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Gary Brennan and Francie Neylon of Ballyea celebrate on the final whistle following the win over Clonlara in the county final replay at Cusack Park. Photograph by John Kelly.

Bonfires blaze throughout Ballyea after historic first title win

Ballyea 2-14 Clonlara 1-14

Bonfires are blazing across Ballyea this Sunday evening after history was made at Cusack Park in the afternoon when Ballyea won the Clare senior hurling championship title for the first time.

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In a replayed final they were the stronger team and fully deserved their win over favourites Clonlara on a day when they were never headed.

A man of the match performance from Niall Deasy who scored 1-3 together with outstanding displays from Clare football captain Gary Brennan and inter county hurlers Jack Browne, Paul Flanagan, Gearoid O’Connell and Tony Kelly were key ingredients in this victory.

First half goals from Gary Brennan and Niall Deasy helped the new champions to lead at the break on a score of 2-5 to 0-8 and while Clonlara fought back to level eleven minutes into the second half when their captain John Conlon found the net, Ballyea simply refused to fold.

We did this for Eoghan Donnellan who is presently in hospital in Limerick. We would not be in any final but for Eoghan and every bit of this was for Eoghan”, team manager Robbie Hogan said after the final whistle. Donnellan, the team’s full forward, picked up a serious injury in training a week ago.

Ballyea put down a marker from the outset and hit early points through Gary Brennan and Pat Joe Connolly in the first three minutes. The game had reached the sixth minute before Clonlara opened their account through Nicky O’Connell from a free but Ballyea were very much on top at this stage and it took a couple of great saves from Clonlara goalie Ger O’Connell to deny the winners a goal.

Ironically it was a fumble by O’Connell in the eleventh minute which led to the winner’s first goal which came from Gary Brennan. This sparked a strong response from Clonlara who hit three unanswered points to trail by a goal, 0-4 to 1-4 at the end of the first quarter. A minute later they were rocked when Niall Deasy burst through the middle and blasted to the net and while Clonlara outscored their opponents 0-4 to 0-1 in the last ten minutes of the half, Ballyea were full value for their half time lead of 2-5 to 0-8 and would not have been flattered if the margin had been greater at this time.

Each side scored four points in the first ten minutes of the second half and then Clonlara supporters got a massive boost when John Conlan burst through and shot to the net to tie up the scores at 1-12 for Clonlara to 2-9.

Fears that Ballyea might crumble were quickly dispelled as they continued to take the game to the favourites. With extra time looking likely and the teams level at 1-14 to 2-11, Ballyea kept the pressure on and points from Niall Deasy (free) Damian Burke and Tony Kelly sealed an historic day for the club and set up a Munster semi-final date with Thurles Sarsfields on Sunday next at Cusack Park.

Kelly was presented with the championship top scorer award while Deasy was named as the man of the match before long serving county board official Michael O’Neill from Ballyea presented the Canon Hamilton trophy to the winning captain StanLineen.

Ballyea; Kevin Sheehan; Brian Carigg (0-1), Jack Browne (0-1), Joe Neylon (0-1); Paul Flanagan, Gearoid O’Connell, James Murphy; Tony Kelly (0-4), Stan Lineen (captain); Niall Deasy (1-3) Patjoe Connolly (0-1), Cathal Doohan; Martin O’Leary, Gary Brennan (1-2) Pearce Lillis;

Subs; Damian Burke (0-1) for O’Leary; David Egan for Connolly;

Clonlara; Ger O’Connell, Cillian Fennessy, Domhnaill O’Donovan, Garath Kennedy; Cormac O’Donovan, Nicky O’Connell (0-1), Neil Ryan; Colm Galvin (0-2), Oisin O’Brien;; Micheál O’Loughlin (0-1) Darach Honan (0-1), James Hastings; Ger Powell, John Conlon (1-1), Cathal O’Connell (0-8)

Subs; Pat O’Hare for C O’Donovan; Paraic O’Loughlin for O’Hare; David Fitzgerald for Galvin (inj.)

Referee; D. Fox, (Clooney-Quin).

By Seamus Hayes


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