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St Flannan’s forwards pressurise the Ardscoil goalmouth. Photograph by Eugene McCafferty

Clare players to fore as Ardscoil put Flannan’s out of Harty Cup

Champion Chatter

Eoin Brennan watched as 27 players from Clare competed in a tight affair that saw the Limerick school through to the knockout stages on a score of 0-12 to 0-10

CLARE’S Harty Cup interests rest solely on Ardscoil Rís’ shoulders after a brace of injury-time points edged an understandably anxious final group decider against St Flannan’s College in O’Garney Park, Sixmilebridge on Wednesday afternoon.

With defending champions St Joseph’s Tulla bowing out against Midleton CBS, all eyes remained on a compelling Group 1 showdown between these heavyweights that saw 27 Clare natives play their part and even pitting Ballyea protagonists Paul Flanagan and Jack Browne against each other on the sideline.

For St Flannan’s, having already lost to Cashel Community College, it was simply a must-win tie, with the only way that the Croke Cup holders could exit the competition would be with a six point win for the Ennis side.

What followed was an anxious end-to-end slugfest that could have easily gone either way as two points was the biggest lead as the sides were level eight times by the hour mark.

In the end, St Flannan’s profligacy of 13 wides over the hour caught up with them as two injury-time misses were punished by a brace of winning scores for Fintan Fitzgerald and Cratloe substitute Marc O’Brien to ensure that last year’s finalists topped the group and brought Cashel Community School with them into the last eight.

With the sides fittingly deadlocked at 0-5 to 0-5 at the break, the move of the game was switching Cian Scully from centre-forward to centre-back as the Limerick Munster Under 20 winner was simply immense as a sweeping defender.

In truth, while St Flannan’s did grab the opening two points of the second half through Fred Hegarty and Oisin Whelan, they would be consistently frustrated in their efforts to add to that tally due to Scully’s innate reading of the supplyline.

The Ennis side did little to counteract that blockade and therefore it was Ardscoil Rís that ultimately snatched back the whip hand, outscoring their great rivals by 0-7 to 0-3 in the final 20 minutes.

Most impressively, six of those seven Ardscoil points stemmed from open play through as many scorers, with newly crowned Dean Ryan Cup winners Michael Collins (Clonlara) and Marc O’Brien (Cratloe) amongst them alongside overlapping defender Jamie Moylan (Cratloe).

St Flannan’s will particularly rue missed chances in the first half as eight wides were accentuated by the loss of captain James Doherty to a groin injury along with saved goal chances by goalkeeper Eoin Deegan from Fred Hegarty and Cian Kirby.

Instead, it was the Limerick college that responded clinically to Oisin Whelan’s opening free from 65 metres with three points in as many minutes through the Scully brothers Daniel and Cian as well as Cratloe’s Daire Neville at 0-3 to 0-1 by the sixth minute.

It took the 2020 champions 16 minute to hone their radar through Cian Kirby and another long range Whelan free to fully reel in their opponents, with Cian Scully and Oisin Whelan’s placed ball duel being maintained until the break at 0-5 apiece.

St Flannan’s did make a break on the restart with the first two points by the 37th minute but Scully’s incremental dominance turned the tide in Ardscoil’s favour as after Fintan Fitzgerald and substitute Collins regained parity at 0-7 to 0-7 entering the final quarter, the sides would trade points on three more occasions by the 57th minute.

Fionan Treacy excellently blocked a Michael Collins shot as first Oisin Whelan’s 40 metre free was cancelled out by Michael Gavin while Shane Gleeson’s single was superbly matched by slaloming St Flannan’s substitute Luca Cleary.

Even a slick puck-out to Marc O’Brien that was cleverly passed cross field to the unmarked Jamie Moylan was wiped out in the next passage of play through Sam Scanlan at 0-10 to 0-10.

St Flannan’s had their late chances to edge matters but credit Ardscoil Rís for their superior composure in the final frantic minutes as Fintan Fitzgerald and Marc O’Brien ended their rivals’ Harty Cup hopes.

Ardscoil Rís: Eoin Deegan (Cratloe); John O’Keeffe (Na Piarsaigh), Sean McMahon (Smith O’Brien’s), Sean Morrissey (Dromin-Athlacca-Banogue); James Finn (Na Piarsaigh), Michael Gavin (Ballybrown), Jamie Moylan (Cratloe); Fintan Fitzgerald (Mungret St Paul’s), Cian Scully (Dromin-Athlacca-Banogue); Shane Gleeson (Adare), Matthew O’Halloran (Sixmilebridge), Daniel Scully (Dromin-Athlacca-Banogue); Sam Hickey (Adare), Diarmuid Stritch (Clonlara), Daire Neville (Cratloe). Subs: Marc O’Brien (Cratloe) for D. Scully (HT), Michael Collins (Clonlara) for O’Halloran (34), Jim Beary (Na Piarsaigh) for Hickey (38), Eoin Begley (Clonlara) for Stritch (52)
Scorers: Cian Scully (0-3, 2f, 1’65); Fintan Fitzgerald (0-2, 1f); Daniel Scully, Daire Neville, Michael Collins, Michael Gavin, Shane Gleeson, Jamie Moylan, Marc O’Brien (0-1 each)

St Flannan’s College: Cian Howard (Éire Óg); Ian Williams (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield), Fionán Treacy (Éire Óg), Sean McMahon (Banner); Fiachra Ó Braoin (Sixmilebridge), James Hegarty (Inagh-Kilnamona), Paddy Nagle (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield); James Organ (Ruan), Sam Scanlan (Clooney-Quin); James Doherty (Clarecastle), Oisin Whelan (Clarecastle), Jack Mescall (Inagh-Kilnamona); Cian Kirby (Ballyea), Fred Hegarty (Inagh-Kilnamona), Tadhg Boddy (Bruff). Subs: Luca Cleary (Éire Óg) for Doherty (18), Dylan Keane Hayes (Kilmaley) for Boddy (41), Fiachra Kirby (Ballyea) for Organ (57), Doherty for Whelan (62)
Scorers: Oisin Whelan (0-6f); Sam Scanlan (0-2); Fred Hegarty, Luca Cleary (0-1 each)

Referee: Johnny Healy (Smith O’Brien’s)

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