South Tipperary captains Aidan Griffin, left, and Conor Duggan, lift the Michael Hogan trophy.
South Tipperary were crowned Celtic Challenge Division 1 (Corn Michael Hogan) champions for 2017 in Dr. Cullen Park Carlow on Saturday following a slim 2-11 to 0-16 victory against Galway Maroon in a sometimes tense and sometimes thrilling game of hurling.
Playing against the wind in the first half South Tipperary opened in determined fashion with early points from Tomas Vaughan, Mark Downey, Stephen Grogan and Aaron Ryan. Eoin Caulfield opened the Galway Maroon account from close to the left side-line which was added to by a pointed free from Enda Egan and one from play by Noel Keogh.
In what was one of the highlights of the match South Tipperary defender Cian Mullane made a great high catch from an Eoghan Connolly sideline cut and struck an inspirational long distance point to give his side a three point advantage.
Galway Maroon responded with purpose and scored the next four points courtesy of John Fleming, Niall Cohen, Nathan Earner and Enda Egan to go into a one point lead approaching half time. Both sides then swapped frees to leave the half time score Galway Maroon 0-8 South Tipperary 0-7.
The South Tipperary panel with the cup.
Just as South Tipperary had opened the first half brightly they did likewise in the second half hitting 2-1 to Galway Maroons 0-1 in the early stages of the half with the South Tipperary point coming from the energetic Martin Keogh and the goals coming from Aaron Ryan and Tomas Vaughan, both following great work from Stephen Grogan who was causing a lot of problems at full forward.
The Westerners’ point came from the impressive John Fleming who also had an attempt at goal which was excellently blocked by Josh Ryan. From here to the end of the game both defences excelled which ensured that scores from play were at a premium.
Both defences were so tenacious that of the remaining nine scores only two would be scored from play with these coming from South Tipperary midfielders Martin Keogh and Riain Quigley respectively. Galway Maroon’s Enda Egan ensured that South Tipperary indiscretions were punished from placed balls whereas Aidan Griffin and Eoghan Connolly did likewise for the Munster men. Eoghan Connolly’s late long distance free to put South Tipperary three points up was worthy of any stage at any grade.
Although three points down approaching the conclusion of the game Galway Maroon were not finished by any stretch and in a thrilling finish they got the final two points of the game from Egan frees before the long whistle sounded to pronounce South Tipperary as winners by the smallest of margins.
Mark Downey gets in his shot for South Tipperary.
It was a proud day for joint-captains Aidan Griffin and Conor Duggan as they accepted the cup on behalf of their team.
Enda Egan was selected as Best and Fairest for Galway Maroon whereas Eoghan Connolly was the South Tipperary recipient.
Reflecting on the victory South Tipperary mentor Fergus McGrath felt that all of the players from both sides deserve enormous credit for the quality of the hurling on show and for the level of sportsmanship displayed.
For the South Tipperary team he felt that this was a case of the players’ undoubted potential being presented with an opportunity to express itself on a national stage and that the players had grabbed that opportunity with both hands.
“It’s a fantastic boost for development-level hurling in Tipperary and particularly in the south and west divisions and I have no doubt that these players will continue to develop and that many of them will be no strangers to the blue and gold in years to come.”
Eoghan Connolly celebrates at the final whistle.
McGrath explained that in preparation for the final that All-Ireland winning manager and current county minor hurling team manager Liam Cahill kindly agreed to address the players and that his advice to them about preparation for a final and what to expect on the big day was very valuable.
“To have somebody of Liam’s calibre and experience address the players was a huge boost for all in the camp and for Liam to take time out of a busy schedule to do so was very much appreciated.”
Thankfully the players took the advice on board, said McGrath, and this was one of a number of factors that helped them to bring the Michael Hogan cup to South Tipperary.
The South Tipperary panel against Galway Maroon was:
Mark Downey in action.
Jack Downey (Clonmel Og), Cian Mullane (Clerihan), Brian Barlow (Golden Kilfeackle), Ger o Dywer (Knockavilla Kickams), Josh Ryan (St. Marys’s Clonmel), Eoghan Connolly (Cashel King Cormac), Mark Stokes (Kilsheelan Kilcash), Martin Keogh (Mullinahone), Rian Quigley (Moyle Rovers), Mark Downey (Rosegreen), Oisin Drennan (Mullinahone), Aidan Griffin (Eire Og Annacarty), Aaron Ryan (Cappawhite), Stephen Grogan (Cahir), Tomas Vaughan ( Skeheenarinky), Nicholas Reidy (Cahir), Conor Duggan (St. Patrick’s), Shane Farrell (Knockavilla Kickams), Conor McGrath (Moyle Rovers),Paul Devlin (Eire Og Annacarty), Shane O Connor (Clonmel Og), Paudie Maher (Ballingarry), Stephen Carr (Sean Treacys), TJ Quigley (Clonmel Og), Fionn Brady (Cappawhite), Colm O Dywer (Cappawhite), Tony Byron ( Galtee Rovers)
Mentors: John Ryan (Golden-Kilfeacle), Declan Hickey (Skeheenarinky), Tom O Donnell (Golden-Kilfeacle), Fergus McGrath (St. Mary’s Clonmel).