Clooney-Quin eventually bridged a 16-year gap to their sole Minor A crown with a 1-14 to 1-12 victory over St Joseph’s Doora Barefield, but only after a titanic 80 minute wrestle for supremacy in extreme conditions in Cusack Park.
BELYING the incessant rain that greeted this much anticipated high noon showdown, Coiste na nÓg Iomaint couldn’t have asked for a better advertisement for underage hurling than this compelling marquee decider that was filled with character, commitment and sheer determination to leave everything on the field in pursuit of the prestigious Willie Chaplin Cup.
Evenly-matched throughout, Clooney-Quin were crucially much more clincial in the opening half which permitted them to carve out a six point cushion by the break, a lead that the favourites would maintain by the three-quarters mark.
A storming Parish ressurection in the final quarter almost usurped the leaders though, with a remarkable seven point turnaround completed by a dramatic injury-time goal for Eoin Ogie Fanning to hand St Joseph’s the lead for the very first time at 1-9 to 0-11.
Clooney-Quin remained composed however, with Sam Scanlan cooly slotting over a last gasp equaliser to force extra-time.
Having cursed their luck at not having closed out the contest in normal time, a relieved Clooney-Quin received a major slice of luck five minutes into the additional periods when Dannan Fox’s delivery towards the square, aimed at substitute Aidan Beirne, was inadvertinently deflected into the Doora/Barefield net by a defender.
Immediately followed by a Fox point, it provided Clooney-Quin with a pivotal four point cushion which they would cling to for the remainder.
True to form, a revitalised Doora/Barefield inevitably hit back but while Tom Curran was exemplery in extra-time which allied to Padraic O’Donovan’s frees cut the deficit back to the minimium with five minutes remaining, they simply couldn’t unearth one last twist in the tale.
Instead, substitute Darragh McNamara provided the clinching score for Clooney-Quin to finally double their Minor A bounty.
While they definitely wouldn’t have wanted extra-time, to win in such a manner did provide some solace for being edged out in similar circumstances to Inagh-Kilnamona twelve months earlier.
In fact, with two-thirds of that side still eligible, their appetite to make amends was clear from the outset as talisman and captain Jack O’Neill pulled the strings to incrementally put daylight between the sides.
With John Cahill excellently providing Clooney-Quin’s defensive cover and David Considine having a brilliant duel with St Joseph’s captain Eoin Lahiffe as was Dannan Fox with the inspirational Ian Williams at the other end, it was a fascinating contest albeit that initially there was contrasting shooting accuracy.
While Jerry O’Connor (4 frees) and Jack O’Neill (3) were instrumental in carving out an 0-8 to 0-2 half-time cuishion, St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield were left frustrated by seven first half wides, five of which stemmed from wayward placed balls from two different takers.
The monsoon weather didn’t help as the number of times a hurley flew further than the sliotar almost went into double figures but crucially the Parish persisted, with four Padraic O’Donovan frees the main source of joy as they mounted one final push to lessen the damage to just two by the 57th minute at 0-11 to 0-9.
St Joseph’s appeared to have missed their golden opportunity in the 61st minute when captain Lahiffe cut in from the left corner, only to see his shot repelled by goalkeeepr Darren Frain.
However, their breakthrough finally arrived in the next passage of play when Eoin McMahon’s long delivery was gathered and finished with aplomb by Fanning for what would have been a worthy title winning score.
At the minimum, Clooney-Quin deserved a shot at redemption and snatched it with both hands through Scanlan from the puck-out to ensure 20 further minutes of action.
However, that fortuitious 65th minute goal would be decisive as despite trying their utmost to come back from the brink once more, Doora/Barefield, led spiritedly throughout by Williams, Paddy Nagle, Frankie Meaney, Eoin McMahon, Tom Curran and captain Eoin Lahiffe, eventually had to concede second best to a triumphant Clooney-Quin.
Clooney-Quin: Darren Frain; Fionn O’Gara, David Considine, Cillian O’Gara; Simon Kilker, John Cahill, PJ McCarthy; Matthew Corbett, Dylan Browne; Darragh White, Jack O’Neill, Lorcan O’Connor; Jerry O’Connor, Sam Scanlan, Dannan Fox. Subs: Sean McNamara for F. O’Gara (HT), Aidan Beirne for L. O’Connor (44), Aidan Keating for White (47), Darragh McNamara for Corbett (67), Conor McCarthy for C. O’Gara (70, inj), White for Browne (79)
Scorers: Jerry O’Connor (0-5f); Jack O’Neill (0-4, 2f); Dannan Fox (1-1); Sam Scanlan (0-2); Lorcan O’Connor, Darragh McNamara (0-1 each)
St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield: Conor Nash; Ian Williams, Paddy Nagle, Cormac Maher; Martin Frawley, Frankie Meaney, Eoin McMahon; Charlie Hannan, Mark O’Connor; Padraic O’Donovan, Tom Curran, Darragh Ball; Niall Talty, Eoin Lahiffe, Eoin Ógie Fanning. Subs: Odhran Ó Conaill for Talty (38), Conor Murphy for Ball (55), Conor Daly for Hannan (56), Ball for Fanning (64, inj), Hannan for Frawley (76, inj)
Scorers: Padraic O’Donovan (0-8, 7f); Eoin Ógie Fanning (1-0); Eoin Lahiffe (0-2, 1f); Mark O’Connor, Tom Curran (0-1 each)
Referee: Andy McMahon (Cratloe)