Michael O’Connor on a glorious night for Feakle as they took their first Clare Cup in 33 years
THE thunder was in the air and also on the field for the first quarter of this superb Clare Cup game played in Kilmaley.
For Feakle, it was the chance to dream of 1988 heroics, knowing a win of some proportions allowing for Cratloe winning against SIxmilebridge might bring the title back to Biddy Earley country.
For Kilmaley, a last chance to fine tune and prepare for what many have titled the group of death.
The exchanges throughout the game were fierce and uncompromising. Michael O’Malley, who made an unexpected exit soon after, opened the scoring in the first minute with a superb score.
It comes as no surprise that Shane McGrath once again took the scoring honours and he had two frees on the board after five minutes as Feakle were operating with Con Smyth as a sweeper and indeed at the time had only four forwards in the Kilmaley half of the field.
They were attempting to run the ball up the field as Kilmaley were playing the wings and cross field ball.
It was a contrast of styles, but a solid contest was building up for spectators. Jim Hickey was left with no choice, but to issue red to O Malley when he was involved in an off the ball incident with Oisin Donnellan in front of the Cratloe official after 10 minutes.
McGrath and the hard working Daire Keane swapped as the intensity of the battle did not dilute to any degree before the water break that saw Feakle hold a 0-3 0-2 lead.
Kilmaley corner-back Tommy Barry levelled proceedings straight after the water break, before Raymond Bane had his most telling contribution of the game with 1-1 in a minute as Stephen Conway set him up for the goal.
Daire Keane (2), Sean O’Loughlin and Tommy O’Rourke dragged Kilmaley back into the game with a quartet of scores with a brace of responses from McGrath and a smart snatch, grab and score from Smyth to leave the eventual champions 1-6 to 0-7 clear.
Luckily for Kilmaley, two wides from McGrath denied Feakle a four point advantage.
With Feakle lying deep, Kilmaley were allowed to build from the back unhindered, yet at the interval Feakle decided perhaps wisely to push up for the second half as a keen eye was being kept on events in Cratloe as Sixmilebridge were two clear.
Feakle became Clare Cup champions last evening. 33 years from the last time they won it …That same year they went on to win the county final .. Here's the programme's from those famous victorys @feaklegaa #allthingsgaacollection pic.twitter.com/oMw0L3A1Zm
— seamus #allthingsgaacollection (@seamusmcquaid) July 24, 2021
Over the course of the game Kilmaley hit 15 wides as opposed to 10 for the visitors.
The resumption saw Daire Keane narrowing the gap to the minimum as Gary Guilfoyle and Austin McMahon entered the Feakle lineup.
Shane McGrath, Daire Keane the excellent Adam Hogan and Austin McMahon hit minors as Feakle held a solid, if not confident, 1-9 to 0-9 lead.
Keane, Smyth and McGrath with further scores left Kilmaley trailing 1-11 to 0-10 before two goals in 30 seconds decided the game. First it was Sean O’Loughlin who robbed Cillian Bane and set up Gerry O’Grady for a Kilmaley goal.
One point it in, but from the following puck out Oisin Donnellan, who was central to the win in the last 20 minutes, goaled for Feakle. A hammer blow to Kilmaley.
The Donnellan brothers added two points and when McGrath added another score, Feakle were seven clear and, now hearing that Cratloe had gone ahead, needed to build on the lead.
The final score for Kilmaley went to substitute Cian Moloney. McGrath with a final hat-trick in this year’s Clare Cup campaign was the difference between the sides as the celebrations began and the cry of ‘Bring the cup to Peppers’ went up.
The champions were served well by Stephen Moloney, Evan McMahon, Eoin Tuohy, Adam Hogan, Shane McGrath, Oisin Donnellan, Con Smyth and Stephen Conway.
Kilmaley will be a force next month with players such as Aidan McGuane, Daire Keane, Tommy O’Rourke, Michael O’Neill, Sean Kennedy and Tommy Barry to the fore.
Feakle Manager PJ Kelleher had the unenviable post-match task of playing down the win as the players celebrated rare senior honours. But there was no doubting the pride on a good work in progress.
The Bodyke native acknowledged that the performance, even though a winning one, “will not be enough for the championship”.
“It is great to come in as a new management to win games and get the team playing together with confidence and we got great games against strong teams like Sixmilebridge, Crusheen, Kilmaley, Inagh/Kilnamona, who beat us well, and Clooney/Quin”.
Kelleher stated that whilst it was brilliant to win, “the championship is the target and the cup games saw teams missing players in every game and tonight was the first night we had our strongest panel”.
Feakle, he said, “have a very united and committed bunch of players and if motivated are brilliant battlers.”
Feakle Captain, Con Smyth’s reappearance in the Feakle colours was crucial to their overall success as he operated as a sweeper and then conductor.
“Every single game in the campaign was tough and fought to the end and we are delighted to win the cup for the first time in 1988.
“There was a lot of lads back tonight, even some back from England, so it gave us a stronger panel for the first time this year. There was a championship feel and the management had us well up the game.
“Kilmaley were also well prepared for the game and their running game is a great test for any team that plays them.
“We look forward now to Clooney/Quin in the championship and in recent times both teams have beaten each other. It should be a great game”.
Feakle: Stephen Moloney, Ger Hanrahan, Evan McMahon, James Noonan, Cillian Bane, Eoin Tuohy, Adam Hogan (0-1), Shane McGrath (0-10), Con Smyth (0-2), Martin Daly, Oisin Donnellan (1-1), Enda Noonan, Oisin Clune, Raymond Bane (1-1), Stephen Conway. Subs: Gary Guilfoyle for Noonan, Fiachra Donnellan (0-1) for Clune, Colin Nelson for Smyth, Austin McMahon (0-1) for Daky
Kilmaley: Bryan O’Loughlin, Bryan Cahill, Colin McGuane. Tommy Barry (0-1), Aidan Griffey, Aidan McGuane, Sean Kennedy, Michael O’Neill, Daire Keane (0-6), Eanna McMahon, Michael O’Malley (0-1), Tommy O’Rourke (0-1), Peter Ronan, Sean O’Loughlin (0-1), Gerry O’Grady (1-0). Subs: Aidan Kennedy for Ronan, Cian Moloney (0-1) for S O’Loughlin, Noel Casey for S Kennedy, Joe Carmody for McMahon,
Referee: Jim Hickey (Cratloe)