Last Thursday, Friday and Saturday were memorable days for our club when our under 14’s competed with distinction in the Feile na nGael finals. We were in a very strong group in Division 1 that included Glen Rovers (Cork), James Stephens (Kilkenny) and Clonlara (Clare).
Our first match was on Thursday evening against the Cork champions, Glen Rovers. An excellent first half display that featured two brilliantly taken goals by John Joe Bourke and Kieran Morris set us up for victory on a scoreline of 3-5 to 1-5. The opening match on Friday morning was against the favourites, James Stephens. The first half was very evenly contested and we trailed by a goal at the interval. An injury to midfielder, Michael Cahill, didn’t help our cause and James Stephens dominated the second half and went on to win by 1-10 to 0-3. Our final group match was against Clonlara and the prize on offer for the winners was a place in the All Ireland semi final. We were well motivated for this match and played top class hurling to win convincingly by 3-15 to 1-4.
Our semi final opponents were St. Vincents (Dublin) who were winners of their group and we had to make the long journey to Mullingar on Friday evening for this match. This was a very close match and the sides were level at three points each at the interval. Second half goals from John Joe Bourke and Damien Grimes and a brilliant display by our defence secured victory on a scoreline of Durlas Óg 2-6 St. Vincents 2-4.
The final was on Saturday in Cusack Park, Mullingar and our opponents were James Stephens who had defeated us the previous day. Durlas Óg was playing in an All Ireland Feile na nGael final for only the second time in our history. Our only other final appearance was in 1990 when we were crowned Division 1 champions. The final was a great advertisement for juvenile hurling and the standard was very high. Both teams took time to settle and we missed some scores. At the interval we were two points in arrears (0-3 to 0-1). We dominated the first ten minutes of the second half and a brilliant point from Rodney Mason and an unstoppable ground shot from John Joe Bourke which rattled the James Stephens net gave us the lead. Our supporters were now in full voice and got behind the team. James Stephens made some positional changes and in a two minute spell their star player and captain, Shane Brennan, scored two well executed goals and a further goal in injury time gave James Stephens the Christy Ring Trophy on a score of 3-7 to 1-3. James Stephens were flattered with the winning margin and the scoreline didn’t do our side justice. Our players were dejected at the final whistle as they came so close to an All Ireland title. Captain, Padraic Maher, led his team up to receive their runners-up medals from G.A.A. President, Sean Kelly.
We are all very proud of the team and their magnificent performances over the three days. They were worthy representatives from Tipperary and their sportsmanship, discipline and behaviour were exemplary. Thanks to their mentors, Michael Gleeson, John Dorney, Michael Kennedy, John Cahill and Fr. Joe Walsh for their great work with this talented group. Thanks to our Treasurer, Ger Donnelly who was our bus driver for the weekend and had us at each venue in plenty of time for our matches. Special mention to the parents and supporters who travelled and made themselves heard at the matches. Finally above all thanks to our hosts, Celbridge and especially Thurlesman, Jimmy Doyle, who gave us all a memorable three days and played a major role in the success of our team.
The following was the panel of players who brought All Ireland Feile na nGael runners-up medals to Thurles for the first time: Bill McCormack, John Shortt, Kevin O’Gorman, Patrick Leahy, Jonathan Shannon, Stephen Dorney, Shane Maher, John Joe Bourke, Laurence Burke, Michael Keane, Michael Cahill, Rodney Mason, Kieran Morris, Padraic Maher, Damien Grimes, Liam Cullen, Barry McCormack, Darren O’Neill, Sean Smith, Brian Stakelum, Sean Moloney, Darragh Stakelum, Conor Ryan, Philip Cullen, Bobby Stakelum, Cillian McNally