The scoreline of 1-20 to 3-4 is a little misleading but there was no doubt about the merits of victory as Ennistymon cooly picked off the last eight points to finally cement a much-needed Under 15C crown over Whitegate in Clareabbey.
Having laid the groundwork by only trailing by the minimum at half-time with the conditions to come, initially it didn’t quite pan out how Ennistymon would have wished for.
Despite being on top, Ennistymon were duly pegged back by timely goals through Daragh Pearl and Whitegate talisman Jake Gibbons to ensure only a two point advantage for the North Clare side entering the final ten minutes.
Indeed, it had to take a superb save from goalkeeper Liam Marrinan to somehow deny Gibbons once more and cling onto their advantage at 1-12 to 3-4.
That stop proved inspirational as Ennistymon regrouped and got back on the frontfoot with successive points through Donncha O’Dwyer (3), Eoin Devanney (2), Eoin Byrne, Louis Griffin and Joe Concannon in the space of ten minutes to cement the first underage championship honours of 2022.
The towering presence of influential Ennistymon triumvirate Colin Hayes, Jack Gallagher and Eoin Byrne were greatly aided by Louise Griffin, Joe Concannon, Daniel Brody and Donncha O’Dwyer in a merited victory that saw Ennistymon hit almost 40 shots at the posts in contrast to 15 for their opponents.
On the flip side, Whitegate were without key player Michael Kelly but in the lively Gibbons, Liam Heffernan, Eoin Whelan and especially goalkeeper Tom Tuohy, they had a never-say-die attitude that with an added slice of luck could have flipped this game on its head.
It was Whitegate’s eye for goal along with Tuohy’s eye for preventing them at the other end that kept this decider in the balance for the majority.
Eoin Byrne (2) and Eoin Devanney’s early blitz was wiped out in the eighth minute when Gibbons teed up Callum Burke to fire to the net and give wind-assisted Whitegate a considerable boost at 1-1 to 0-3.
Indeed, Devanney would twice reel in Whitegate before inevitably Jake Gibbons inched the East Clare side in front by the break at 1-4 to 0-6.
The new half was only four minutes old when Ennistymon edged back in front after Donncha O’Dwyer’s crossfield delivery was caught by Ultan McDonagh to finish to the net at 1-7 to 1-4.
The celebration was barely finished when that score was completely wiped out as Tom Tuohy’s puck-out was moved on by Gibbons to the waiting Pearl to flick to the net and level the tie for the fifth time.
Ennistymon refused to panic however and managed to put some daylight between the sides for the remainder of the third quarter as points through O’Dwyer (2), Joe Concannon, Barry McInerney and Eoin Byrne sandwiched a goal chance for Devanney that Tuohy excellently repelled at 1-12 to 2-4.
Craving a lifeline, Whitegate switched Jake Gibbons to the edge of the square and it would pay immediate dividends as it had to take a brilliant diving block from Daniel Brody to prevent a certain goal at the three-quarters mark.
Within two minutes, Gibbons made amends with an unstoppable bullet to slash the arrears to just two while Marrinan’s subsequent save in the 51st minute would be the catalyst for Ennistymon to finally drive on for victory in a composed finish worthy of winning any final.
Ennistymon: Liam Marrinan; Jody McMahon, Daniel Brody, Cillian O’Sullivan; Colin Hayes, Jack Gallagher, Daniel Healy; Eoin Byrne, Louis Griffin; Eoin Kearns, Joe Concannon, Barry McInerney; Ultan McDonagh, Eoin Devanney, Donncha O’Dwyer Subs: Fionn McMahon for Kearns (59), Cathal McNulty for McDonagh (62), Cathal Shannon for O’Sullivan (63), Caimin McGlennon for Devanney (64). Scorers: Donncha O’Dwyer (0-6); Eoin Byrne (1f, 2’65), Eoin Devanney (0-5 each); Ultan McDonagh (1-0); Joe Concannon (0-2); Barry McInerney, Louis Griffin (0-1 each)
Whitegate: Tom Tuohy; Oisin Dermody, Evan Kelly, Jack Muggivan; Cathal Dooley, Liam Heffernan, Ryan Fahy; Leo Bogenberger, Eoin Whelan; Neil Dermody, Jake Gibbons, Niall Holland; Callum Burke, Matthew Ryan, Daragh Pearl. Sub: Kieran Turner for Burke (55). Scorers: Jake Gibbons (1-4, 1f, 2’65); Niall Holland, Daragh Pearl (1-0 each)
Referee: Robert Harte, (St Senan’s Kilkee)