Clare senior hurling champions Cratloe suffered a shock defeat from Ballyea when the sides clashed in the opening round of the 2015 competition at Cusack Park on Saturday evening.
They can still retain the title, however, but from here on they have to win all games in the competition.
Ballyea were fully deserving of this victory on an evening when they were the sharper side throughout.[doptg id=”71″]
This result could well prove to be very costly for Cratloe football boss Colm Collins who is also the Clare senior football manager. Ahead of Clare’s Munster semi-final date with Cork on June 14, two members of the county panel, Podge Collins and Martin O’Leary(he hurls with Ballyea) picked up injuries in this hurling tie which led to their replacement.
Collins injured his knee and is now very doubtful for the clash with Cork while O’Leary suffered a collar bone injury which is expected to keep him out of action for a number of weeks.
The game brought some good news for Clare senior hurling manager as both Tony Kelly and Conor McGrath played from start to finish. Kelly, who hobbled off the pitch in Thurles last week and McGrath who missed that game, showed no ill effects from their recent injuries
Ballyea put down a marker from the outset and raced 0-4 to 0-0 clear in the first quarter. At half time they led by two, 0-7 to 0-5.
On the scoreboard, the second half was a shootout between Tony Kelly and Conor McGrath. Kelly hit all six Ballyea points in this period with McGrath scoring five of Cratloe’s six.
In the first game of the day on Saturday Clonlara looked to be on their way to victory when they led by eight points with eleven minutes remaining. However the Tony Kelly managed Clarecastle who are coached this year by former Tipperary star Tommy Dunne put in a powerful finish and levelled the tie when substitute Pat Tuohy goaled in the first minute of injury time. Five minutes earlier Patrick Kelly, who missed out on Kerry’s easy win over Kildare in the semi-final of the Christy Ring cup, had scored a cracking goal.
In extra time the sides could not be separated and were still level at 2-22 for Clarecastle to 1-25 for Clonlara when the final whistle sounded.
Inter county man Colin Ryan was the Newmarket hero as he scored the winning goal in the final minute in their 2-13 to 1-13 win over Feakle, last year’s intermediate champions. The East Clare side led for much of this game and throughout the final third of the match looked the likely winners until Ryan intervened.
Kilmaley recorded a comfortable 1-22 to 1-10 win over Whitegate, also at Sixmilebridge. There was nothing between the sides in the opening half but Kilmaley piled on the pressure after the break and pulled away for a comfortable win.
The champions of 2013, Sixmilebridge, got their challenge for honours off to a winning start with a 2-19 to 1-10 victory over Eire Og. Shane Golden led the way for the winners with a contribution of 2-5, all from play.
The opening shots in this year’s title race were fired on Friday evening when Crusheen had a surprisingly easy, 3-18 to 0-16 win over Inagh-Kilnamona.
In the intermediate championship Wolfe Tones easily disposed of the challenge of St. Josephs on Friday evening while, on Saturday, Parteen, Scariff and Corofin recorded wins over Ruan, Crusheen and Killanena respectively.
By Seamus Hayes