We preview what should be a cracking All-Ireland semi-final between St Thomas from Galway and Ballyea from Clare.
Ballyea are slight underdogs for this All-Ireland senior hurling semi-final on Saturday at 6/5 but possess one of the country’s finest players in Tony Kelly. The Clare forward has amassed 1-66 in their nine games and was recently named the Munster Player of the Year.
After an opening day loss to Eire Og, Ballyea bounced back defeating Clonlara after a replay for a first ever county title. They defeated favourites Thurles Sarsfields 4-18 to 2-22 after extra-time in the Munster semi-final before running out 1-21 to 2-10 winners over Cork’s Glen Rovers.
Dublin based Niall Deasy is another prolific player with 1-41 while Clare dual star Gary Brennan has scored 3-7. Jack Browne, Paul Flanagan and Gearoid O’Connell other important members.
St. Thomas were unknown in 2013 but defeated Offaly’s Kilcormac/Killoughey on St. Patrick’s Day. County players David Burke and Conor Cooney will spearhead the latest assault. Burke was recently named Galway player of the year and Cooney has been their top scorer with 0-44 in nine games.
Interestingly, St. Thomas’ started with three losses in four games but a 1-19 to 4-9 win over Castlegar got them into the preliminary quarter-finals on the head-to-head rule. And in the semi-final and final, they gained revenge over Loughrea and Gort to clinch a second county title.
Eanna and Darragh Burke, and James Regan, will be key in a team where three sets of brothers make up 2/3 of the team. Near impossible to call and a replay shouldn’t be discounted. But Ballyea have shown their resilience in more recent ties and might just shade it for a historic trip to Croke Park.