John Meagher is an injury concern for Loughmore/Castleiney ahead of Sunday’s County Final Replay against Thurles Sarsfields. Photo: Bridget Delaney

Whoever learns more will win replay


Semple Stadium

Sunday 28th November

Throw-in @ 3.15pm (E.T.)

Referee: John McCormack (Knockavilla Kickhams)

Live on TG4

By Shane Brophy

When it comes to replays, who learns the most from the drawn game ultimately emerges the winner and that is how Thurles Sarsfields and Loughmore/Castleiney will be looking at it ahead of next Sunday’s county senior hurling final replay.

Since the drawn game ten days ago, Thurles Sarsfields have had the opportunity to freshen up which will be a help to them but will be dwarfed by the feelgood factor within the Loughmore camp following last Sunday’s football final victory. Any tiredness or fatigue won’t be felt this week as they turn their attention to completing a senior hurling and football double, which they last achieved in 2013.

Facing into their seventeenth consecutive weekend of championship action, Loughmore show no signs of slowing down and credit has to go their strength and conditioning coach Murtagh Brennan for having them in such great shape, and that he was lifted high into the air by the players in the after-match celebrations last Sunday shows the vital role he has played in their incredible run so far.

Loughmore/Castleiney are finishing games incredibly strongly, completely denouncing those that feel challenging on the double will count against them ultimately. In some ways it does, and it is showing at the start of games, but like any well-used machine, it can take a brief period to get the dirty fumes out of the filter before getting into full working order as they showed against both Thurles Sarsfields and Clonmel Commercials in coming from behind after poor first quarters.

However, Loughmore/Castleiney will be the first to admit that if they continue sailing close to the wind with their slow starts, they are going to get burned and that will be the focus this week, and indeed in their pre-match warm-up, ensuring they won’t be playing catch-up on the scoreboard once again.

This is because Thurles Sarsfields have the greater scope for improvement from the drawn game. It brings back memories of the 2014 All-Ireland Final and Replay between Tipperary and Kilkenny where Tipp left the drawn game on a high but ultimately it was Kilkenny who learned more and adapted things successfully for the replay.

Certainly, more players can perform to a higher level for Thurles where only David Corbett, Padraic Maher, Ronan Maher, Pa Bourke, Conor Stakelum, Denis Maher really played up to scratch.

However, Loughmore will feel they can get more too from the likes of Noel McGrath who was a peripheral figure in the two finals in recent weeks. He was well man-marked by David Corbett in the drawn game and one of the interesting aspects ahead of the replay will be subtle tactical changes, such as Loughmore trying to get Noel free of Corbett’s attention.

Sarsfields have been fairly rigid in their set-up with Padraic and Ronan Maher manning the heart of their defence and one wonders if they will break away from that and give them more freedom to do where the action is as if they are prominent on the ball, it is hard to see Thurles being beaten.

Thurles will also hope to use the ball better as after the first quarter in which they scored 2-6, they were largely outplayed thereafter with only Pa Bourke carrying a consistent threat in attack for the remainder of the game and having gotten his first experience of a county final out of the way, young guns Paddy Creedon and Darragh Stakelum should be all the better for it this time round.

Weather conditions for the drawn game were ideal, mild, and dry, but as we head into the final Sunday of November, the temperature is likely to be half that with rain on the way, so a real battle is expected.

Thurles Sarsfields should be fresher for the replay, but Loughmore are battle-hardened, and it may well be that a year after failing on the double, in 2021 they’ll win on the double.

Verdict: Loughmore/Castleiney