The Banner edged out Clondegad on a score of 0-12 to 0-9 to win the Clare U21B football title in Cooraclare on Thursday evening
A fitting finish to an ultra-competitive Under 21B football championship was enjoyed albeit in ultracold conditions in Cooraclare on Thursday evening.
The fog that hides the countryside threatened to envelop the pitch whilst hiding one corner for most of the second half but rose as perhaps the temperature on the pitch rose dramatically in the final quarter.
Was the Banner’s name on the cup since they sneaked past St Breckan’s at home missing Shane Meehan, Mark Cleary and Niall Walsh?
The efforts of player of the championship Tomas Meeneghan proved central to the appearance in the final but as expected the onfield appearance of Meehan with 20 minutes tipped the balance the way of the Shanaway road men.
From a Clondegad perspective the club competed well in senior after a forgettable 2021 season. Reaching this final with a young squad, many of whom are around in 2025/5 bodes well.
The narrow defeat of Lissycasey who have been powerhouses in Minor A in the last two seasons in the last four was a notable scalp for this group of talented footballers.
Clondegad could reflect if desired and suggest that they were caught napping in the first 10 minutes and were pinned into their own final third. The Banner were simply electric in their movement and every pass and run off the shoulder was perfected beyond the best hopes of any coach. Diarmuid Toner opened the scoring with just over a minute played as Thomas Meeneghan added a second in the third minute.
Sean McMahon punched the ball over the bar in the 6th minute and all this happened before Clondegad managed one meaningful foray upfield. Sean McMahon sent a very scorable effort wide before Meeneghan with his second effort left it (4-0) to the Ennis men after 10 minutes.
Clondegad eventually got to grips with the task and were most fortunate not to concede a goal in this opening quarter. The Banner began to suffer turnovers as Clondegad led by the hard-working Cormac Reidy led the fightback.
Daniel Kelly finally had his colleagues on the scoresheet after 11 minutes and added a second in the 19th minute. A hard running effort from inside his own half led to Mufana Flynn punching the ball over the Clondegad crossbar for score number 5 after 21 minutes.
Instead of pushing on with further scores the Banner regressed and Clondegad took over the remaining minutes of the first half. Daniel Kelly kickstarted their revival in the 24th and added his fourth effort after 26 minutes to leave Clondegad one point in arrears.
Diarmuid O’ Neill created parity between the sides before 18-year-old Fiachra Kirby sent Clondegad into the lead for the first time a minute before half time.
A crucial moment in the game evolved as Mark Cleary had to be alert to deny Mossy Gavin a sure goal before the break. A goal at this juncture for either side would have made the second half irrelevant. Half time score Clondegad (0-6) Banner (0-5).
The Banner management team were at half time no doubt mulling over the need to bring on Shane Meehan as Clondegad had began to show signs of dominance in the second quarter.
Clondegad, for their part were relieved to be ahead after such a lacklustre start but were far from assured of winning the tie after their recovery as the Banner still possessed a greater potential for scores.
Six first half wides did little for the Clondegad cause as Tom Meeneghan equalied for the Banner two minutes into the new half. Mossy Gavin restored his sides lead before a ripple of excitement and applause from the large banner support announced that Meehan was now on the field.
Clondegad were now under pressure as they were pinned into their own half for most of the first ten minutes of the second half. On two occasions the Banner flashed the ball across the square looking for the final touch but just inches off.
The points were there for the taking but with Meehan now on the attitude was go for goal. Daniel Kelly finally put Clondegad two clear in the 40th minute but there was no relief as Meeneghan once more from a free left just the minimum in the game.
Whilst there was a lot of end to end action in the intervening eight minutes there was no score as the only chance of note was Cian Kirby wide in the 48th minute. Another punched effort over the bar, this time from Oisin McMahon had the side on level terms once more.
This seemed to act as sucker punch for Clondegad as they did not move out of their half allowing Meehan, the McMahon’s and Meeneghan to take over. Meeneghan after earlier scuffing a 30m free made no mistake in the 51st minute to see the Banner take the lead. Meehan floated over a classic right footed effort after smart interplay with Meeneghan and now Tom Meehan’s charges were two clear.
Clondegad now posted Daniel Kelly at the edge of the Banner square and route one became the desired option and whilst it was of great concern to the Banner no goal materialised as Niall Walsh, Aaron Kelly and others coped admirably.
A 57th minute point from play by Meeneghan left the Banner (0-11) to (0-8) ahead. Daniel Kelly was fouled and he sent over the free to leave two in the game entering injury time.
The pass of the championship was yet to happen and when it did it was a work of art.
Mark Cleary got the ball to Meehan who for some reason was at left half back. He looked up and saw Aaron Kelly, the centre back who was positioned at left corner forward.
A 60 metre down the line ball found Kelly and to the delight of the Banner fans he beat two and sent over the winner. Ninety seconds later Clondegad were down on the ground after giving so much this year and still fell short by one big score.
This win stands as perhaps one of the biggest wins in the Banner history and like the Clondegad players many of whom are dual players have endured long seasons playing each week since early August in one championship or another.
The Banner success was also underpinned by their ability to curb the undoubted scoring potential of the Kirbys, Daniel Kelly and Mossy Gavin.
The championship winners were served well by Mark Cleary, Niall Walsh who spent most of the game outfield, Justin McGrath, Aaron Kelly, Thomas Meeneghan, The McMahons, Shane Meehan when brought on, Diarmuid Toner, Fuhad Akinwale and Mufana Flynn.
Clondegad had great performances in cold and heavy conditions from Cormac Reidy, Evan Flynn, Eoghan Gavin, Cillian Gavin, Diarmuid O’ Neill, Daniel Kelly, Mossy Gavin and Oisin Griffin.
Following the game Michael O’ Connor, vice chairperson of Clare GAA presented the Under 21B Cup to Banner Captain Tom Meeneghan
Banner: Mark Cleary, Ronan Marron, Niall Walsh, Dylan Mooney, Justin McGrath, Aaron Kelly, Connor Dennehy, Fuhad Akinwale, Thomas Meenaghan, Diarmuid Toner, Oisin McMahon, Mufana Flynn, Cian Cullinan, Matthew McGrath, Sean McMahon. Subs: Kenneth Higgins for Cullinan, Shane Meehan for Dennehy, Eoin Walsh for Flynn, William Bellow for Mooney.
Banner scorers: Thomas Meeneghan (0-6), Mufana Flynn, Shane Meehan, Diarmuid Toner, Sean McMahon, Oisin McMahon, Aaron Kelly (0-1) each
Clondegad: Oisin Grifin, Niall Carroll, Evan Flynn, Cody Killoughrey, Patrick Sweeney, Cormac Reidy, Cillian Gavin, Eoghan Gavin, Diarmuid O’ Neill, Fiachra Kirby, Daniel Kelly, Colm Meaney, Cian Kirby, Mossy Gavin, Darragh Coote. Subs: David Meaney for Coote.
Clondegad scorers: Daniel Kelly (0-6), Diarmuid O’ Neill, Fiachra Kirby, Mossy Gavin (0-1) each
Referee: Pat Keane (Lissycasey)