St Thomas 2-13 Liam Mellows 0-10
Darragh Burke hit 1-07 and inspired St Thomas’s to a third Galway senior hurling title in seven years and dethroned champions Liam Mellows in a one-sided county final at Pearse Stadium.
In front of 8,487 spectators, Darragh Burke’s first-half goal put the 2013 All-Ireland champions in control, while Conor Cooney’s strike 15 minutes from time wrapped up the victory.
Liam Mellows only scored four points from play on a miserable day for the club – just their second loss of the season, both of which have come against St Thomas’.
St Thomas’ won the toss and elected to play with the strong wind at their back in the first half and their dominance in the opening period was total.
All but one of their 1-10 tally came from open play in that first 30 minutes, with Darragh and Eanna Burke doing most of the damage on the scoreboard.
Against the reigning champions, a bright start was key for St Thomas’ and they flew out of the traps with points from David Burke from his own half, Eanna Burke and Darragh Burke (2), which gave them a 0-4 to 0-0 advantage after six minutes.
The Liam Mellows forward line was starved of scoring chances in that period, such was the dominance of the St Thomas’s half-back line where Donal Cooney, Shane Cooney and Fintan Burke mopped up.
But despite their superiority, only a point separated the sides by the 12th minute when Adrian Morrissey fired three quick frees for his Mellows.
David Burke and Conor Cooney linked well for the full-forward to score after 14 minutes as St Thomas’ stretched their lead, but midway through the half the 2016 winners pulled well clear.
A long delivery from Fintan Burke was spilled by Mellows’s goalkeeper Kenneth Walsh, and Darragh Burke was quickest to the break. He took two touches on the group before he flashed a ground stroke to the net for a 1-5 to 0-3 lead.
A James Regan point from play put Thomas’s six points clear, but three of the next four scores came from Morrissey frees as Mellows continued to convert their meagre scoring chances.
But in the closing action of the half, St Thomas’ claimed the advantage they deserved when Darragh Burke pointed twice before Eanna Burke hit his third point of the half to put his side 1-10 to 0-6 clear at the interval.
The opening period was not without its niggles as Mellows manager Louis Mulqueen and St Thomas selector TJ Ryan renewed their Munster rivalry on the Galway sidelines – referee Liam Gordon doled out stern warnings to both before the restart – while there was some agitated exchanges as the sides went into the dressing room at the interval.
When the action resumed, Mellows were presented with a great chance to go back into contention but Gerald Murray and Cathal Burke denied Conor Kavanagh and Enda Fallon with goal-line clearances.
When Darragh Burke ended a frantic couple of minutes with a battling score which put St Thomas’s eight points clear, it felt as if Mellows' hopes had faded. Mellows then hit their first points from play in the 35th minute through Kevin Lee, but two more Darragh Burke points were followed by a Conor Cooney goal after a turnover in defence, which took the sting out of the contest.
The introduction of Ronan Elwood off the bench and a switch of David Collins into full-forward gave Mellows something different, but only a couple of late points stemmed the flow as Thomas’ ran out easy winners.
St Thomas: Gerald Murray; Cian Mahoney, Cathal Burke, David Sherry; Fintan Burke, Shane Cooney, Donal Cooney; David Burke (0-01), James Regan (0-01); Conor Cooney (1-01), Darragh Burke (1-07, 0-02f), Damien McGlynn; Bernard Burke, Brendan Farrell, Eanna Burke (0-03).
Substitutes: Kenneth Burke for McGlynn (40), Cian Kelly for B Burke (43), Mark Caulfield for Farrell (59), Sean Skehill for D Cooney (59), Damien Finnerty for E Burke (62).
Liam Mellows: Kenneth Walsh; Brian Leen, Sean Morrissey, Cathal Reilly ; Mark Hughes, David Collins, Michael Conneely; Jack Hastings, Kevin Lee (0-01); Adrian Morrissey (0-06, 0-06f), Conor Hynes (0-01), Tadhg Haran (0-01); Enda Fallon, Conor Kavanagh, Aonghus Callanan.
Substitutes: Jack Forde (0-01) for A Morrissey (39), Ronan Elwood for Callanan (39), Stephen Barrett for Fallon (43), Conor Elwood for K Lee (53).
Referee: Liam Gordon (Killimor).