Aherlow’s brief taste in the top flight of Tipperary hurling came to an end at Holycross when they were outplayed by a lively Upperchurch-Drombane in the relegation play-off final in the senior hurling championship, 1-22 to 1-8
It was a disappointing end to the year for the West side who gave all they had but whose shortcomings, particularly in attack, were exposed by a very slick Upperchurch combination.
Upperchurch-Drombane preserved their senior status sending the West representatives back into the intermediate grade, and while Aherlow have never been overwhelmed by any of their opponents in senior ranks, they will acknowledge that they have some ground to make up to survive at this level.
Upperchurch-Drombane stamped their authority on this game from an early stage and looked likely winners all the way. Boosted by the return from Australia of Pat Shortt they played a faster, slicker, brand of hurling and in Padraig Greene had a real match winner, the corner forward bagging a total of 1-6 from play.
However, a gutsy Aherlow outfit did not make things easy for them. They were competitive all the way but their lack of fire-power up front caused them to struggle, particularly in the second half when they scored only three points but shot eight wides.
It was a lively opening period with Upperchurch-Drombane on top but being erratic in their finishing. As the sides shared four points in the opening 12 minutes, Upperchurch also were wide of target four times, Cathal Dillon scoring both for Aherlow, with Paul Ryan and Paul Shanahan on target for The Church.
The Mid side were 0-6 to 0-4 ahead when in the 24th minute Cathal Dillon netted a penalty for Aherlow after Seamus Grogan was fouled. Aherlow’s lead was short-lived. Colm Ryan pointed to level and then Padraig Greene banged home a goal for Upperchurch after Pat Shortt created the opening. Greene and Colm Ryan added points to leave Upperchurch ahead 1-9 to 1-5 at the break.
Still all to play for and while Upperchurch were doing better, Aherlow were by no means out of it. What a transformation in the second half though as Upperchurch outpointed their rivals 13 to 3 for a win far more comfortable than they could have imagined during the interval.
The signs were there immediately on resuming as Padraig Greene pointed inside a minute and he, twice, Pat Shortt and Paul Ryan, twice, extended the advantage to ten points by the end of the third quarter.
Aherlow desperately needed inspiration from some quarter. Cathal Dillon’s pointed sixty five was welcome, their first score of the period, but Upperchurch’s response was emphatic, Pat Shortt and Paul Shanahan pointing. Thomas Hanley for Aherlow and Pat Shortt swapped points and Aherlow were denied the goal they needed when Seamus Grogan’s effort was beaten out for a sixty five.
Had they netted then, who knows, but it was Upperchurch who drove on, sub Colm Stapleton signalling his arrival with a neat point. Paul Ryan added a brace, and Thomas Hanley and Padraig Greene exchanged points as the game moved into added time.
Aherlow battled as determinedly as ever but could not match the quality of their rivals. They had to work very hard for their scores and when one takes into account that 1-4 of their tally came from placed balls, it underlines their shortcomings up front. Gordon Peters was solid in goal with Brian Moroney, Mark O’Shea, Thomas Hanley, Seamus Grogan and the accurate Cathal Dillon others to figure prominently.
Upperchurch-Drombane – Ciaran Shortt; Sean Harty, Matt Ryan, Leonard Purcell; Padraig Stapleton, James Barry, John Ryan(J); Andy Kinane, L J Ryan; Pat Shortt(0-4,2fs), Colm Ryan (0-3), Paul Shanahan(0-2); Padraig Greene(1-6), Paul Ryan (0-5, if), Eoin Shortt(0-1). Subs- Colm Stapleton(0-1) for Shanahan; Stephen Gleeson for P Stapleton; Seamus Armstrong for E Shortt; Jack Ryan for P Ryan;
Aherlow – Gordon Peters; Ed O’Meara, Mark O’Shea, Mark Hanley; Bernard O’Brien, Brian Moroney, Lawrence Coskeran; Sean Mullins, Thomas Hanley(0-2); Cathal O’Shea(0-1), Paddy Hennessy, Cathal Dillon (1-4, all frees); Liam Richardson(0-1), Seamus Grogan, Stephen Chapman; Subs- Conor O’Shea for Chapman; John Moloney for O’Meara; Peter McKnight for Richardson;
Ref- Anthony Sherlock;