Senior Hurling Championship Semi-Final
Clonlara 3-18 Crusheen 2-16
It was the perfect Cinderella story as arguably having suffered more heartbreak than any other team in the county, Clonlara soared to a first Clare Senior Hurling Crown since 2008 in Cusack Park, writes Eoin Brennan.
Three agonising final and six semi-final reverses in the intervening 15 years were wiped away by a commanding final performance that saw them lead from Micheál O’Loughlin’s emphatic breakthrough goal in the 18th minute to the finish.
Having somehow been denied a hat-trick of goals up to that juncture including a break taking Donal Tuohy stop from Colm O’Meara in only the fifth minute, O’Loughlin’s strike following great work from Aidan Moriarty and Ian Galvin felt like a weight was lifted off Clonlara’s shoulders as they outscored Crusheen by 1-3 to 0-2 for the remainder of the half.
Again Moriarty raced through the centre, this time offloading to Colm Galvin to flick to the net from close range on Clonlara’s way to a 2-7 to 0-6 interval cushion.
In contrast, Crusheen, who almost scored everything they hit towards the posts in the semi-final, slumped to a frustrating eleven first half wides but led by Clare Under 20 Oisin O’Donnell, they were much improved on the resumption.
An O’Donnell goal at the turn of the final quarter did alter the narrative somewhat as suddenly Clonlara’s advantage was slashed to just three at 2-13 to 1-12.
However, despite a nervy few moments, Micheál O’Loughlin’s superb catch and finish at the second attempt proved a clinching score as Clonlara would power nine clear before Breffni Horner’s late consolation goal.
With a perfect run of six wins, Clonlara fully merited what was only their third ever Canon Hamilton, with John Conlon the sole clubman to hold two senior medals.
Clonlara: Seimi Gully; Logan Ryan, Ger Powell, Michael Clancy; Paraic O’Loughlin, Dylan McMahon, David Fitzgerald; Aidan Moriarty, Jathan McMahon; Colm Galvin, John Conlon, Colm O’Meara; Micheál O’Loughlin, Ian Galvin, Diarmuid Stritch
Subs: Cian Moriarty for Stritch (50), Micheál Stritch for D. Stritch (58), Daniel Moloney for J. McMahon (60, inj), Conor Bourke for A. Moriarty (62, inj)
Scorers: Micheál O’Loughlin (2-9, 7f); Colm Galvin (1-0); John Conlon, Ian Galvin (0-2 each); Colm O’Meara, Jathan McMahon, Diarmuid Stritch, Dylan McMahon, Aidan Moriarty, (0-1 each)
Crusheen: Donal Tuohy; Luke Hayes, Cian Dillon, Eanna McMahon; Diarmuid Mullins, Ross Hayes, Tadhg Dean; Eoghan McMahon, Jamie Fitzgibbon; Gerry O’Grady, Conor O’Donnell, Cilléin Mullins; Oisin O’Donnell, Fergus Kennedy, Breffni Horner
Subs: Ian O’Brien for McMahon (40), Luke Ketelaar for C. Mullins (51), Gavin O’Brien for O’Grady (63), Mark Perrill for Kennedy (63)
Scorers: Oisin O’Donnell (1-4); Breffni Horner (1-3, 2f); Ross Hayes (0-3f); Conor O’Donnell, Fergus Kennedy (0-2 each); Diarmuid Mullins, Jamie Fitzgibbon (0-1 each)
Referee: Niall Malone (Éire Óg)