Unquestionably the outstanding final of a much-anticipated weekend of county Féile action as Western Gaels eventually edged out neighbours Doonbeg 3-10 to 3-5 to cement the Division 3 honours in style in Shanahan McNamara Memorial Park in Doonbeg on Sunday evening.
With both sides managing to get the better of Kildysart/Coolmeen at the groups stages on Friday at the same venue, they understandably passed up the opportunity at a group decider in lieu of Sunday’s derby showdown that definitely lived up to expectations.
Indeed, it had to take extra-time to finally separate the sides in a thrilling end-to-end seesaw wrestle for supremacy that saw the lead change hands on no fewer than six occasion over the prolonged 50 minute decider.
In the end, the peninsula amalgamation of Naomh Eoin, O’Curry’s and St Senan’s Kilkee prevailed thanks in the main to the outstanding leadership of captain Brian Keane who led the charge with a handsome 1-9 tally. He was greatly aided by two goal hero Joseph Roche and Milo Keane as Western Gaels not only kicked the last three points to force extra-time but maintained that momentum in the additional ten minute spell to outscore their flagging hosts by 1-3 to 0-1.
Doonbeg, led especially by Nathan O’Shea and Kian Conway, looked to be in the driving seat midway through the second period but couldn’t convert that insurance point to finally see off a resurgent Gaels side.
It was all so different early on when the home side snatched the early initiative to twice soar into the ascendency. Zak O’Shea had a shot saved by goalkeeper Damien McInerney in the opening minute but Nathan O’Shea did arrow over a free before doing likewise to fend off a Brian Keane equaliser in the fifth minute.
Zak O’Shea finally grabbed his opening goal two minutes later at 1-2 to 0-1 but it only seemed to spark the amalgamation into life for the remainder of the half as the powerful Keane kicked an unanswered 1-3, remarkably all from placed balls.
The goal arrived in the 13th minute after Keane had been brought down close to goal having caught a teasing Tadgh McMahon delivery. The captain brushed himself down before rifling the resultant penalty to the centre of the net on his side’s way to a 1-4 to 1-3 interval edge.
With a chance to regroup, Doonbeg thundered back into contention on the resumption but were initially thwarted as Zak O’Shea’s double effort was somehow repelled. An excellent move involving Liam Hehir and Nathan and Zak O’Shea finally unlocked the door for Thomas Dillon only two minutes into the new half to hit the front at 2-3 to 1-4. However, that lead would only last a mere 30 seconds as from the kick-out, Keane started and finished a swift counter-attack before offloading to Joseph Roche to billow the net for Western Gaels to spectacularly retake control.
Supporters had barely drawn a breath when the advantage switched once more as a foul on Thomas Dillon saw Nathan O’Shea drill a low 25 metre free to the net followed quickly by a point from play to boost the hosts 3-4 to 2-4 in front by the 28th minute.
Western Gaels never panicked though and in Brian Keane, they had a game-manager supreme to kick the last three points including two beauties from play that ensured two extra periods of five minutes aside at 3-4 to 2-7.
Both sides kicked early wides but the decisive score arrived in the 43rd minute when Milo Keane picked out Joseph Roche to double his goal bounty. It would spur Western Gaels on for the remainder while proving a hammerblow to Doonbeg’s chances as fittingly captain Keane completed a famous first Féile triumph for the West Clare combo.
Western Gaels: Damien McInerney; Tadgh McMahon, Liam Ferguson; Bryan Roche, Liam Griffin, DJ Liddane; Milo Keane, Joseph Roche; Jack Carmody, Doonagh McMahon, Brooklyn Maguire; Brian Keane, Cathal Carmody. Subs: Sean McNamara, TJ Keane, Nathan Nolan, Cody Clohessy, Shane Morrissey
Scorers: Brian Keane 1-9 (1-0 Pen, 6f); Joseph Roche (2-0); Brooklyn Maguire (0-1)
Doonbeg: Daniel Haugh; David Conway, Daire Garvey; Feidhelm Browne, Liam Hehir, Luke Honan; Ian Ryan, Nathan O’Shea; Micheál Honan, Darragh O’Sullivan, Kian Conway; Rory Shanahan, Zak O’Shea. Subs: Thomas Dillon, George Comerford, Jacob Greene
Scorers: Nathan O’Shea (1-4 1-3f); Zak O’Shea, Thomas Dillon (1-0 each); Darragh O’Sullivan (0-1)
Referee: Gerry Wallace (Kilrush Shamrocks)
Major boost for Clare minor’s Celtic Challenge
Celtic Challenge Round 2
Clare 0-17 North Cork 0-16
Clare are set for a mouth-watering group decider against neighbours Galway after maintaining their perfect start with a dramatic away victory over North Cork in Charleville last Saturday. It was another gritty character-filled display from Ger Hickey’s side that looked to have blown their chance when eleven first half wides with the aid of the conditions left them with only a minimum advantage by the break at 0-6 to 0-5.
That narrative appeared to be playing out when the Banner trailed their gale-assisted hosts by four entering the final ten minutes. However, much like their opening derby with Limerick seven days previously, Clare remained composed under pressure and managed to play their way back into contention. Indeed, it was substitutes Padraic O’Donovan and Eoin Heffron that provide hugely influential in turning the tide as the Smith O’Brien’s clubman scored one and assisted three more points while O’Donovan would raid for six points overall including the injury-time winning free to cement a famous win on the road.
Spinal defenders Eoghan Daly and Cathal Ryan along with Liam Crotty, Eoin Lahiffe and Tadhg Minogue were others to shine as Clare soared to the top of the Group 1 table ahead of the final round derby clash with Galway in O’Garney Park, Sixmilebridge on Saturday at 2pm.
Clare: Seamie O’Donnell (Killanena); Ian Williams (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield), Eoghan Daly (Feakle), Tadhg Kilkenny (Bodyke); Liam Crotty (Scariff), Cathal Ryan (Inagh-Kilnamona), Eoin McMahon (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield); Ciaran Connolly (Ballyea) (Captain), Francis Meaney (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield); Aaron Moroney (Newmarket-on-Fergus), Eoin Lahiffe (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield), Tom Curran (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield); Daniel Chaplin (Sixmilebridge), Kieran McDonnell (Ballyea), Tadhg Minogue (Scariff)
Subs: Padraic O’Donovan (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield), Eoin Heffron (Smith O’Brien’s), Dara Nolan (Parteen)
Scorers: Daniel Chaplin (6f), Padraic O’Donovan (3f) (0-6 each); Tom Curran (0-2); Eoin Lahiffe Francis Meaney, Eoin Heffron (0-1 each)