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Earley inspires Tubber to merited win

THE final scoreline shows Tubber winning by the narrowest of margins but, in truth, favourites Cratloe were fortunate to be that close at Cusack Park on Sunday evening.
Twelve months ago, Cratloe, then the defending champions, met Tubber in Round 4 of the championship at the same venue and the North Clare side emerged with a two-point victory. They showed the greater hunger for victory on that occasion and the same was the case on Sunday evening.
A superb performance from Mark Earley at midfield was the highlight of Sunday’s game. He contributed 1-4 from play with all but a point of this tally coming in the opening half when the winners raced into a seven-point lead by the 20th minute.
While Earley was outstanding on Sunday, there were others who contributed handsomely to this victory. Veteran Eamonn Taaffe finished as his side’s top scorer with 2-2 to his credit while the workrate of the team’s defence also deserves special mention.
Conor McGrath pointed Cratloe into the lead after two minutes but this was to be the only time in the game when last year’s championship finalists held the upperhand.
Two Mark Earley points at either side of a Patrick O’Connor long-range free had the winners 0-3 to 0-1 ahead by the seventh minute. Earley and a brace from Taaffe had them 0-6 to 0-2 ahead after 10 minutes.
Five minutes later, Taaffe struck for their first goal when he grabbed a delivery from Earley and planted the ball in the corner of the net.
Conor McGrath provided the pass for Cathal McInerney to score Cratloe’s first goal in the 21 minute but a great Mark Earley goal, three minutes from the half-time whistle, helped send the winners to the break four points clear, 2-7 to 1-6.
Each side managed just two points in the third quarter before, at the turn of the final quarter, Taaffe struck a vital blow for his side. Some hesitancy in the Cratloe defence was punished by Clare’s All-Ireland-winning hero from 1995 when he pounced for his team’s third goal to push his side seven points clear.
The margin was six entering the last 10 minutes before points from Damian Browne and Conor Ryan left four between the teams. Cratloe piled on the pressure but the Tubber defence stood tall.
Two minutes of injury time were signalled and with one of these played, Cratloe were awarded a 20m free in front of goal. Play was held up for almost a minute while Justin McMahon received attention. When the action resumed, Conor McGrath blasted the free to the net to leave only a point between the sides with just seconds remaining. There wasn’t enough time for Cratloe to launch another attack and the final whistle signalled a merited win for Tubber.
In addition to Mark Earley and Taaffe, praise must also go to the winner’s half-back trio of Fergal O’Grady, Conor Earley and Patrick O’Connor who helped cut off much of the supply to Cratloe’s inside forward line of Conor McGrath, Cathal McInerney and Paudge Collins. Elsewhere, Clive Earley and Barry O’Connor got through a lot of work for the winners.
Cratloe’s best on the day were Liam Markham, Conor McGrath, Cathal McInerney, Conor Ryan and Paudge Collins.

Tubber: Ronan Taaffe; Justin McMahon, Eoin Ruane, Paul Fogarty; Fergal O’Grady, Conor Earley, Patrick O’Connor; Mark Earley, Clive Earley (captain); David O’Donoghue, Shane O’Connor, Jack Neylon; Darragh O’Connor, Barry O’Connor, Eamonn Taaffe.
Subs: Tommy Lee for Neylon (inj), 45 minutes; Ger O’Connor for D O’Connor (53 minutes).
Scorers: Eamonn Taaffe (2-2), Mark Earley (1-4), Patrick O’Connor (0-3, 2f, 65 x 1); Tommy Lee (0-2), Barry O’Connor (0-1).
Frees for: 8; wides: 9; 65s: 1.
Bookings: Clive Earley (25 minutes); Eamonn Taaffe (44 minutes); Justin McMahon (59 minutes).
“We are delighted with the win. After last year, the surprise was gone and we knew Cratloe would not be taking us for granted. Our work rate was good and we did well in cutting out the supply to their forwards. We got some great scores. Mark Earley was excellent at midfield. It is something to build on,” Pat O’Connor, Tubber manager.
Cratloe: Sean Hayes; Philip Gleeson, Barry Duggan (captain), David Ryan; John O’Gorman, Michael Hawes, Liam Markham; Sean Collins, Aidan Browne; Damian Browne, Conor Ryan, Sean Chaplin; Conor McGrath, Paudge Collins, Cathal McInerney.
Subs: Gearóid Ryan for A Browne (39 minutes); Sean Hynan for Chaplin (50 minutes).
Scorers: Conor McGrath (1-7, 0-6 f); Cathal McInerney (1-2), Conor Ryan (0-2), Liam Markham (free), Damian Browne, Paudge Collins (0-1 each).
Frees for: 15; wides: 9.
Bookings: Philip Gleeson (35 minutes).
“We were very slow out of the blocks, We played for five minutes in the first half and you can’t afford to do that at championship level. We were a bit better in the second half. There was no fluency in our play. Tubber played very well throughout and they deserved their win,” Mike Deegan, Cratloe
Referee: Rory Hickey, Eire Óg.

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