Cratloe 3-5 Clonlara 1-9
THOSE who argue it’s not possible for a team with a large number of dual players to achieve success in hurling and football, will have to reconsider their view after Cratloe’s history-making success in the Clare senior hurling championship final on Sunday.
Appearing in the final for the first time in their history, Cratloe caused a big surprise when they overcame title-holders and favourites, Clonlara at Cusack Park, in difficult weather conditions.
That Cratloe deserved this win is without question as they were sharper throughout the field and displayed the greater hunger for victory.
This belied the view that because of their achievements in U-21 and intermediate football, that tiredness would have set in. a large percentage of Sunday’s panel have been involved in championship action in one or other code for a number of months.
The record books will show that a goal from substitute Pádraig Chaplin, a minute from the end of normal time, was the decisive score in this tie. At the time, the holders were clinging to a one-point lead and, in a low-scoring second half, one felt that the best Cratloe could achieve as full-time approached was a draw.
Tommy Lynch put the holders into the lead with two minutes to play and when they attacked again following the puck-out, it looked as if Cratloe’s first final appearance at this level was to end in disappointment. When Donal Madden won possession in the Clonlara full-forward line, his path to goal was closed down.
As the Cratloe defence forced him away for goal, the full-forward attempted an outfield 50-yard pass but it was Cratloe’s Seán Collins who won possession.
Rounding an opponent, he sent a long delivery into the Clonlara goalmouth, where Pádraig Chaplin, operating at full forward, won possession and blasted past Ger O’Connell to the corner of the net. There was no way back for the defending champions and two minutes later, Cusack Park was a sea of blue and white as Cratloe celebrated a famous victory.
It was a win they fully deserved, particularly since they had been guilty of a number of bad misses during the course of the game.
Clonlara went into the final as favourites and everything pointed to them justifying that rating when they raced into a four-point lead inside the opening 10 minutes with scores from Nicky O’Connell, Donal Madden (2) and Darach Honan. Both sides showed, in these early moments, that weather conditions were particularly difficult as the respective free takes, Damian Browne, in particular, and Donal Madden failed to convert some chances.
It was 0-4 to 0-2, 20 minutes into this final when Cratloe struck a major blow. A Damian Brown effort for a point rebounded off the upright and county minor McGrath was on hand to crash a powerful effort to the corner of the net. It was immediately obvious that this score gave Cratloe a major confidence boost.
Clonlara responded in the style of champions to McGrath’s goal with a like score from Cillian Fennessy after Darach Honan’s effort was well stopped by Seán Hawes. What Clonlara could do at one end so could Cratloe at the other and, within a minute, the new champions were on level terms for the second time. Again it was Conor McGrath who found the net, this time after a delivery from Seán Chaplin.
Damian Browne from a free and John Conlon swapped points, leaving the teams level at 1-6 to 2-3 when referee Rory Hickey signalled half-time.
Clonlara had William Slattery in their attack in place of John Barry when play resumed and they were back in front within a minute with a powerful score from Cormac O’Donovan. However, they just could not pull away from their neighbours and teenager McGrath levelled the game for the fourth time with a beautiful point a minute later.
Both sides were finding scores increasingly difficult to come by and there were just four more scores in the remaining 29 minutes of play.
Cratloe regained the lead through a Seán Chaplin long-range free and they followed this with the introduction of Gearóid Ryan and Pádraig Chaplin to their attack.
Twelve minutes remained when Donal Madden converted a 20m free from a tight angle to level the game for the fifth and final time. Madden, just as Damian Browne had done earlier, missed a couple of frees before Clonlara regained the lead after 10 scoreless minutes when Tommy Lynch found the target with just two of normal time remaining.
A minute later, Pádraig Chaplin struck for what proved to be the decisive score and while Clonlara tried to get back, time ran out and Rory Hickey’s final whistle sparked off celebrations that Cratloe fans will remember for many a day.
Cratloe’s defence, once again, stood out and none more so that Barry Duggan and David Ryan who were outstanding. Seán Chaplin got through an amount of work at midfield while up front, Conor McGrath’s haul of 2-1 was vital and earned him the man of the match award.
Clonlara were, understandably, disappointed but they acknowledged that Cratloe were the better side on the day. Nicky O’Connell and the O’Donovans worked hard but Cratloe’s hunger and sharpness was greater on the day and this proved decisive.
Cratloe: Seán Hawes; Philip Gleeson, Barry Duggan (captain), David Ryan; John O’Gorman, Michael Hawes, Liam Markham; Martin ‘Ogie’ Murphy, Seán Chaplin; Seán Collins, James Enright, Damian Browne; Cathal McInerney, Aidan Browne, Conor McGrath.
Subs: Gearóid Ryan for A Browne (42 minutes); Pádraig Chaplin for Enright (45 minutes); Paudge Collins for D Browne (59 minutes).
Scorers: Conor McGrath (2-1), Pádraig Chaplin (1-0), Seán Chaplin (0-2), 1 free; Damian Browne (0-2), both frees.
Frees for: 11; Wides: 11
Bookings: Aidan Browne (27 minutes); Conor McGrath (27 minutes); John O’Gorman (52 minutes).
Clonlara: Ger O’Connell; Brian Woods, John Moloney, Paul Collins; Nicky O’Connell, Tomas O’Donovan, Donal O’Donovan; Pat O’Hare, Tommy Lynch; John Conlon John Barry, Cormac O’Donovan; Darach Honan, Donal Madden, Cillian Fennessy.
Subs: William Slattery for Barry (half-time); Diarmuid Conway for Fennessy (56 minutes).
Scorers: Donal Madden (0-4), 3 frees; Cillian Fennessy (1-0); Nicky O’Connell (free); John Conlon, Cormac O’Donovan, Darach Honan, Tommy Lynch (0-1) each.
Frees for: 16; Wides: 7
Bookings: Nicky O’Connell (27 minutes), Tomás O’Donovan (43 minutes).
Referee: Rory Hickey, Éire Óg.