Cratloe 3-4 Valley Rovers 0-5
Cratloe footballers booked a place in their first Munster intermediate football final after outclassing Cork champions Valley Rovers in windswept Clarecastle last Sunday.
Victory over Kerry kingpins, The Spa, Killarney in the provincial decider next Sunday would crown a fairytale season for Cratloe, which has confounded sceptics in their own club, who questioned the wisdom of trying to actively pursue championship success in both codes at their last annual general meeting.
The doubters who felt it wasn’t possible for adult players to try to win a senior hurling championship and triumph in the intermediate grade at the same time have now been silenced.
Not only have Cratloe managed to achieve this feat and the U-21A football title in the one season, the men in blue and white are now only 60 minutes away from a Munster intermediate football crown.
It has been a remarkable year for the South-East Clare club, who have successfully managed the challenges of juggling training and matches for 17 dual players, eight of whom play at U-21 level.
This eight-point emphatic victory leaves no room for argument and even the most ardent Valley Rovers supporter would have to concede that they were decisively beaten in most sectors.
A goal from super-sub Padraig Chaplin in the 48th minute derailed a Valley Rovers comeback, which had reduced a half-time six-point deficit to just two a minute earlier.
Conor McGrath sealed victory with a superb goal five minutes from the end to put the issue way beyond the reach of the visitors.
The sending off of Cork senior panellist, Fiachra Lynch in the 16th minute had a big bearing on the outcome. Referee Dermot Lynch issued him with a straight red card after a foul on Padraig Collins.
Numerical disadvantage proved too much for the Cork champions, who only managed to score three points from play against a watertight Cratloe defence.
Defeating Valley Rovers was a major scalp considering Cratloe suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of Cork champions Roscarbury Rangers in the same competition four years ago, after winning their first Clare intermediate football crown.
Valley Rovers have won the Cork intermediate and premier intermediate crown in successive seasons, while seven of their starting line-up have played on various Cork teams.
This year, Chris O’Donovan captained the All-Ireland winning Cork junior football team, Eamonn Collins won an All-Ireland medal with the Cork intermediate hurlers, Alan Quirke and Fiachra Lynch played with the Cork senior football team, while Kevin Canty, David Lynch and Eoin Manning also have intercounty experience.
Liam Markham proved to be an ideal sweeper as the extra man at centre-back, breaking up a success of promising Valley Rovers attacks, particularly when the Cork champions had a strong breeze at their backs in the second half.
Cratloe signalled their intent from the start with early points from Padraig Collins and Conor McGrath, while Valley Rovers’ solitary score in the opening half came from Eamonn Collins in the fourth minute.
Aided by a strong swirling breeze on splendid underfoot conditions, considering the torrential rain over the previous four days, Cratloe received an unexpected boost with Fiachra Lynch’s sending off and an opportunist goal from Seán Hynan five minutes before the break.
A superb point from Conor McGrath 40 metres out in the swirling wind ensured that Cratloe were 1-4 to 0-4 ahead at the interval.
Valley Rovers stepped up a gear after the change of ends and bounced back into contention with a point from a Hugh O’Donovan free in the 31st minute, Eamonn Collins in the 38th minute and two converted placed balls from O’Donovan in the 43rd and 47th minute, the latter from a sideline about 30 metres out on the left flank.
Despite the best efforts of David Lynch, Ronan Lehane, Kevin Canty, Eoin Manning and Hughie O’Donovan, Valley Rovers failed to score in the last 13 minutes.
The match-winning goal came 12 minutes before the end. Conor McGrath won possession in the right corner, seemed to be going for a point and it was deflected into the path of substitute Padraig Chaplin, who punched the ball past the hapless Alan Quirke.
Five minutes from the final whistle, there was no way back for Valley Rovers when Cathal McInerney went on a solo run down the left corner and his cross found Conor McGrath, who doubled on the ball to the back of the net.
Just before the final whistle, Padraig Collins was given a second yellow card for throwing the ball over the wall following a scuffle involving a large group of players from both sides after an injury to Seán Collins.
Barry Duggan excelled throughout at full-back and Martin ‘Oige’ Murphy and Seán Hynan also defended well, while Michael Hawes did well at midfield.
Seán Collins would have probably got the nod if there was an official man of the match award for his phenomenal work rate at centre-forward. Conor McGrath and Conor Ryan also caught the eye in the hard-working attack.
Cratloe: Wesley de Loughrey; Seán Chaplin, Barry Duggan, Barry Gleeson; Martin ‘Oige’ Murphy, Liam Markham, Seán Hynan; Kevin Browne, Michael Hawes; Padraig Collins, Seán Collins, Joe O’Connor; Cathal McInerney, Conor Ryan, Conor McGrath.
Subs: Padraig Chaplin, 40 mins, for Joe O’Connor; Cian de Loughrey, 52 mins, for Kevin Browne; Kane O’Shea, 57 mins, for Conor McGrath and Joe Conroy, 58 mins, for Michael Hawes.
Scorers: Conor McGrath (1-2), Seán Hynan (1-0), Padraig Chaplin (1-0) and Padraig Collins (0-2).
Frees for: 12. Wides: 6. 45s: 0.
Yellow cards: Michael Hawes, 16 mins; Padraig Collins, 29 mins; Kevin Browne, 36 mins and Padraig Collins, 60 mins.
Valley Rovers: Alan Quirke; Noel O’Donovan, David Lynch, Ray O’Donovan; Fergal Coughlan, Ronan Lehane, Stephen Manning; Chris O’Donovan, Kevin Canty; Eoin Manning, Shane Nolan, Tadhg Burke; Fiachra Lynch, Eamonn Collins, Hughie O’Donovan.
Subs: Brian Lehane, 45 mins, for Tadhg Burke and Seán Michael Collins for Eamonn Collins.
Scorers: Hughie O’Donovan (0-3, 0-2 from frees) and Eamonn Collins (0-2).
Frees for: 24. Wides: 2. 45s: 1.
Yellow cards: Kevin Canty, 16 mins and Ronan Lehane, 50 mins.
Red card: Fiachra Lynch, 16 mins.
Super-sub Chaplin strikes again
PADRAIG Chaplin earned the super-sub tag for the second time in recent weeks after steering Cratloe to their first Munster intermediate football final with a crucial goal in the semi-final on Sunday.
Valley Rovers had bounced back in contention after reducing a six-point interval deficit to two, when Padraig struck for the all-important goal 12 minutes from the end.
A few weeks ago, Padraig was the toast of the South-East Clare village when he grabbed an injury-time goal to win the senior hurling final at the expense of reigning champions, Clonlara.
While his goal following his departure from the subs bench wasn’t as dramatic this time, it broke the hearts of the Valley Rovers players and killed off their revival.
After the match, Padraig admitted that he had no idea he would score a goal when he was introduced and was fortunate to take the opportunity that was presented to him.
“Conor McGrath had the ball and I think he was going for a point. The ball took a deflection and when it fell in front of me I hadn’t time to catch it, so I just palmed it into the net.
“It is a great feeling to qualify for a Munster final. I wouldn’t mind getting a chance to score a goal in a Munster final. Playing conditions were probably the worst we have played this year and whoever got goals was going to win the game.
“I felt the first goal was important because three points would not have been enough of a lead at half-time, considering we had a strong wind in the first half.
“The extra man also made a big difference out there today. It is hard for any team to carry the ball against the wind with 14 men. Cratloe has about 20 players battling for places on the football team.
“A lot of the team are young players who are superbly fit and can run all day,” he said.
Asked about the fatigue factor, Padraig explained that the management team concentrates a lot on ball work in training sessions and the players complete pool recovery sessions after big games.
At the start of the year, Padraig admitted that players would have been delighted with a Clare title in one code but now they were anxious to do well in the Munster intermediate football final after their success in the Clare Senior Hurling Championship.
Valley Rovers club chairman, Michael Lynch was magnanimous in defeat when he visited the Cratloe dressing room to offer his words of congratulations after the final whistle.
“Cratloe has a fine football team. I hope ye go on and win the Munster final and ye are capable of winning the All-Ireland final,” he said.
Speaking outside the dressing room, he admitted that the dismissal of Fiachra Lynch had a crucial bearing on the outcome of the game and that Cratloe’s second goal decided the issue.
Lynch felt Valley Rovers never adapted to the difficult playing conditions and were probably affected by the lack of match practice, while Cratloe were sharper from the start.
Cratloe manager, Colm Collins added it was a “horrendous” day for football and questioned the wisdom of playing big football games in such difficult conditions.
Once Valley Rovers were reduced to 14 men, he said he felt Cratloe would create additional scoring chances but didn’t think the chances would come the way they were presented, particularly their three goals.
Despite the satisfaction gained from defeating the Limerick and Cork intermediate football champions, Colm stressed that Cratloe now had to pull out all the stops to defeat The Spa in the Munster final.
Having seen Valley Rovers defeat Clyde Rovers in the Cork intermediate football final, Colm felt his charges were well capable of defeating them if they played to their full potential on the day.
“Our lads are well able to keep the ball and it is very important not to give possession away. There is no inferiority complex in the Cratloe dressing room. Our fellas are as good as players in Cork and Kerry and their skills levels are just as high. At times, some Clare teams have lacked that bit of self-belief in their own ability.
“The perception that players can’t play football and hurling is rubbish. Some managers get caught up in their own importance. The players’ welfare is the most important and once they are looked after properly, having dual players works for successful teams.
“It is important not to over train a team. We concentrate a lot on ball work and keep the players ticking over in terms of fitness,” he said.