O’Grady carves a special place in the hurling annals

MAYBE we should have known that Crusheen’s name was written on the Canon Hamilton in 2011.

You see, the last man to captain back-to-back county final winning teams was St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield’s Lorcan Hassett in 1998/’99, while the second of those titles came at the expense of Sixmilebridge.

So with 2010 winning captain Gerry O’Grady filling the same role in ’11 and with the ‘Bridge as opposition, the rune stones around Inchicronan might well have told us that Clare hurling’s greatest prize was heading north to the Village of the Little Cross once more with O’Grady emulating Hassett.

There’s more. The same stones might have been a superstitious lot, pointing to that third time lucky factor when it comes to teams defending their title – where Clonlara and Cratloe had failed in ’09 and ’10 respectively, Crusheen would go on to succeed.

And there’s more again. Consider that the 25-year team honoured on county final day – the flying Magpies of ’86 were captained by Anthony Scanlon, a man who also led them to back-to-back triumphs the following year.

All of the above points to the fact that this was meant to be.

Regardless of piseoga, rune stones and all that, one thing is certain: when Gerry O’Grady finally left Cusack Park’s Ard Comhairle for a pitchside reunion with his teammates with Canon Hamilton in hand, it was all still a bit of a blur.

“It hasn’t sunk in really,” he said on the achievement of lifting the Canon on successive years. “We came here to today just to battle it out and do everything to get over the line. Thankfully that’s the way it worked out. The conditions were so bad out there it was about battling, fighting it out and keeping the workrate up.”

They did more than that, of course, restricting the ‘Bridge to two points from play and only four points, while running up what must of felt like a veritable cricket score of 0-10, such were the conditions of the day.

Where did it come from?

“It was the most important game we’ve played in our lives,” said O’Grady in response. “We lost in 2007 to Tulla and this was our third final. If we had gone away from three finals and only won one of them, it would have been a bad return.

“That was really driving us on here today. We wanted that second title. When you get to a final you have to take your opportunity. The backs were very good and in the second half we took the chances we got up front. We opened them up and when we were able to stretch our lead we were able to hold out after that.”

The quietly spoken captain was be ing kind to ‘Bridge. This was a rout.


Crusheen swim to a county title

Crusheen 0-10 – Sixmilebridge 0-04 at Cusack Park, Ennis

TITLE RETENTION eventually superseded water retention as the menfor-all-seasons Crusheen maintained their history making assault on the senior championship. In a pitch that would in normal circumstances be deemed totally unplayable, it was the defending champions that also proved to be unplayable in a barnstorming second half display that ultimately stamped their superiority on Clare hurling for the second successive year, the first time that such a feat had been completed in 12 years.

To win a championship, a team has to be able to prevail in all conditions and essentially, it was the holder’s superior ability to adapt to the rainsoaked mudbath that greeted the final which saw them grind out the victory.

Aside from Crusheen’s match-win ning flurry of six successive points midway through the half, the contest was far from pretty and for anyone watching the TG4 screening from the comfort of their living room, it must have been more akin to a local rugby match than a showpiece hurling occasion for long periods.

There were endless rucks and throw-ins as the ball repeatedly plugged in the mud but to their great credit, Crusheen were able to raise their game sufficiently and shut the door with a superb defensive display while unlocking it at the other end with a far more efficient strike rate.

All seven defenders and occasional sweeper Paddy Vaughan must take huge kudos in nullifying Sixmilebridge’s threat but it must be said that brothers Cian and Cathal Dillon were immense throughout, as was Gearoid O’Donnell in the forward division.

Last year’s experience certainly stood to the Blood and Bandages as they literally soaked up the Sixmilebridge pressure and hit on the counter-attack at every opportunity. And after a tentative first half, it seemed as if Crusheen had an extra man or two in the second period as they won the physical battle and always appeared to have a spare player at the breakdown to clear their lines.

It was not understating it either to say that this was simply a season defining masterclass from the champions, considering the unprecedentedly dire weather conditions. No one could have grumbled had referee Rory Hickey called a halt to proceedings at any stage of the contest. After all, it’s a miracle that no one was seriously injured in the treacherous underfoot conditions.

Sixmilebridge certainly wouldn’t have complained in the second half but they may look back with a tinge of regret that they failed to take a host of scoring opportunities. Five first half wides saw their second quarter superiority fall on stoney ground as a more efficient Crusheen took all of their opportunities to lead by the minimum at half-time.

And with Sixmilebridge’s young charges being stuck in the mud for long periods, the onus fell on Niall Gilligan and Tony Carmody to inspire, with captain Gilligan perhaps attempting to take on too much in an attempt to find a lifeline. He chose to put a first half penalty over the bar while immediately after halftime, the ‘Bridge legend bore down on goal but hit his shot into the mud instead of aiming for the top corner of the net.

Those misses allied to Crusheen’s second half dominance conspired to turn the tie decisively in the champions favour and once they opened up midway through the half, the writing was on the wall for the Bridge.

Crusheen were also quick to settle into the contest in the opening half when a brace of Jamie Fitzgibbon points as well as a Paddy Vaughan free saw them hold a 0-3 to 0-1 lead by the end of the first quarter. The ‘Bridge’s point came from a Gilligan 20 metre free that could have easily resulted in a goal for Caimin Morey who fielded a Carmody delivery before being pulled down by John Brigdale.

The second quarter was the ‘Bridge’s but while they pulled level through Danny Morey and that Gilligan penalty that he earned himself, they still found themselves trailing at the break after a defensive error was punished by Gearoid O’Donnell.

The ‘Bridge might have made up for that first half profligacy on the restart when Tadgh Keogh expertly picked out fellow 2002 title winner Gilligan to gather and head for goal but he struck his effort into the muddy goalmouth which took the sting out of the shot for goalkeeper Donal Tuohy.

Crusheen wiped their brows and hit back to decisive effect as they shut up shop at the back, thanks in the main to the unstoppable Cian Dillon while also beginning to find holes in the Sixmilebridge rearguard.

Four points from Gearoid O’Donnell (2), Paddy Meaney and Fergus Kennedy in an amazing two minute blitzkrieg around the turn of the final quarter left their opponents shellshocked. And while Gilligan and Co. tried their upmost to find a way back into the contest, they were left continually frustrated by Crusheen’s miserly rearguard that threatened to match Kilmurry Ibrickane’s remarkable feat of keeping their opponents scoreless for an entire half in a county decider.

Points from Paddy Meaney and Vaughan at the other end more or less put a tin hat on the result but Gilligan did manage to end Sixmilebridge’s 35 minute scoring washout on the hour mark with a consolation point.

Considering the atrocious inclement conditions, nobody will hark on the fact that Sixmilebridge’s final total was the lowest in 52 years as this was entirely Crusheen’s day. A day in which they carved out their own piece of history with a exhibition of hurling expertise, and successfully mastered not only their opponents but the weather Gods as well.

Donal Tuohy (7), John Brigdale (7), Cronan Dillon (7),Alan Brigdale (7), Ciaran O’Doherty (7), Cian Dillon (9), Cathal Dillon (8), PatrickVaughan (7) (0-2f), Joe Meaney (7), Gearoid O’Donnell (8) (0-3), Jamie Fitzgibbon (7) (0-2), David Forde (7), Paddy Meaney (7) (0-2), Gerry O’Grady (7), Fergus Kennedy (7) (0-1)

Derek Fahy (7),Tadgh Keogh (7),Aidan Quilligan (7), Seadna Morey (7), John Fennessy (7), Paidí Fitzpatrick (7), Robert Conlon (7), Shane Golden (7),Tony Carmody (8), Jamie Shanahan (6), Rory Shanahan (6), Declan Morey (6), Danny Morey (7) (0-1), Niall Gilligan (7) (0-3 1f, 1 Pen) Caimin Morey (7)

Trevor Purcell (6) for Conlon (46 mins), Brian Culbert (6) for Declan Morey (46 mins). David O’Connor for Carmody (55 mins)

Rory Hickey (Éire Óg)


Cian is county final colossus

County finals call for big game players and after deservedly earning the man-of-the match in back-to-back county deciders, they don’t come much bigger than Cian Dillon. Still only 22, Cian was one of five Dillon brothers on the panel with elder siblings Cathal and Cronan also playing their part on Sunday in this historic second ever title for the club.

The centre-back was simply immense throughout, so much so that some supporters wondered how he was able to glide through the rainsodden pitch while practically every other player was hampered by the underfoot conditions.

“We are thrilled. Our focus from the start of the year was to get back here and once we got here, we knew we weren’t going to let it go so it shows the character we have in the team from one to 31. There were some serious men out there and we battled right through.

“It was tough out there and wasn’t a day for fancy touches or anything like that but we showed out true character, we supported each other, we encouraged each other and we were just not going to let this go today.”

And the main ingredients of Crusheen’s remarkable turnaround in the last two years?

“Ever since Michael Browne got on board, he changed a lot of things about our play. One was discipline, two was workrate and our forwards worked right into the backs and viceversa and we support each other as much as we could. And it paid off because we are delighted to get the Canon Hamilton back.”

However, his ambitions don’t end there.

“Hopefully now we will have a good shot at Munster now. We have the Cork champions coming up so we will take a few days and then we will get back and start preparing for it. And hopefully we will be able to put up another good show there.”

With Cian in this type of unstoppable form, it will take a very good team to stop them.


‘All our lives waiting for one, now two in a rush’

BEEN there and done that in 2010 where this Canon Hamilton thing was concerned. Now they’ve done it again in 2011.

Last week Michael Browne wondered aloud whether they’d have the hunger – you know he never doubted his team, but anyone who did got their answer with a performance that must rank as Crusheen’s greatest.

“In the sense of a real fought battle and fighting for every ball, yes it was a great display,” said Browne minutes after the final whistle. “We have played better hurling in games, but how could you play good hurling today. It was a great team display.

“Ten points today is about the equivalent of 4-20 on a good day. It was fantastic. I thought they were brilliant. From one to 15 they were brilliant, so much so there were three subs warming up that we were dying to bring on but it was too hard to take anybody off.”

As he spoke he was busy shaking more hands than a presidential candidate would on a busy day on the campaign trail. It’s because Browne is the man, the Messiah who picked up this bunch of players from the low of a county final defeat to a Tulla team in coached in 2007 to the high of putting back-to-back championships together.

“I’m so happy for the team because we worked so hard all year. We kept it low key coming into the final and just focused on the 60 minutes. The conditions were terrible, but the lads really dug in and fought for every ball.

“They had the hunger. They had it themselves. We focused on perform- ance, the lads giving their absolute best out on the field. It was a case of forgetting about first titles or second titles, it was just about the performance on the day, getting on with it and giving our best and not to be coming off on the field and players saying ‘if I only did this and I only did that’. They have no regrets coming off now.” It’s the way with all Michael Browne teams. Tulla said it in 2007. Crusheen said it in 2010 and now they can say it again in 2011. “It’s amazing to win it again,” added Browne just before breaking away to rejoin the celebrations. “We’re all our lives waiting for one. Now we’ve two in a rush. Thanks be to God.” Thanks be to Hurling he’s saying at the same time. The game is Crush- een’s God these days, and long they want it to continue.


Chaplin: ‘Maybe you have to lose one to win one’

AS A player, Christy Chaplin was on both winning and losing sides on county final day. But even though his young squad made considerable strides this year to contest their first final in nine years, it doesn’t make defeat any easier to swallow.

“At half-time, we thought we were well in there. It was only four points to three, only a point in it but we had scoring chances and didn’t take them in the first half. Crusheen then for a ten minute period got four or five scores and that was the difference.

“Even when we got the ball down at our end, they closed us down well and they won the rucks. Physically they came out with ball and we could make no inroads but look, we have no complaints because we were beaten by the county champions. We gave it a go and it wasn’t good enough today.

“On another day, things might have gone differently. We got the penalty in the first half and it went over the bar but for a lengthy period in the second half we didn’t score for a long, long time. Gilly proably had a chance early on for a goal in the second half but it didn’t come off and they just tacked on the points so we can have no complaints.”

Chaplin need only look to his opponents to realise how difficult it is to win your first final with a new team. After all, Crusheen missed out in the 2007 decider to Tulla but once they got back there last year against Cratloe, they were doubly determined not to let another opportunity slip by.

“Maybe it’s true what they say that you have to lose one to win one. We’re young but at the end of the day, we came up here today to win it and we didn’t so we will just have to start again at the bottom and hopefully we will be back.”

With an average team age of just 24, you can take that as a given.


Pitch ploughed up before start

ABOUT eight minutes into Sunday’s senior hurling final a puck out from Sixmilebridge goalkeeper Derek Fahy landed just beyond the half way line on the seated stand side of Cusack Park. The sliotar actually plugged into the soft turf like a golf ball would in very wet conditions. Half the ball was visible, the rest of it buried in the ground. In golf you get the option of picking the ball up and dropping it on a kind part of the surface. In hurling, you play as you lie until the referee is inevitably forced to whistle up.

The early ‘plugged ball’ drew gasps from the crowd. There would be more incidents of the ball almost disappearing into the sod, while referee Rory Hickey probably handled the sliotar more than any player. Throw-in followed throw-in as players battled with the elements and soft ground. It was hardly his fault, conditions were simply not conducive to hurling or any other sport on Sunday. All around the ground the same conversation was being had. Should the game have been played at all?

Our county hurling final is supposed to be the showpiece of the hurling year. However, Cusack Park in late October is not the time or the place for that. The intermediate final was thankfully moved to Clarecastle where both Eire Og and Ruan were at least able to hurl on a surface that is designed to cater for such weather. Cusack Park is not. Indeed after both Crusheen and the Bridge ‘warmed up’ the sections of the field where they had done their drills were visibly ‘ploughed up’. The crowd knew before a blow was struck in anger exactly what time of game we were in for. Attrition.

And that’s what we got. Crusheen won because they are the best team in Clare and have been for some time now. Their half backline display on Sunday was imperious and no matter what the conditions, it is clear that this is a serious team. Amazingly they still managed some patches of brilliant hurling during the hour. Their hunger and strength saw them through, giving us all the impression that if this game had been played on the surface of the moon, the result would have been the same.

But Sunday was unfair on Crusheen as well as Sixmilebridge. Neither side could do themselves justice and those that watched live on TG4 could be forgiven at times for thinking that this was the ploughing championships and not the hurling championships. The fact that Crusheen managed to shoot ten points was remarkable in the morass of a field they were forced to play on.

The solution? It doesn’t take a genius to see that the third week in October is far too late to playing a hurling final, in any code. Players lying idle for almost three months of the summer hurling season is ridiculous but apparently the will is not there to tackle this fixtures chaos nationally. The Kilkenny county final was also played on Sunday, one wonders would we have managed that had we won an All-Ireland final six weeks ago? We should have our county final played in September at the latest.

As for Cusack Park, traditionalists will tell you that it was always prone to bouts of softness when the heavy rains came. That may be so, but this is our county ground. Clarecastle can provide a pitch playable any day of the year, why can’t we have something similar in Cusack Park? With all the money the GAA have invested throughout the county, it is time to look elsewhere for big games this late in the year as Cusack Park clearly cannot cope. The moving of the intermediate final on Sunday morning certainly robbed The Park of further glamour and gate receipts as could be judged by the huge crowd that made their way to Clarecastle for the Eire Og/Ruan clash. God only knows what the Park would have looked like if that game had gone ahead before the senior final. Hoping/praying/ keeping your fingers crossed for a spectacular Autumn Sunday to allow a decent game of hurling to be played in a county final is not good enough. This is Ireland, it will rain. Make the decision – play it in September and stick to it.

Well done to Crusheen, hard luck to the Bridge. Good luck to whoever is cleaning the jerseys.


Back to the future as Éire Óg roar again

WAY back in 1980 Éire Óg hurling really started to roar as the mercurial Martin Nugent enjoyed his finest hour when bagging 3-3 in a senior county final win over the storied Newmarket-on-Fergus Blues.

Now, along with younger brother Tony, who was also a key member of that Éire Óg Dalcassians team winning team 31 years ago that ush ered in a great era for the game in the county capital, he’s brought the Townie roar back to life.

Who knows? Another great era, could be at hand!

All because such was the cacophony of sound that greeted this com- prehensive county final success, the enthusiasm and the language afterwards, you know this was just a start.

“We wanted to get Éire Óg back up playing senior hurling,” roared Martin Nugent above the din and beside the rolling maul – it would have done the All Blacks proud earlier in their World Cup final day in Auckland – that was just starting to gather momentum.

“We met in the Queen’s Hotel in January with all the guys. That’s when this started. We just laid out a plan that this is where we wanted to be – to be in the county final and winning it and to be back up playing senior hurling.

“They key for us this year was that everyone believed in one another. Everyone on the panel believed. We really believed and we kept the focus on hurling. It was hurling all the way, all year.

“We had to have experience with youth and that’s the way we set up. The likes of Fergus Flynn, Tadhg MacNamara, Marc O’Donnell, Barry Nugent had the experience – then the younger lads like Davie O’Halloran, Tommy Downes and more added a huge amount.”

Nugent wasn’t bothered by the change of venue from Cusack Park to Clarecastle that was confirmed just after 11am, something he revealed was drilled into the players all the week and something they were prepared for.

“It’s a game of hurling,” he said. “It’s on a pitch. It doesn’t matter where it’s played. This pitch is as good as Cusack Park and we didn’t mind where the game was played. We were ready for the game anywhere and that showed early on.

“We said it to them before the game that ‘we’re going to take it to Ruan from the opening minutes’. We weren’t going to wait for Ruan to start hurling. We were going to do the hurling and start well.

“We had that drilled into them, that we were going to determine the pace of the game we wanted to play. From the word that’s the way they did it. They did what we wanted.

“We have always said that we take our games in half an hour stages. The first half – we said ‘let’s go out and see if we can win that half’.

We got them in the dressing room and we said ‘let’s go and see if we can do the same’. We did that and it’s great to be back up playing senior hurling.

“There are a lot of people that need a lot of credit for this. You have the likes of John Russell, Colm Mahon, Deccie Coote – lads that were there before we came in this year. They were there and were unlucky not to get them up before this, but we’re up now and we’re going to enjoy it.”

They were enjoying it already.


Townies are back with a bang

Éire Óg 1-14 – Ruan 0-06 at Clarecastle

THE last time the Townies were roaring hot favourites to take down Ruan in a county final was way back in ’59, but they failed to land the Canon Hamilton Cup on the back of yet another tour de force from Jimmy Smyth, Frank Custy, Jazzer Meaney et al.

Ruan would have needed Smyth, Custy, Jazzer et al at their pomp on this day, such was the superiority exerted by this Éire Óg team that produced a command performance to win their first ever intermediate hurling title and return to the senior ranks after a three-year hiatus.

The rains came – to Cusack Park that saw the game relocated to Clarecastle, but the downpour failed to dampen the Townies’ spirits at they hacked home through the mud like rare breeds of thoroughbreds made for the heavy going.

It was a Eureka moment for Ennis hurling, simply because this victory finally banished the ghosts of the quarter-final defeats to Whitegate and Killanena in the last two years and their relegation at the hands of Ballyea on this same Clarecastle sod back in 2008.

That they really meant business here was reflected in the 11-point margin at the end, but it was apparent from the opening seconds as a thunderous shoulder charge by captain Mark Fitzgerald spoke volumes, for the team and for the mindset.

This was for Francie Mahon, for the Town, but above all for themselves.

They were in the mood, up for the battle as well as the hurling and from there a combination of superior stickwork, physicality and work-rate powered them to their best display of the year.

It may have been a lottery at times, given the conditions, but Éire Óg’s numbers always came up thanks to an imperious half-back line of Tadhg McNamara, Fergus Flynn and Kevin Moynihan, an industrious midfield and a forward division that buzzed through the rain to notch up the points to kill this county final early in the second half.

They got the perfect start with three points inside seven minutes – David O’Halloran and Ronan Keane were on the mark from play while Danny Russell, who notched 0-5 over the hour from placed balls, landed a free.

However, it was Barry Nugent’s 13th minute goal that proved crucial. After John Punch had opened Ruan’s account with a ninth minute free, Nugent’s deft flick to the net from a long Fergus Flynn free put the Townies 1-3 to 0-1 ahead and well on their way to victory.

They only managed two more points in the half, via a Danny Russell free in the 23rd minute and a good effort from play by Thomas Downes, but it was enough to give them a 1-5 to 0-3 lead as a sterling defence restricted Ruan to a couple of points from Patrick Keegan midway through the half and another on the stroke of half-time from Aidan Lynch.

A point from Caimin Howard two minutes into the second half brought the gap back to four points, but the Townies’ response again showed their intent as points from play by Noel Whelan and Barry Nugent by the 35th minute put them 1-7 to 0-4 clear.

From there they never looked like yielding – with points from Tadhg Hanrahan and Eoin Hanrahan all Ruan could muster for the remaining 25 minutes as the Townies coasted home.

Danny Russell’s 65 in the 38th minute restored their six-point advantage after Eoin Hanrahan had pegged one back for Ruan two minutes earlier – from there it was just a matter of seeing it out.

They did that in some style, with David Ryan’s booming effort in the 39th minute putting them seven clear, while they finished the game with five unanswered points as they restricted a forlorn Ruan outfit to a Tadhg Hanrahan point in the 42nd minute.

By the time Danny Russell (2), Ronan Keane, David O’Halloran and David Ryan added points to embellish the hour, there were actual fireworks going off at the venue to the delight of the huge Éire Óg support.

Why not? It’s Halloween week after all.

Éire Óg
Kevin Brennan (7), Cathal Whelan (7), Cormac O’Regan (7), Marc O’Donnell (7),Tadhg MacNamara (8), Fergus Flynn (9), Kevin Moynihan (8), Noel Whelan (7) (0-1), Mark Fitzgerald (8), Danny Russell (8) (0-5, 4f, one 65), David Ryan (8) (0-2), Ronan Keane (7) (0-2), David O’Halloran (7) (0-2), Barry Nugent (7) (1-1),Thomas Downes (7) (0-1).

AdrianWalsh (6) for Noel Whelan [56 Mins], Ronan Cooney (6) for Cathal Whelan [61 Mins].

Patrick Roughan (7), Gary Bell (7), Niall O’Connor (7), Leon Quirke (6), Killian Ryan (6), Jonathon Clohessy (7), Darragh Roughan (6),Tadhg Hanrahan (7) (0-1), Eoin Hanrahan (7) (0-1),Aidan Lynch (7) (0-2), Colin O’Donoghue (6), Michael Vaughan (6), Patrick Keegan (6), John Punch (6) (0-1f), Brendan Lyons (6).

Caimin Howard (7) (0-1) for Roughan [8 Mins],Alan Bell (6) for Punch [42 Mins].

Man of the Match
Fergus Flynn (Éire Óg) Referee Johnny Healy (Smith O’Briens)


The Blues win some senior silverware

Newmarket-on-Fergus 1-16 – Clarecastle 2-06 at Clareabbey

NEIGHBOURS Newmarket and Clarecastle have had some memorable county final clashes in the last 50 years and while this wasn’t one of them, the Blues deservedly maintained their final hold over the Magpies.

This was the 14th county final derby meeting between the pair in that period, with Newmarket proving to be the Magpies bogey side on 12 occasions and while it wasn’t the county final that both sides would have aspired to at the beginning of the year, it still attracted a sizeable crowd.

Newmarket were full value for their latest title after sowing the seeds of victory in a clinical opening half display that saw them score the first six points of the game by the 30th minute. As ever, central to that scoring feat was county senior Colin Ryan who gave an exhibition of placed balls over the hour in an unerring mix of frees, ‘65’s and a late lineball.

Indeed, while his team-mates opted to try and kill off their opponents early with goals that was met with defiance from goalkeeper Donnagh Murphy and some dogged defending from the Magpies’s last line, Ryan’s experience in tacking on points saw him pick up the first five scores of the game, four of those from placed balls.

Jonathan Clancy had Clarecastle’s best chance of a goal but after being put under pressure, his effort hit the side netting. David Barrett put the Blues six clear in the 30th minute but the Magpies did spare themselves from an opening half whitewash two minutes into injury-time when Eamon Callinan converted a free from 35 metres.

Newmarket came storming out of the blocks once more on the restart, with county seniors Colin Ryan (2) and an inspirational long-range James McInerney point from 65 metres extending their advantage to eight by the 34th minute.

The game seemed to be drifting away from Clarecastle but they received a major shot in the arm with two quick-fire goals in as many minutes to make a contest of it once more. The first stemmed from a Darragh Moloney delivery that was broke by Derek Quinn to the unmarked Danny Scanlon who had the simple task of hitting to an empty net. And only two minutes later, a slice of fortune got the Magpies to within two points of their opponents when a Derek Quinn shot for a point rebounded off the upright into the path of Darragh Moloney to pull past goalkeeper Kieran Devitt.

The intensity was lifted once more and the Blues almost replied in kind but David Barrett hit his goalbound effort into the ground, although Colin Ryan did point the rebound.

With the bit between their teeth however, Clarecastle hit back once more, this time a superb solo effort from captain Tyrone Kearse who gathered possession on his own ’65 before soloing to halfway and arrowing over the bar.

Game on it appeared but Newmarket ruthlessly shut the door on their neighbours around the turn of the final quarter when an Anthony Kilmartin goal was sandwiched by Colin Ryan frees to restore a seven point lead.

Clarecastle kept plugging away with Eamon Callinan picking off three frees to cut the deficit to five with seven minutes remaining. However, the Blues finished the job when Ryan expertly cut a sideline over the bar followed by two successive Anthony Kilmartin points to complete their A, B and C hat-trick of adult titles.

Although the Canon Hamilton still eludes them, Newmarket are certainly moving in the right direction as their adult teams won championships this year in Junior A, Senior B and Junior C. And with a Clare Cup semifinal against Kilmaley this weekend, the push to make next year’s Senior A county final is already gathering momentum.


Whitegate hang on as Killanena drop down a level

Whitegate 0-14 – Killanena 1-09 at Ogonnelloe

KILLANENA’S senior dream only lasted one season as they dropped back down to intermediate level at the first time of asking. Indeed, it was a tense battle of the last two intermediate champions with Whitegate just doing enough to hang onto their status for another year. Emigration and injury had taken it’s toil on both threadbare squads during the year as they were forced to play off for their senior championship lives and in the end, it was Whitegate’s rearguard that showed the way to consolidate their place in the 2012 championship.

In total, all but two of Whitegate’s points came from the back, with goalkeeper Andrew Fahey central to that defensive charge with half of their total from placed balls. County senior Brendan Bugler (3) and John Minogue (2) as well as All-Ireland Intermediate winning goalkeeper Fahey (5) had Whitegate 0-11 to 0- 02 clear by the 28th minute but they would only hold a five point advantage into the break after a David McNamara 20 metre free gave Killanena some much needed hope.

Indeed, that suckerpunch was to hurt Whitegate as they would not score again until the 50th minute. Instead, Killanena gathered momentum, hitting three successive points to get to within two at 0-11 to 1-06. Eric Minogue did stop the rot with ten minutes to go followed by an- other Fahey long range free but with the bit between their teeth, Killanena threw everything at their neighbours that yielded three more points to cut the deficit to the minimum by the hour mark.

That understandably set up a nervous finish but fittingly it was goalkeeper Fahey who cemented the victory in the 62nd minute when he hit his seventh score to keep his side at the highest level and send Killanena back down to intermediate.

AndrewFahey (0-7 5f, 2’65), Cathal Mulvihill, John Bugler,Trevor Kelly, Jason Malone, Brendan Bugler (0-3), John Minogue (0-2), Ian Fahy, Tomás McNamara, Eric Minogue (0-1), Patrick Minogue, Shane O’Rourke, Patrick Burke,Terence Fahy, GeorgieWaterstone (0-1f)

Ray Cahill for Waterstone, Eoin Quirke for O’Rourke

David Noone, Enda Collins, Joe Clancy, Pat Noone, Eoin McMahon, John O’Mara, Stephen McMahon, Mikey Noone, Padraig Brady, Fintan McNamara, Shane Moroney, John Noonan, Gerry McNamara, David McNamara,Alan McNamara

Jack Houlihan for Noonan