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Tony Kelly of Ballyea in action against Cian Dillon of Crusheen in Cusack Park. Photograph by John Kelly.

Ballyea Edge Tight Contest With Crusheen In Clare SHC

Clare SHC Round One: Ballyea 0-16 Crusheen 0-14

Ballyea saw off a stiff challenge from Crusheen to get their 2020 Clare SHC campaign off to a winning start.

The sides were level on four different occasions in the opening period but Crusheen were by far the most wasteful with 11 wides before the half-time whistle having had the wind behind them.

Both teams were operating with a spare man at the back as Cian Dillon and Jack Browne were revelling in the space. Breffni Horner and Cillein Mullins worked hard up front for Crusheen while Niall Deasy and Morgan Garry were also causing plenty problems in the Ballyea full-forward line.

Tony Kelly was as central as ever with four first half points, but it was the score just before the waterbreak from out on the sideline that won the prize for most spectacular. They led 0-5 to 0-3 at that point, but a trio unanswered on the resumption sent Crusheen ahead for the first time in the contest. Donal Tuohy levelled matters with a free from just outside his own 20m line, while the most experienced man on the field put them ahead when Pat Vaughan fired over.

Ballyea responded in kind as Morgan Garry, Deasy and Kelly restored their two point cushion but a fine effort by Jamie Fitzgibbon after a loose Ballyea clearance saw just the minimum between the sides at half-time with Ballyea 0-8 to 0-7 in front.

By the time the next water break, the gap had been extended to three as Deasy’s accuracy from frees kept his side in the ascendancy. Ross Hayes accounted for all his sides tally in the third quarter of the contest to keep them in touch as the final stages loomed.

Another from Hayes cut the gap back to two inside the closing ten minutes but another fine score from distance by Kelly left Ballyea 0-15 to 0-12 in front with the clock hitting injury time.

Hayes and Brennan swapped scores late on, and when Tuohy’s late free was deflected behind for a “65m free, Hayes converted to give them hope of one last chance to snatch it.

That chance never came as Ballyea exacted revenge for their defeat in 2019 to the same opposition.

Ballyea: Oisín Hennessey; Brian Casey, Paul Flanagan, Peter Casey; James Murphy, Jack Browne, Brandon O’Connell; Tony Kelly, Gary Brennan; Ryan Griffin, Pierce Lillis, Cillian Brennan; Morgan Garry, Niall Deasy, Tadgh Lynch.

Subs: Aonghus Keane for Griffin, Martin O’Leary for Garry, Aaron Griffin for Lynch.

Scorers: Tony Kelly (0-7), Niall Deasy (0-6, 5f), Gary Brennan (0-2), Morgan Garry (0-1)

Crusheen: Donal Tuohy; Gavin O’Brien, Cathal Dillon, John Brigdale; Luke Hayes, Cian Dillon, Tadgh Dean; Eanna McMahon, Jamie Fitzgibbon; Sean Mhaoir, Ross Hayes, Paddy Vaughan; Conor O’Donnell, Breffni Horner, Cillein Mullins.

Subs: Alan Brigdale for Luke Hayes, Mark Perril for O’Donnell, Ian O’Brien for Vaughan, Diarmuid Mullins for Mhaoir, Murrough McMahon for Fitzgibbon.

Scorers: Ross Hayes (0-9, 6f, 1 “65), Jamie Fitzgibbon (0-2), Donal Tuohy (0-1, 1f), Pat Vaughan and Conor O’Donnell (0-1 each).

Ref: Joe Mullins (Clonlara)

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