Crusheen survive to fight again

Crusheen 0-14 – Na Piarsaigh 1-11 at Semple Stadium, Thurles

STRANGE game really.

There were times when Crusheen looked to be on their way to the title, when they were so utterly in control of things that victory was a given.

Like when they hit five unanswered points before half-time to open up a 0-9 to 1-3 interval lead.

Like when the biggest roar of the day rose up from the Crusheen kop five minutes into the second half after Fergus Kennedy’s point put them four clear for the first time.

But that was it really – from there the county champions were fighting a rearguard action against what was a one-man show from Shane Dowling, who chipped away at Crusheen’s lead, all the time the Na Piarsaigh tide rising.

So much so that when David Breen landed his first point of the hour in the 57th minute, the Limerick champions sensed history, while Crusheen seemed had seemed burdened by the prospect of same for much of that second half.

It would have been rough justice on Crusheen had they lost – after all five of their forwards had scored from play, while theirs was a more rounded performance against a Na Piarsaigh outfit too reliant on Shane Dowling’s frees for scores.

That it didn’t happen was down to Paddy Vaughan’s 58th minute free that restored parity, with a mightily relieved Crusheen glad to hear Johnny Murphy’s final whistle and escape with their title ambitions still afloat.

Just about. The final 20 minutes of this game had belonged to Na Piarsaigh, as Crusheen’s trademark second half performance had failed to materialise and they fell very flat.

They showed admirable fortitude in the first half when, after an unsteady start, as Paddy Vaughan missed a few scoreable frees and then the concession of a goal from a Shane Dowling penalty on 17 minutes left them 1-3 to 0-4 in arrears.

However, from there they hit Na Piarsaigh for five points, while the backs were totally dominant against a one-dimensional Na Piarsaigh side for whom their trump cards Shane Dowling, Kevin Downes and David Breen were making no headway against Crusheen’s inspirational set of backs.

Cronan Dillon the rock at full-back – the Brigdales on either side of him were terrier-like, while the half-back line was also well on top.

A couple of smart Paddy Meaney points from play got Crusheen going by the 20th minute and leveled matters before an effort from play by Fergus Kennedy and pointed frees from Ciaran O’Doherty and Paddy Vaughan put them in firm control by half-time.

Positional switches made during that first half had worked well, with Fergus Kennedy growing into the game around midfield, while his point five minutes into the second half after an earlier strike from Gerry O’Grady helped them into a 0-11 to 1-4 lead.

From there it was hard to see Crusheen not become Munster champions, but just when everyone thought they’d up the ante like they did against Sixmilebridge and Carrigtwohill in previous games, they gradually lost their way and were left hanging on for dear life at the end.

Shane Dowling’s accuracy was key – a couple of frees by the 40th minute changed the whole complexion of the game and brought the gap back to two points. From there it was all about Na Piarsaigh as they upped their performance level around the field, while Crusheen flagged, especially among the forwards where the scores dried up completely.

In the end it was only Paddy Vaughan who kept them afloat. After another Dowling free in the 43rd minute reduced the margin to the minimum, it was Vaughan who stopped the rot with a 46th minute free.

Then he intervened again in the 51st minute to restore Crusheen’s lead with a brilliant point from play after Cathal King had raided from corner back to land a point and another Dowling free had brought the sides level for the first time since the 20th minute.

But the sea was very blue in Thurles as Na Piarsaigh seemed to be on their way to winning Limerick’s first Munster club title in 17 years when substitute John Madden and countyman David Breen fired over inspirational points by the 57th minute to edge them a point clear.

They had out-scored Crusheen by 0-7 to 0-2 in the previous 20 minutes and looked set for victory until Paddy Vaughan’s 58th minute free saved Crusheen’s blushes.

It would have been an awful game to lose, given how much control they exerted either side of half time.

They didn’t. It could make them, but the fact that Na Piarsaigh played so poorly for so long and still drew could give them the confidence to finally break Crusheen’s resolve.

Sunday next will tell all.


Browne looks to learn

“SWINGS AND roundabouts,” says Michael Browne when summing up the first episode of Munster final drama served up by Crusheen and Na Piarsaigh.

An episode that saw influence and dominance drift this way and that before Johnny Ryan’s long whistle meant that they must do it all again.

Browne goes through each phase meticilously.

The slow start: “We started ok in the sense that we were playing reasonably ok, but we weren’t putting away the scoring chances we created, running out over ball and stuff like that. That would appear to indicate that there was something in the minds of the players.

“Maybe too much significance was attached to the occasion and as a result we made those few little slips early on. Early on in that game we could have been four or five points up had we taken the right options and the right choices.

“The magnitude of what we were trying to do was probably at fault, even though we had worked hard at trying to keep it as low-key as we could, but still it’s inevitable that little things like that happen.”

The second half when they surrendured a four-point advantage and then drifted behind with three minutes remaining: “It shows that the further on you go in these competitions, the higher the standard of the opposition is,” he says.

“Na Piarsaigh had the ability to put us under a bit more pressure and get those couple of scores to comeback. They came back into it and that’s what you expect when you get further and further into the competition.

“I had great confidence that we could get the ball up to the forwards and get that score (equaliser). I was still hoping it was a game we could have snapped at the end.

“You have to give the lads credit. They worked so hard right throughout that game. We were up against a quality team with quality forwards who were capable of getting excellent of scores.”

The replay: “The reality is that which ever team learns the most and comes out and performs best on the day will win.”

Teacher Michael Browne will be going to school in the next week with his team.

Then again so will teacher Sean Stack.


Tide turns in favour of Na Piarsaigh side

SEAN Stack lifted the Munster Cup in Thurles back in 1984 – at the end of this game he knew his Na Piarsaigh side were inches away from bringing the same cup back to Caherdavin for the first time.

“We had chances,” he says. “We had a couple of chances to win it and pulled a few saves out of Donal Tuohy, while our keeper was idle for a long time. We had a few point options that finished up inside in Tuohy’s hands.”

Those missed chances aside, Stack was happy to be still standing, after being out-gunned for long periods and under the vice-like grip of the Crusheen backs before Shane Dowling’s frees helped bring them back from the brink.

“We needed a second green flag to ask some real questions, to put doubts in their mind,” he says. The lads will know themselves that they didn’t play to the top of their game. A few underperformed. That was due to their markers too.

“Cian Dillon is a fabulous centreback. Cathal Dillon a super player too. It’s difficult to play against guys like that. We’re as good as we’re let.

“We had targeted Cronan Dillon a bit, but he had a great game and four players went in on him. Crusheen have a fair outfit. Any inter-county forward line would struggle against any of those six backs and we did.”

Still, you sense a creeping confidence in Na Piarsaigh – according to Stack they’re not overawed about have to face those backs once more.

“Maybe the tide is turning in our favour,” he says.

“We’re really confident because we know that half our forward line did not perform to the best of their ability.

“It’s going to be a bruiser and it’s going to be who comes up with the best mental attitude that will carry the day. Who gets it up for next week will be the team that will come out on top.

“The prize is huge – Munster club champions and facing into an AllIreland semi-final against Loughgiel Shamrocks. The prize is enormous. Who gets their head around it this week, that’s the team that’s going to win.”


A marathon campaign with a ‘fantastic’ result

FLAN Garvey has ran many’s the election race but probably never envisaged the marathon campaign of unprecedented success that 2011 would bring to his native Inagh when he took over the reigns during the summer. The former Mayor of Clare could be mistaken for President such was the amount of hands he was shaking at the final whistle but once there was finally a fall-off long after the presentation, he finally put his year into words.

“It’s a marvellous achievement in these my twilight years to have such a fantastic success. I was called into action on June Bank Holiday Monday and wasn’t looking for the job but the girls said they were stuck and needed someone. So I got Noel Hehir and Anne Wynne on board which made us a good backroom team.

“The girls were fantastic all year. There were some awful training days in the muck and dirt, wind and rain coming down on top of us but they slogged on the whole time under the inspirational Patricia McCarthy about three times a week. There were no prisoners taken, there was no messing. Players were told to shut up and worse when training was on, they trained very hard and they have the fruit of that training now.

“We initially set out to win the county championship. We knew Truagh/Clonlara had beaten us in the League final, we knew we threw it away so we wanted to prove the point, win the final and get back to where we should be. And we did win it, in a tough game we won it well and then went straight into a Munster final against An Rinn. We expected to win that believe it or not and we did win it easy as they didn’t score in the second half.

“The next one was not an easy one against Four Roads. We got a major fright that I think in hindsight won us this All-Ireland today. They frightened the life out of our girls and to say that we didn’t score for 25 minutes, I just couldn’t believe it but by God today, they got it right even though Tara got off to a good start.

“When we beat Four Roads, we knew that they were the All-Ireland champions so surely to God, we were as good as what was there in the championship. And we knew we were as good as Tara, we thought we were that bit better and we proved that today.”

And the added bonus of being the first Clare camogie club to ever win an All-Ireland title just seems to top off an already perfect day.

“It’s mighty. We are a small parish. I mean the whole parish of Inagh, Kilnamona and Clounanaha is roughly 1,700 people. How many of those are girls and then how many play camogie? It’s fantastic and it will be a while before we realise how fantastic it actually was.”

He’s now got the rest of the winter to let it sink in.


McCarthy speaks of leaving ‘everything on the field’

“PATRICIA McCarthy, you have given such commitment this year as a trainer and player. You have been absolutely brilliant and thank you from each and every one of us.”

Joint Captain Michelle Wynne’s words of appreciation in her acceptance speech for Inagh’s most experienced player and also undoubtedly one of the most passionate.

This was Patricia McCarthy’s moment, the dream of a lifetime of playing and at 43, to finally win an AllIreland title was extra special.

“It’s an absolute unreal feeling. All year was simply surreal of how far we could bring this young team to. We won the county and we won the Munster and we knew it was in us today. From the start of the year, we said that there was only one place we wanted to be and that was in an AllIreland club final and now that we were here, we said we weren’t going to leave it behind us. We had to leave everything on the field, die for every ball and it was an absolute team effort from one to fifteen.”

Her undying belief in her teammates was summed up by her first half opinion.

“Ten minutes into the first half, I said to myself this game is ours. Now I wouldn’t say that to the girls because you have to keep their two feet firmly on the ground. We just weren’t converting the scores, we weren’t looking up and we weren’t calling for the ball and I said if we start doing that, we will take our scores. All we had to do was to put fast ball into the full-forward line and I knew we would score and that’s what we did in the second half, we came out and we scored four goals.

“I’m extra proud of every one of those girls. It was pure hunger, passion, pride in the jersey, determination, courage; you can use all these words and you have to have confidence in your own ability and the girl beside you. It’s a huge amount of factors that it came down to today and I must also say that the support today was absolutely fantastic.

“It’s going to be some celebration tonight in Inagh and for a couple of weeks to come.”

Plenty of time then to saviour the realisation of a lifelong dream.


Goals drive Inagh to junior title

Inagh 5-4 – Tara (London) 2-4 at Killegland West, Ashbourne, Meath

THE ROMANCE and prestige of the All-Ireland Club Championships hit home for Inagh on Sunday as they became the first ever Clare camogie side to claim a national title. That achievement in itself deservedly puts Inagh on a pedestal of their own but the real satisfaction of the victory is that this was an immense local effort transferred to a national stage where the parish of Inagh, Kilnamona and Cloonanaha combined to reach the pinnacle.

In what was a whirlwind six week period, Inagh captured three different crowns, with sheer momentum, hard work and a never-say-die attitude catapulting them from the county final through the provincial and All-Ireland series culminating in Sunday’s unprecedented success.

What seemed like romance to Inagh on Sunday could be more aptly summised as an unrequieted love affair in previous campaigns as Newmarket-on-Fergus, Kilmaley and Corofin all fell at the final hurdle. However, the difference on Sunday was that Inagh, bolstered by their near exit in the semi-final, appeared a side that refused to be beaten and were willing to leave everything on the field in the pursuit of that goal.

Of course, every final needs leaders and while this was a team effort of tireless endeavour, two players must be singled out for special mention. Centre-back Christina Glynn belied her mere 17 years to produce one of the most mature displays ever seen by a Clare player in a national final. She was seemingly everywhere over the hour, comfortable in sweeping up at the back as she was marauding forward to set up attacks

The undoubted player of the game though was All-Star nominee Fiona Lafferty who was at the heart of all things positive for Inagh. In total, she was instrumental in all but one of Inagh’s scores, grabbing 1-4 herself and through her incessant movement and incisive runs, Tara were simply not able to deal with her all afternoon.

It wasn’t as if the opposition were substandard either as London champions Tara, likely aided by vast Irish emigration, had all the appearance of an inter-county or national side, with players from over ten different counties making up the team.

Tara had a romantic angle of their own as the three-in-a-row London champions were bidding to complete their 25th anniversary with an AllIreland in what was a London representative’s first ever appearance in an national club decider.

And they couldn’t have been handed a better platform to build on either after Grace Hamilton batted to the net for Tara in the opening minute of the game to stun the Clare champions.

However, scorewise at least, that was as good as it got for the threein-a-row London champions despite the best efforts of Bid Grennan and Angela Kenneally who were their standout performers on the day.

Instead, wind-assisted Inagh, led inspirationally by Lafferty, would keep their opponents scoreless for the remainder of the half while tacking on 1-3 themselves. The dual star grabbed the three points while she also set up the goal for Emily Lynch in the ninth minute when her delivery from halfway went over the top of the full-back line with the onrushing corner-forward applying the finishing touches from close range.

Inagh had successfully bounced back from three points down to lead by the same amount at 1-3 to 1-0 at the interval but in truth, it should have been a more convincing advantage after hitting six wides in the opening half while also seeing four goal chances repelled by a stubborn Tara rearguard.

Playing deep as a sweeper, Kilkenny native Angela Kenneally was to the fore for Tara in frustrating the Banner outfit and on the turnover, was just as instrumental back in the forward line despite her side falling six points behind after Fiona Lafferty grabbed a 39th minute goal. This time Patricia O’Loughlin picked up a break around halfway before finding Lafferty to pull to the net via the stick of goalkeeper Niamh Dolan.

It should have made things more comfortable for Inagh but instead, in what was their best period of the game, Tara responded with four successive points in a seventh minute purple patch, two from Kenneally and two from their top scorer Denise Gilligan. Inagh couldn’t have grumbled had one or two of those efforts ended up below the crossbar either as Tara began to find their rhythm and had the deficit back to just two.

However, they were to be suckerpunched, only seconds after their fourth point when a Lafferty free from 45 metres broke for Patricia O’Loughlin to finish to the net for the Clare side and still reeling from that blow, Tara conceded two more in the next seven minutes that ultimately sealed their fate.

The first came in the 53rd minute when Helen Hehir received a pass from Emily Lynch to cut in from the right and beat Dolan at the near post. And only two minutes later, a flowing move involving Glynn and Lafferty set up Hehir once more but her rasping shot crashed off the crossbar


Gaels take Peggy Kelly shield

CLARE’S latest addition to the Ladies Football calendar of events reached its conclusion last Saturday when the finals of Cooraclare’s Peggy Kelly Memorial Shield for Under 15 players were played out. In the B shield final, host club Cooraclare had a win over Doonbeg and in the A Shield, West Clare Gaels had a victory over the Banner to take the title.

The competition, co-ordinated by Cooraclare’s Joe Downes, was played out over the last three weeks and also included teams from Fergus Rovers, Éire Óg and Doora/Barefield. Peggy Kelly gave many years of service to the Cooraclare GAA and Ladies LGFA clubs and this competition in her honour is a mark of the club’s respect and rememberance.

Peggy’s brother Tommy Clune presented medals and shields to the teams and paid tribute to her memory.


Kilrush win the battle of the west

Kilkee Communit y College 3-9 Kilr ush Communit y School 2-8 at Coor acla r e DESPITE THE conditions, it was a cracking final between these great rivals. A strong wind dictated the flow of the game and Kilkee capitalised on this to the full in the first half.

An exceptional performance in attack by Shauna Harvey saw her rack up 2-5 (2f) before the break while Olive King contributed three points and Amy Keane took a great goal to boot.

Kilrush goalie Hazel Baumann was very good and put in several blocks to deny a very goal hungry attack. In fairness to the Shamrocks, they worked very hard to bring the game up field and some good performances through the middle via Sinead Burke, Roisin O’Looney, Aine O’Looney and Aoife O’Gorman saw a hard fought 2-2 being accumulated to keep the Kilrush girls in contention.

Aoife Carraig pointed first for Kilrush, a solid Aine Browne took 1-1 and Aine O’Looney’s rocket was palmed over by Rianna Lillis for a point to give a nine point gap when Barry Kelly called for the break at 38 to 2-2 in favour of the Blues.

After the break Kilkee went into defensive mode and Shauna Harvey dropped back to play as an extra defender.

Kilkee were to score only a solitary point by King again after 55 minutes with this strategy and decided to weather the Kilrush onslaught which did come. Kilrush lived in the Kilkee side for the most of the second half but didn’t convert.

Kilrush’s Aoife O’Gorman was outstanding as she launched several attacks at speed but Shauna and sister Grainne Harvey, Collette Keniry and Ailish Brew soaked up a lot of the pressure for the Blues. After 20 minutes of the second half, Kilrush had narrowed the gap to six points through Lisa O’Dea and Aoife Carraig who also converted a free. King was back to push the gap out to seven points for Kilkee Community College but Kilrush responded with three points courtesy of Aoife Carraig and Jenny Ryan.

When referee Barry Kelly blew it up the score was 2-8 to 3-9 and Kilkee Community College (below) were the Clare Schools Senior C Champions.

Kilkee Community College
Rebecca Harte, Ellie O’Regan, Michaela Lynch, Grainne Harvey, Lauren Keane, Ciara McQuaid, Rachel Clancy, Olive King, Emma McMahon, Rianna Lillis, Amy Keane, Deirdre Maguire, Saoirse Maher, Rebekkah Flanagan, Rebecca Madigan, Mary Beth Downes (joint capt), Martha Hanrahan, Collette Keniry, Rose Marrinan, Shauna Harvey (joint capt), Ailish Brew, Emma Naughton, SineadWalsh, Áine Murphy. Agnes Hehir (trainer), Michael Carmody (trainer)

Kilrush Community College
Hazel Baumann, Sarah Quinlivan,Anna Hayes, Eva Hayes, Sinead Burke, Roisin O’ Looney,Aine O’ Looney, Aoife O’ Gorman,Aoife Conway, Jenny Ryan, Aine Browne, Ronya Baumann, Lisa O’ Dea,Aoife Carrig, Grainne Howard Subs: Shauna OBrien (for Grainne Howard), Carla Behan, Kayla Crowley, Stephanie O’ Donoghue, Louise Hall, Louise O’ Gorman, SarahThornton, Caitriona Crowe, Nicole Burke, Emma McInerney, Shannon Carroll, Cliona Bond

Barry Kelly (St Joseph’s Miltown)


Flannan’s take the title

St Fla nna n’s College 5-7 St Ma r y’s Nenagh 4-10 at Fr Mur phy Memor ia l Pa r k, Newma r ket -on-Fer gus THE GAMES keep coming thick and fast but St Flannan’s continue to find the answers. Take this game as a prime example. Less than 24 hours earlier, ten of the side played in the Munster Colleges Senior B Ladies Football Quarter-Final but still had the stamina to pick off the last four points on Saturday and force a replay in this encounter.

That’s a remarkable resilience from a group of girls who refused to throw in the towel at any stage and in the overall analysis, they fully deserved another bite of the cherry.

In what was a compelling contest throughout, the Ennis college led by five points as late as the 34th minute after hitting five goals in a 17 minute period.

Nenagh had started the brighter with freetaker Brid Quinn converting three out of their first four points by the 12th minute to take a three point advantage. However, once St Flannan’s settled with Aoibheann Malone’s superb opportunist goal at the turn of the opening quarter, they quickly gathered momentum.

Tara Kennedy immediately replied with a goal for the Tipperary side but St Flannan’s were unpeturbed and after 1-1 from captain Niki Kaiser, they added further goals by the 30th minute from Sinead O’Keeffe and Rachel Mulcaire, whose lineball deflected off a defender’s hurley past her own goalkeeeper.

That gave St Flannan’s a 4-2 to 16 cushion but they were to be reeled in once more in injury-time when Kennedy again found space to bat to the net and cut the interval deficit to two.

St Flannan’s restored their five point advantage just after the break when another deflection helped Niki Kaiser’s shot find the net but that was as good as it got for the home side.

Instead, Nenagh found another gear and after hitting 1-3 without reply by the 40th minute to take the lead, a fourth goal in the 47th minute from Sarah Cunneen seemed to have knocked the heart out of St Flannan’s challenge.

Nenagh must have thought so as well as Brid Quinn chose to put a penalty over the bar in the 50th minute to build up a four point advantage instead of going for the jugular.

However, somehow, defying the odds and their previous footballing exploits in Limerick, Flannan’s rallied. With Aoife Keane constantly controlling the half-back line, Niki Kaiser an inevitable threat and Orla Devitt constantly driving at the Nenagh defence, they began to up the ante once more and slowly the lead began to topple.

Niki Kaiser (2) and Devitt slashed the deficit to just a point by the 61st minute before substitute Lauren McGuane teed up Kaiser for a worthy equaliser in the 62nd minute.

It wasn’t over yet as Brid Quinn, Nenagh’s most impressive performer made one last driving run up the field but her shot was repelled by goalkeeper Suzy O’Shea to save the day.

While relief was the overriding feeling leaving Newmarket, the fixture congestion doesn’t get any easier for St Flannan’s this week as they prepare for their football semi-final before having to replay this game next Saturday in Nenagh at 2pm.

St Flannan’s College
Suzy O’Shea (Ballyea), Chloe McAleer (Kilmaley), Clodagh Lawlor (Newmarket-on-Fergus), Claire McMahon (Éire Óg), Sinead Quinn (Kilnamona), Aoife Keane (Kilnamona), Rae AliceWall (Éire Óg), Rachel Mulcaire (Newmarket-on-Fergus) (1-0),Alanna O’Brien (Éire Óg), Orla Devitt (Éire Óg) (0-1),Aoibheann Malone (Corofin) (1-0), Kate O’Neill (Newmarket-on-Fergus), Shaunagh O’Brien (Éíre Óg), Sinead O’Keeffe (Kilmaley) (1-0), Niki Kaiser (Newmarket-on-Fergus) (Capt) (2-6 4f, 1’45)

Rebecca Crowe (Ruan) for McAleer (24 mins), Lauren McGuane (Kilmaley) for Wall (40 mins), LaurenTuohy (Clarecastle) for S. O’Brien (56 mins, inj)

St Mary’s Nenagh
Ciara Holohan (Buress-Duharra), Rachel Kennedy (Silvermines), Roisin Ryan (Moneygall), MaryWalsh (Kilruane), Paula Kelly (Silvermines),Aislin Cremin (Burgess-Duharra),Alanah Morris (Nenagh Éire Óg), Caoimhe Maher (Burgess-Duharra) (0-1), Leah McKeogh (Portroe), Ciara McGrath (Nenagh Éíre Óg) (0-1), Brid Quinn (Silvermines) (0-7 6f, 1 Pen), Sarah Cunneen (Silvermines) (Capt.) (1-0),Aileen Duggan (Nenagh Éire Óg) (1-0),Tara Kennedy (Burgess-Duharra) (2-0), Claire Kearns (Burgess-Duharra) (0-1)

Player of the Game
Aoife Keane (St Flannan’s College) Referee Donie Browne (Limerick)


Kilmurry boys return as Burren triumph

Burren United 2 – Mountshannon Celtic 1 at Lisdoonvarna