All-Ireland Club SHC final: St Thomas' make history

March 17, 2013

Shane Cooney celebrates St. Thomas' goal.
Credit ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan
St Thomas' beat Kilcormac-Killoughey by 1-11 to 1-9 in a tense Croke Park showdown.

The losers finished the game with 13 men - midfielders Killian Leonard and Damien Kilmartin both getting their marching orders in the last ten minutes - as the Tommy Moore Cup went back to Galway once more, thanks largely to the scoring power of Conor Cooney (0-5) and Man of the Match Richie Murray (1-2).

This game was played in very difficult conditions, with rain pouring down for much of the hour, and it went right down to the wire ... the winners knocking over four unanswered points in the fourth quarter to capture the silverware.

The champions-elect led by two points at the break, 1-7 to 1-5, with five different players registering from open play - including Murray's 25th-minute goal. Trevor Fletcher struck the Kilcormac-Killoughey major, while all five of their first-half points came from the hurl of Ciaran Slevin as they struggled to make an impression from play.

Kilcormac-Killoughey started as selected, while the Galway champions made a late change to their starting XV, with Shane Cooney replacing Gerald Murray at right half forward. Both teams began the final tentatively and recorded a wide apiece inside the opening two minutes.

The sides were deadlocked on three points apiece after ten minutes. All three of the Offaly men's scores had come from the reliable stick of Slevin (two frees and one sideline cut), while three different Thomas' men contributed points from open play.

St Thomas' full forward Murray sent his shot wide at the end of a purposeful surge in the fourth minute before Slevin opened the scoring for the Leinster champions from a free in front of the posts. But James Regan slotted over an excellent leveller from the left flank on the run.

Slevin restored Kilcormac-Killoughey's lead with a stunning free into the Hill 16 end but centre forward Conor Mahon was off target as he tried to double that advantage. At the other end, Anthony Kelly shook off his marker to strike an equaliser: 0-2 apiece after seven minutes.

Amazingly, placed ball specialist Slevin claimed his next point from a superb sideline cut on his wrong side - a sublime score to grace any occasion - but this time it was corner forward Bernard Burke who mustered the instant reply.

KK just about cleared their lines following a dangerous St Thomas' attack and a high Brian Leonard delivery was dealt with competently by the Galway kingpins before Shane Cooney and Killian Leonard traded wides.

Conor Cooney's free on 16 minutes dissected the posts to put St Thomas' in front for the first time but Kilcormac-Killoughey's response was both instant and emphatic: full forward Trevor Fletcher - who only started because of the injury to Daniel Currams - pounced on a loose ball after John Burke's charges failed to clear their lines and he booted the sliothar first time to the net with his left foot: 1-3 to 0-4!

Ger Healion made an inspirational fetch and clearance in the Kilcormac-Killoughey goalmouth but there was nothing anybody could do to prevent Conor Cooney's long-range free from flying over the bar to halve the gap: 0-5 to 1-3.

In the 24th minute, St Thomas' reclaimed the lead thanks to a Richie Murray goal: Conor Cooney went for the net with a low 21-yard free but the ball was only half-cleared and the No.14 was on hand to gratefully groundstroke it home: 1-5 to 1-3.

Four minutes from the break, Slevin arrowed over his fourth point when he uncannily converted a sideline cut from the other side, but - with the rain spilling down - Conor Cooney tapped over a close-range free to leave two points between the sides once more.

A minute from the interval, Kilcormac-Killoughey were awarded a soft free from the right wing, which Slevin yet again converted with the minimum of fuss. Underfoot conditions have become extremely difficult and it was this more than any malice that had led to the awarding of the free. But the westerners refused to panic and midfielder Kenneth Burke responded with an injury-time point on the run.

The No.8 thought he had added another score seconds later but this time the umpire waved his effort wide. The short whistle sounded with two points separating the teams and all still to play for after the restart...

The underdogs dominated the third quarter in terms of scores and slotted over four without reply to turn the two-point deficit into a two-point cushion.

At the start of the second half, Shane Cooney hit a wide at the Hill end and Slevin's free was deflected a couple of feet to the left of the St Thomas' goal. Slevin took his sixth point (free) to leave a point between them and KK 'keeper Conor Slevin had to be alert to deny St Thomas' a freak goal when a tantalising delivery came all the way through and almost bounced off the soggy surface to the back of the net.

Kilcormac-Killoughey No.10 Slevin converted a free in the ninth minute of the second half to level the scores, 1-7 each, Despite Slevin's ability from frees, St Thomas' kept fouling and another opportunity soon presented itself: Slevin obliged again from distance, his eighth point making it 1-8 to 1-7 to the Offaly and Leinster champions.

Fletcher, donning No.20, had notched Kilcormac-Killoughey's only score from play to date - the goal - and he demonstrated tremendous perseverance to slot over a point in the 42nd minute. St Thomas' were creaking now and Conor Cooney sent his shot wide of the target.

Surprisingly, Slevin's '65' tailed to the left and wide. At the other end, Murray could do no better from play. However, fourteen minutes from the end, Murray stood up to be counted with St Thomas' first point of the second half, closing the gap to one point again, 1-9 to 1-8.

Murray's celebrations were justified after he executed a fantastic fetch and finish to level the scores again on 48 minutes; Conor Cooney, Bernard Burke and James Regan all had shots blocked as the tension reached fever pitch.

Ten minutes from the end, Kilcormac-Killoughey suffered a major blow when midfielder Killian Leonard picked up a straight red card for striking the arm of Darragh Burke. The sending-off seemed harsh and St Thomas' rubbed salt in the wound when Conor Cooney thumped over a superb lead point from way out the field: 1-10 to 1-9.

Bernard Burke turned down a St Thomas' point and opted to try to get through for a goal but he was stopped in his tracks. David Burke drilled a shot wide from distance - would the Galway representatives rue this wastefulness?

The 14 men recorded another wide in the 55th minute but they refused to give up and the match remained very much in the melting pot. The midlanders were down to 13 men on 58 minutes when midfielder Damien Gilmartin picked up a second yellow card, but Thomas' couldn't put the match to bed and they struck another wide.

Conor Mahon flashed a shot to the left and wide when an equaliser looked likely. But there was still just a point in it as the match went into two minutes of stoppage time.

The point duly arrived but, unfortunately for Kilcormac-Killoughey, it was Conor Cooney who fired it over to put two between them, 1-11 to 1-9. The tension was palpable in the closing seconds and the 13 men tried manfully to rescue the match but St Thomas' held on for a famous victory.

Kilcormac-Killoughey: C Slevin; J Grogan, G Healion, A McConville; K Grogan, P Healion, B Leonard; D Kilmartin, K Leonard; C Slevin (0-8), C Mahon, P Geraghty; J Gorman, T Fletcher (1-1), T Geraghty. Subs: M Leonard for T Fletcher (55), C Guinan for P Geraghty (57).

St. Thomas: P Skehill; C Burke, R Murray, S Skehill; E Tannion, D Burke, S Burke; K Burke (0-1), D Burke; S Cooney, C Cooney (0-5), J Regan (0-1); A Kelly (0-1), R Murray (1-2), B Burke (0-1). Subs: É Burke for A Kelly (42), G Murray for B Burke (59).

Referee: John Sexton (Cork).

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