A PERFORMANCE built on hard work, commitment and some ex- cellent score-taking saw Kilmaley crowned Minor A champions in Cu- sack Park on Saturday evening.
With match favourites Sixmilebri- dge two points ahead and in the as- cendancy, Kilmaley were forced to dig deep in the final quarter to claim the club’s third ever Minor A title.
After struggling to create oppor- tunities in a tense second-half, Kil- maley rattled off four unanswered points to storm into the lead.
Pre-match favourites Sixmilebri- dge were left to rue eight-second half wides as they suffered their second straight loss in the minor A decider after last year’s defeat to Inagh/Kil- namona.
Yet while the Bridge’s errant shoot- ing was a factor, just as important was the tenacity of Kilmaley’s defending, exemplified best by the performances of Colin McGuane at centre back and Niall McGuane at corner back.
Dara Keane was Kilmaley’s top scorer on the day with nine points. The corner forward stepped up to the plate when his side really needed it during a nervy final quarter.
There was plenty too to admire about the Bridge with the perform- ances of Shane Golden, Pa Sheehan, Timmy Crowe and Seadhna Morey catching the eye.
It all made for an engrossing 60 minutes of hurling in Cusack Park.
The first half whizzed by in a blur of quality scores and urgent tackling from both sides.
Kilmaley got off to a great start with points from a Dara Keane free and a great strike from Killian Mc- Namara.
The Bridge settled into their stride and hit the front through points from Pa Sheehan, Shane Golden and two
superb strikes from Timmy Crowe.
Keane, Kilmaley’s liveliest pres- ence in attack, shot three points on the trot between the 19th and 25th minute, to nudge Kilmaley O-7 0-5 ahead at half time.
As Pa Sheehan and _ Cathal O’Connor gained the edge around midfield The Bridge wrestled back control of the game after the break.
Sheehan slotted over a free before a point from Jamie O’Gorman tied the game in the 34th minute.
By now the Bridge were well on top and their superiority was underlined with Shane Golden striking over two points to put them 0-9 0-7 ahead.
It should have been more but the Bridge were having problems hitting the target.
If the first-half had showcased scor- ing prowess then the second half was a testament to the virtues of hook- ing, blocking and closing down. But despite their resilience in defence, things weren’t quite happening for Kilmaley further up the field.
All that changed in the 46th minute when Keane converted a free for Kilmaley’s first point of the second half. Just a point separated the teams and Kilmaley, buoyed on by a large and very vocal bunch of supporters, lifted their performance.
Keane picked of a point from a dif- ficult angle before Michael O’Neill landed an inspirational point from the left touchline to send his side into the lead.
There was greater vigour about Kilmaley’s forward play now and the scores kept coming. Enda Finnucane signed his name to the scoresheet with a huge effort and Keane con- verted a free to leave Kilmaley 0-12 Q-9 ahead. With five minutes left, Sheehan struck over a monster free from halfway.
As the Bridge poured forward, Kil- maley’s backs defended like their
lives depended on it. O’Neill’s injury time clearance eventually lifted the siege as Ger Hickey’s full time whis- tle sparked huge celebration among Kilmaley’s players and supporters.
Sixmilebridge will be disappointed but having tasted success at under 12, under 14 and under 21, already this season and with finals at under 15 and under 16 still to come, the club’s status as the dominant force in Clare underage hurling remains intact.
Saturday, however, belonged to this season’s deserving minor A champi- ons Kilmaley.