A clean sweep of AIB All-Ireland club intermediate and junior hurling titles for Kilkenny teams at Croke Park and, frankly, who can say they were surprised.
Thomastown, who defeated Donegal side Setanta in the semi-final and is packed full of rising stars, most of whom have the Donnelly surname, surged to intermediate success with a 2-23 to 0-13 final win over Cork’s Castlelyons, becoming the eighth team from the county to claim this title in just 19 instalments.
Earlier, in front of 4,537, fellow Kilkenny club Tullogher Rosbercon ‚ conquerors of Castleblayney in the last four, comfortably took care of Cork outfit St Catherine’s on a 2-21 to 1-13 scoreline in the junior decider. They are the 11th Kilkenny team to win at that grade in under 20 seasons too.
In Thomastown's case, they are the 13th strongest club in Kilkenny while Castlelyons, who operated outside the two senior grades this season, are effectively the 25th.
It was no surprise then that Noel Doherty's team soared to the 16-point intermediate win and it would be no shock either to see them make big waves in the Kilkenny senior championship in 2024.
Stephen Donnelly, their captain, struck 2-3 and it was his two second-half goals, in the 34th and 56th minutes, that killed off Castlelyons. Two more Donnellys were highly influential, Stephen's cousin, John, the current Kilkenny senior player, who hit 0-4, and free-taker Robbie Donnelly who helped himself to nine points and was impressive in general play too.
It will go down as the season that Thomastown finally broke through the glass ceiling that had developed above them following intermediate final defeats locally in 2019, 2020 and 2022.
They’ve been successful at U-21 level in the last two years and have now managed to transfer all that potential into big prizes.
They led 0-11 to 0-6 at half-time and pushed on well with 1-2 after the restart and then six points in a row between the 40th and 47th minutes to put Castlelyons to the sword.
Midfielders Peter McDonald, part of the Kilkenny senior panel in 2023, and former Cats player Jonjo Farrell provided a solid axis in the middle third and struck 0-3 between them on a landmark day for the club.
Earlier, experienced Kilkenny forward Walter Walsh hit 1-3 to help Tullogher Rosbercon claim the junior title, making up for their final defeat 15 years ago. They were beaten by Cork side Dripsey back then but made no mistake this time against another Cork team, St Catherine's.
Like Thomastown, they burst out of the blocks and led by 1-5 to 0-1 after just nine minutes. Marty Murphy scored their opening goal but the real moment of the half, and the game, was Walsh's brilliant solo catch after a high catch from a puck-out in the 15th minute.
Leading 2-14 to 0-9 at half-time Tullogher Rosbercon weren't going to be caught and could afford to break even in scoring terms in the second-half and still win with 11 points to spare.