By Seamus Hayes
IN making history at Cusack Park this evening, Clare’s U-21 hurlers turned in a truly memorable performance which earned them a third Munster title in-a-row and a fourth title in all.
On the evidence of this performance, it will take a huge effort to stop a side captained by Tony Kelly from going on to win a third All-Ireland in succession.
A glance at the records of this competition, which was introduced in 1964, will show that there have been a number of one-sided games and Clare have been at the wrong end of their share of these. There were many in the attendance of 12,995 at Wednesday’s final who returned from various venues throughout the province after tasting heavy defeats so, understandably, this result will have pleased them.
There were many outstanding performances and while no one will disagree with the choice of midfielder Colm Galvin as the man of the match, there were a number of others who challenged strongly for the accolade, including Jack Browne, Seadna Morey and Aaron Cunningham.
The Leesiders surprised many when they qualified for the final, beating a fancied Waterford in the semi-final. While they weren’t expected to win this one, few expected such a one-sided contest.
The signs were ominous for Cork from a very early stage, as Clare dictated matters in every area of the field. An Aaron Cunningham point after just 20 seconds signalled trouble for the visitors and the home side had added three more before Cork opened their account in the ninth minute. That score failed to disrupt Clare’s dominance and the champions responded with five unanswered points, before Shane O’Donnell rounded off a sweeping move when shooting to the Cork net.
Three more points made it 1-12 to 0-1 and Clare were 11 clear with seven minutes still remaining in the first half. The home side was simply in a different class and they maintained this dominance until the half-time whistle, when the score stood at 1-15 to 0-5 in their favour.
The teams exchanged points four times in the early stages of the second half, but Clare never looked to be in trouble. When Cork got through for their goal, 12 minutes into the half, Anthony Spillane kicking to the net from a goalmouth melee, it didn’t disrupt Clare’s pace and the home side responded with a brace of points to maintain a comfortable lead.
Inside the final 10 minutes, Clare introduced Cathal ‘Tots’ O’Connell, who had missed much of this campaign due to a hamstring injury; Alan O’Neill, who’s participation in this championship was also disrupted due to injury; Shane McGrath and Brian Carey. Despite the changes, they continued to dominate on their way to this convincing victory.
Clare showed two changes in personnel from the team that defeated Tipperary in an exciting semi-final which required extra time two weeks earlier.
Fit again, Shane O’Donnell started at full-forward for his first outing in this season’s campaign. This resulted in Aaron Cunningham switching to the corner, Bobby Duggan to the wing, Jamie Shanahan to wing-back and Conor Cleary moving to centre-back, to the exclusion of Alan O’Neill.
The other change saw Eoin Enright recalled at midfield, with team captain Tony Kelly moving to centre-forward to the exclusion of Shane McGrath.
Outstanding for Clare were Jack Browne, Seadna Morey, Conor Cleary, Eoin Enright, Bobby Duggan, Aaron Cunningham and man of the match, Colm Galvin.
Clare: Keith Hogan (Clooney-Quin); Jarlath Colleran (St Joseph’s), Jack Browne (Ballyea), Seadna Morey (Sixmilebridge); Gearóid O’Connell (Ballyea), Conor Cleary (Miltown St Joseph’s), Jamie Shanahan (Sixmilebridge); Colm Galvin (Clonlara), Eoin Enright (Kilmaley); Bobby Duggan (Clarecastle), Tony Kelly (Ballyea, capt), Peter Duggan (Clooney-Quin); Aaron Cunningham (Wolfe Tones), Shane O’Donnell (Éire Óg), David Reidy (Éire Óg).
Subs: Shane Gleeson (Cratloe) for B Duggan (41 minutes); Cathal O’Connell (Clonlara) for O’Donnell (53 minutes); Alan O’Neill (St Joseph’s) for Cleary (56 minutes); Shane McGrath (Feakle) for Enright (58 minutes); Brian Carey (Sixmilebridge) for Colleran (57 minutes).
Scorers: Bobby Duggan (0-10, 5f, 1 65); Aaron Cunningham (0-4), Tony Kelly, David Reidy, Colm Galvin (0-3) each, Shane O’Donnell (1-0), Peter Duggan, Shane Gleeson (0-2) each, Cathal O’Connell (0-1), free.
Bookings: Eoin Engirt (40 minutes.
Cork: Patrick Collins; Stephen Murphy, Colm Barry, Cian Buckley; Kevin Kavanagh, Cillian Burke (capt), Cormac Walsh; Darragh Brosnan, Richard Cahalane; Shane O’Keeffe, Colm Spillane, Michael Collins; Anthony Spillane, Alan Cadogan, Robert O’Shea.
Subs: Mark Sugrue for C Walsh (15 minutes); Killian McIntyre for R Cahalane (half-time); Mark O’Connor for A Spillane (52 minutes).
Bookings: Shane O’Keeffe (11 minutes); Darragh Brosnan (22 minutes); Colm Barry (25 minutes).
Scorers: Robert O’Shea (0-7, 4f, 2 65s); Michael Collins (0-3), Anthony Spillane (1-0), Killian McIntyre, Shane O’Keeffe, Mark Sugrue (0-1) each.
Referee: Fergal Coughlan, Tipperary.
Special occasion for Kelly
TO captain a Clare team is an honour but to captain a three-in-a-row winning team is something special.
So said captain Tony Kelly, when he accepted the Munster U-21 hurling trophy from chairman of the provincial council, fellow Clareman Robert Frost, after tonight’s final.
Kelly paid a special tribute to “all who have been in this group since 2010” and he called for a round of applause for the players and mentors who have been together during that period. He also paid special tribute to “the physios and medical people” for their work in ensuring that all were fit for this final.
Clare’s next outing will be an All-Ireland semi-final date with Antrim on Saturday, August 23.
THERE is concern in the Clare camp with regards to the extent of a hand injury suffered by Shane O’Donnell. Further examination is to take place on Thursday to determine what damge, if any, the Éire Óg man suffered.