Loughmore bridge 19 year gap

January 15, 2008
The Dan Breen Cup will winter in Loughmore-Castleiney for only the second time following the club's recent victory over neighbours Drom & Inch in the Tipperary senior hurling final. Delighted with the success was Jonathan Cullen of team sponsors Clodagh Construction. There were great celebrations in the tiny villages of Loughmore and Castleiney on October 21 last following the local club's emphatic victory over near neighbours Drom & Inch in the Tipperary senior hurling championship final. The success, which few had predicted earlier in the campaign, was only Loughmore-Castleiney's second ever and bridged a 19-year gap since their last triumph when they defeated another neighbouring club, Borris-Ileigh, in the final. And for Jonathan Cullen of club sponsors Clodagh Construction, it brought back many happy memories. "I was actually the team mascot when we last won in 1988," he explains. "And another link with that final from a Clodagh Construction point of view was the involvement of my business partner Timmy Stapleton with Borris-Ileigh. Timmy captained Tipperary in 1983 and played at full back for Borris-Ileigh in that final." Jonathan adds: "It was a marvellous achievement for Loughmore-Castleiney to win the hurling championship when it's taken into consideration that it's predominantly a football club and the team went into the final without Martin Gleeson, Tommy Ormond and Diarmuid Brennan. They're three vitally important players, but in fairness to the rest of the lads, they upped their game and turned in a great performance in the final." This was Clodagh Construction's second year as sponsors of the Loughmore-Castleiney senior hurling team. Established over 20 years ago by the aforementioned Timmy Stapleton, the company has experienced steady growth since then and now employs 16 staff. Jonathan Cullen joined the company as a director four years ago. The farm building contract firm, which is based in Pallas, Borris-Ileigh, has employed numerous local hurling stars down the years, including current Loughmore players Seamie Bohan and Noel McGrath. "Seamie came on as a sub in the final and Noel, who worked with us this summer, had a great game, scoring 0-6 from half forward. Noel is only 16 and I'm sure people will be hearing a lot more about him in years to come." Jonathan is a staunch Loughmore-Castleiney man, having worn the green and red jersey at underage level before becoming the club's youngest ever chairman (aged 22) six years ago. "I served three years as chairman and am now managing our senior footballers as well as being PRO of the Tipperary football board," he explains. Cullen acknowledges that the expectations weren't high for Loughmore-Castleiney at the start of the year and prior to the county semi-finals, generous odds of 7/1 could still be got on them to lift the Dan Breen Cup. "They were written off all year, but I suppose that's the way they like it. You wouldn't have given them much hope after they lost the Mid Tipp final to Thurles Sarsfields, but I think the turning point in their year came over the following seven days when they beat JK Brackens in both the football and hurling championships. "On the Wednesday night after the Thurles game, they beat the Brackens in the Mid Tipp football semi-final and that helped to get their confidence back. And then the following Sunday, they beat the Brackens again in the hurling qualifier to get their campaign back on track." Under the management of Eamonn Sweeney (who also doubles up as club chairman) and his selectors Frankie and Michael McGrath, Loughmore-Castleiney recorded Mid Tipp wins over Boherlahan-Dualla (1-20 to 1-13) and JK Brackens (4-10 to 2-14) to qualify for the final against Thurles Sarsfields on September 9. As it transpired, the town side proved too strong, running out 0-22 to 3-9 winners and leaving Loughmore-Castleiney facing JK Brackens of Templemore for a second time in the county championship qualifier. In another hard-fought contest, Loughmore emerged as 2-16 to 3-10 winners to set up a quarter-final meeting with Borris-Ileigh. Once again Eamonn Sweeney's charges showed tremendous battling qualities, scoring two goals in the last 10 minutes to win by 3-13 to 1-13. In the county semi-final on October 7, two points in injury-time and a masterful display from teenage sensation Noel McGrath gave Loughmore-Castleiney a shock 0-15 to 0-13 victory over championship favourites Nenagh Og. Hotly fancied Nenagh were never allowed to settle by a determined Loughmore side, who led by 0-7 to 0-5 at half-time, although they looked like forcing a replay until late points from substitute David McGrath and Edward Connolly settled the issue. Loughmore's final opponents were Mid Tipp rivals Drom & Inch, who were bidding for a first county hurling title. A close contest was expected, but instead it proved to be something of a mismatch as a stronger and more skilful Loughmore cruised to a comprehensive 0-22 to 0-13 victory. Drom & Inch opened the scoring through Seamus Callanan inside the first minute, but the green and reds soon took control and were well on their way to victory when leading by 0-13 to 0-5 at half-time. Within 30 seconds of the restart, Noel McGrath registered a super point from the left wing and the result was never in any doubt after that. By the 55th minute, the winners had stretched their lead to 14 points, 0-22 to 0-8. Drom & Inch scored the last five points, but by then the Loughmore-Castleiney supporters were already celebrating in the stands. Loughmore were especially impressive in attack where centre forward and man of the match Evan Sweeney did most of the scoring, finishing with 0-9, 0-5 of which came from play. He was closely followed by McGrath on 0-6 (0-3 from play), while Ronan Stapleton scored 0-3 and Michael Webster and Eddie Connolly 0-1 apiece. The only forward who didn't score, Paul Brennan, had a hand in a number of scores and was hugely effective. It is impossible to talk about Loughmore-Castleiney without mentioning football. Since the club was formed in 1961, it has won seven Tipperary county senior football titles, the most recent in 2004. Indeed, Loughmore-Castleiney has monopolized the Mid Tipp senior football championship and when they beat JK Brackens in 1999, it was their 34th title in 35 years. This year, under Jonathan Cullen's tutelage, they once again won the Mid Tipp football title at the expense of Moyne/Templetuohy. But their county championship hopes were ended at the quarter-final stage by Declan Browne's Moyle Rovers. Despite that disappointment, it was still a great year for Jonathan and his beloved Loughmore-Castleiney. "As well as managing our footballers to a Mid Tipp title and seeing our hurlers win their first county championship in 19 years, I got married (to Mairead Ryan) on July 7, so it's a year that I won't forget in a hurry," he concludes. The Loughmore-Castleiney team that defeated Drom & Inch in the Tipperary SHC final was: J Gleeson (captain); A Stapleton, D Bourke, P Ormonde; E Ryan, D Kennedy, T King; C McGrath, G Sweeney; P Brennan, E Sweeney, N McGrath; E Connolly, M Webster, R Stapleton. Subs used: D McGrath, T Long, S Boher and G Morris. * Since we spoke to Jonathan, Loughmore-Castleiney made further history by adding the Munster club title to their county championship crown. They will face Portumna of Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final in February.

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