Ballyea’s reign as Clare senior hurling champions ended at Cusack Park this evening when they were stripped of the title by Newmarket who had four points to spare at the final whistle.
A strong final five minutes to the opening half proved decisive in this one as Newmarket scored 1-4 in that period while conceding just a point.
While Ballyea boss Fergal Hegarty was fullsome in his praise for Newmarket, it must be pointed out that the title holders went into this game with key players Tony Kelly and Gearoid O’Connell carrying injuries which clearly hampered their play.
The holders made the better start and at the end of a low scoring opening quarter they led on a scoreline of 1-2 to 0-1, the goal having come from Niall Deasy following a defensive blunder by the eventual winners.
Gradually, however, Newmarket got a grip on proceedings and the switch of Ronan Goode to the full forward line paid dividends. Three minutes before the end of normal time in the first half he struck for his side’s goal, a score which gave them a lead they held to the final whistle, They were 1-8 to 1-5 in front at half time.#
To their credit Ballyea battled to the end and piled on the pressure in the closing minutes as they battled to hold on to the title. Two minutes from time a foul on Niall Deasy resulted in a penalty but Ronan McCormack produced an excellent save from Tony Kelly and that was their last chance.
Moments later Newmarket were celebrating a merited victory which had earned them a place in the semi-finals
A busy afternoon at Cusack Park got underway with Clooney-Quin recording a five point win over a fancied Eire Og, 3-14 to 2-12. The winners led by three points, 1-9 to 1-6 at half time, both goals having come in the space of a minute just before the break. Early in the second half the winners extended their lead with a Ronan O’Donnell goal and as the game entered the final quarter they held a six point advantage, 2-11 to 1-8.
Eire Og hit a purple patch and a goal from substitute Eimhin Courtney cut the winners lead to the minimum with eight minutes remaining but that was as good as it got for the town side and the winners sealed victory with an injury time goal from O’Donnell.
The meeting of neighbours and great rivals Sixmilebridge and Cratloe was expected to provide plenty of excitement but this wasn’t the case and when the final whistle sounded,Sixmilebridge were comfortable and deserving winners.
A Brian Corry goal after a defensive blunder in the fifth minute helped the winners on their way and they were 1-9 to 0-5 ahead at half time. Cratloe got the opening two points of the second half and a fight back looked to be on the cards but it didn’t materialise and an Alan Mulready goal at the end of the third quarter left the ‘Bridge 2-12 to 0-11 in front. They went on to dominate the final quarter when substitute Gavin White had their third goal while Cratloe’s goal came from Cathal McInerney in injury time and much to late to prevent Sixmilebridge from advancing. In addition to securing a place in the championship semi-final, the Bridge are also through to the Clare Champion cup final as the clubs had agreed to ‘double up’ in this fixture.
Inagh-Kilnamona and O’Callaghans Mills will contest the final of the senior B championship following their victories over St. Josephs and Whitegate respectively. Inagh-Kilnamona were 5-15 to 4-12 winners over the Doora-Barefield men while the Mills recorded a 2-22 to 1-14 victory over Whitegate.
In the intermediate championship, beaten finalists for the past two years, Broadford, are out of this year’s title race. At Tulla this afternoon they went down to Tubber who won on a 1-18 to 2-10 scoreline.
At the same venue A strong second half fightback from Scariff just came up short in their clash with neighbours Smith O’Briens. The Killaloe side emerged with a 1-15 to 1-14 victory.
Elsewhere Killanena sealed their intermediate status for next season when they had three points to spare over Sixmilebridge (2-15 to 2-12) while Clonbony booked a place in the semi-final of the junior C championship with a ten point win, 1-17 to 1-7, over Ogonnelloe in a quarter final replay.
By Seamus Hayes