, the Kilkenny champions came up against an Athenry side that had ruled the club hurling roost three times in the previous eight years – ’97, 2000 and 2001. With 31,236 in attendance, the Galway club were bidding to equal the record haul of four All-Ireland titles but James Stephens won on a 0-19 to 0-14 scoreline at Croke Park, with Eoin Larkin notching nine points.
2009/10 – Ballyhale Shamrocks (Kilkenny) V Portumna (Galway)
Meetings of teams from these two counties became pretty regular affairs on Paddy’s Day and we had another one in 2010. Portumna were gunning for an incredible three-in-a-row but Ballyhale gatecrashed their party to bag a record-breaking fifth All-Ireland. This game pitted two of the great forwards of the modern era against one another – Joe Canning registered twelve times for the losers and Henry Shefflin hit 0-8 for the Leinster champions, who also had the not-so-shabby TJ Reid (0-3) in their ranks.
2011/12 – Loughgiel Shamrocks (Antrim) V Coolderry (Offaly)
There were 25,412 in Croke Park two years later to witness Liam Watson inspire Antrim and Ulster champions Loughgiel to an incredible 4-13 to 0-17 victory. Watson bagged 3-7 as his club upset the odds and bridged the gap to their breakthrough success of 1983. Watson’s hat-trick and an opening goal from Shay Casey had the winners ahead by 4-6 to 0-9 at the break and they survived a spirited Coolderry rally in the second half.
2015/16 – Na Piarsaigh (Limerick) V Ruairí Óg, Cushendall (Antrim)
Cathal King had the honour of collecting the silverware last year when Na Piarsaigh became the first Limerick club to be crowned All-Ireland champions. Adrian Breen and Kevin Downes netted in the first half as the Munster champions built up a commanding 2-12 to 0-6 half-time lead and went on to win by 2-25 to 2-14.