KILMALEY made a successful defence of their Clare Cup title on home soil on Saturday evening when holding off neighbours Ballyea by 1-20 to 1-15, reports Eoin Brennan.
Daire Keane’s trademark surge and finish to the net in the ninth minute would be a decisive score in catapulting Kilmaley into the ascendancy at 1-3 to 0-3. And with all of Kilmaley’s front six getting on the scoreboard from play in the opening period, they would ease into an 1-11 to 0-08 interval advantage.
Newcomers Ballyea were far from full strength but could rely on the scoring prowess of Niall Deasy who finish with all but five points of his side’s total. Indeed, having fallen eight behind entering the final ten minutes, the former county senior rallied with 1-3, but eventually had to concede second best to a more balanced home side.
Other teams to make home advantage count on the opening weekend were Clonlara and Feakle. Senior B holders Clonlara were thankful to a ten point haul from Cathal O’Connell as they clung on to overcome Inagh-Kilnamona by 0-21 to 1-15 on Saturday evening.
His only blip came at the start of the second quarter when denied by former county team-mate Patrick Kelly from a penalty, with the 2013 All-Ireland winning goalkeeper also excelling to score a penalty of his own to initiate an Inagh-Kilnamona comeback in the final quarter.
Locked in an 0-8 to 0-8 stalemate by the break, Clonlara hit the ground sprinting in the second half, with Tots O’Connell leading the charge that also included points for David Fitzgerald and Cian Moriarty to ease into a 0-16 to 0-09 lead by the final water break.
Kelly’s penalty allied to further inroads through Conor Tierney and Jason McCarthy did ensure a nail-biting crescendo but the home defence was resilient and even kept out another Kelly free deep into additional time to protect the win.
Feakle benefited from the half-time recess as well on Sunday evening when re-emerging with a brace of goals to effectively sink Sixmilebridge by 2-15 to 1-13. With the sides stalemated at nine points apiece at half-time, Feakle powered seven clear within five minutes of the restart after a superb one handed volley by Oisin Donnellan was quickly repeated when Raymond Bane fired a second goal in the next passage of play one their way to a 2-12 to 0-10 advantage by the turn of the final quarter.
Alex Morey led the county champions comeback charge that was bolstered by Jamie Shanahan’s pulled goal in the final minutes. However, some wayward shooting from the visitors meant that Feakle had more than enough in reserve to seal an encouraging start to PJ Kelleher’s reign.
Kevin Sheehan also began his Crusheen tenure with a first round victory in a gritty 1-19 to 1-17 shading of hosts Broadford on Sunday evening. Debutants Luke Keletaar and Oisin O’Donnell both impressed to combine for 1-5 while county senior panelist Ross Hayes and Murrough McMahon also led in the scoring stakes for Crusheen who fought hard to get on top.
Four points ahead by the break and again by the turn of the final quarter, Crusheen seemed to be on the road to victory when a potential Broadford goal was ruled out at other end, only for Ketelaar to pbe put through by a clever reverse handless from Conor O’Donnell to find the bottom right corner of the net at 1-17 to 0-14 on the resumption.
Undeterred, Broadford hit back with a blistering Stiofan McMahon goaled 20 metre free but another was denied virtually the last puck of the game for Crusheen to prevail.
Arguably the most impressive performance in Division 1A came first on Saturday afternoon when Clooney-Quin secured an emphatic 2-22 to 2-17 away win over Cratloe. Seizing the initiative from the outset, the visitors pointed a penalty and even lost the ever-impressive taker Cillian Duggan to injury before Eoin Guilfoyle announced his arrival on the senior stage with a rebound goal on Clooney’Quin’s way to a 1-12 to 0-09 interval lead.
A second major through Ronan O’Donnell accentuated the advantage to 11 by the final water break. So while Cratloe did finally rally through goals from Shane Neville and Rian Considine, it merely dented Clooney-Quin’s winning margin.
In Division 1B, the most drama emanated from Whitegate on Saturday evening when a home backlash snatched the spoils over a battling Clarecastle by 1-21 to 2-17. Early Magpie goals through Jack Murphy and chief marksman Bobby Duggan sandwiched one for Paddy Burke in a thrilling opening quarter at 2-2 to 1-4.
However, after leading all the way, Clarecastle would be agonisingly overtaken coming down the final straight as Whitegate scored the last four points through Michael Hynes (3) and Ciaran Keenan to edge matters by the bare minimum.
A draw also appeared the likely result in Dr. Daly Memorial Park in Tulla on Saturday evening when the home side were on level terms with Wolfe Tones on five occasions in the final quarter. However, a Sean Whithycombe inspired Tulla would manage to find an extra gear to edge matters with the last two points at 0-19 to 0-17.
Newmarket-on-Fergus also had to dig deep against intermediate side Smith O’Brien’s before emerging 1-21 to 0-20 winners in Killaloe on Friday evening. Embroiled in a real battle in which the home side outscored the Blues by 0-7 to 0-2 in the opening ten minutes of the second half, a Mikey McInerney goal finally got them back on track in the final quarter to cement an admirable win.
It was a little more clearcut in Ennis 24 hours later as O’Callaghan’s Mills completely blitzed Éire Óg by 4-25 to 0-17. A seventh minute Colin Crehan goal would the first of three first half majors for the 2020 county finalists through Sean Cotter and Bryan Donnellan on their way to a 3-12 to 0-09 half-time cushion.
Despite the best efforts of Danny Russell, it would get any better on the restart either for the decimated Townies as the Mills kept their foot on the gas and even grabbed a fourth goal through top-scorer Jacob Loughnane.
A brace of late first half goals also greatly aided St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield’s path to a handsome 3-25 to 2-18 victory in their travels on Saturday evening. Cathal Ruane and Conor Tierney’s strike ensured a 2-14 to 0-12 lead by the midway mark with a second Tierney goal in the new half sufficient to avoid any grandstand finish.
For more comprehensive reports on all the weekend’s Clare Cup openers, check out Thursday’s Clare Champion
Clare Cup (Division 1A League) Round 1
Clooney-Quin 2-22 Cratloe 2-17
Clonlara 0-21 Inagh-Kilnamona 1-15
Kilmaley 1-20 Ballyea 1-15
Feakle 2-15 Sixmilebridge 1-13
Crusheen 1-19 Broadford 1-17
Clare Cup (Division 1B League) Round 1
Newmarket-on-Fergus 1-21 Smith O’Brien’s 0-20
O’Callaghan’s Mills 4-25 Éire Óg 0-17
Tulla 0-19 Wolfe Tones 0-17
Whitegate 1-21 Clarecastle 2-17
St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield 3-25 Sixmilebridge (2) 2-18
Division 2 League Round 1
Scariff 1-20 Corofin 1-17
Newmarket-on-Fergus (2) 3-17 Tubber 5-11
Clooney-Quin (2) 0-22 Parteen 1-14
Inagh-Kilnamona (2) 2-17 Kilmaley (2) 0-19
Ruan 1-21 Cratloe (2) 3-14
Division 3 League Round 1
Crusheen (2) 4-12 Broadford (2) 1-18
Ogonnelloe 4-15 Éire Óg (2) 0-09
Killanena 2-16 Clarecastle (2) 0-14
Bodyke v Clonlara (2) @ Clonlara, Tuesday 7pm
Division 4 League Round 1
O’Callaghan’s Mills (2) 3-22 Banner 1-15
Inagh-Kilnamona (3) 4-19 Newmarket-on-Fergus (3) 3-09
Ennistymon 0-14 Meelick 0-07
St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield (2) 1-16 Ballyea (2) 1-12
Division 5A League Round 1
Kilmaley (3) 3-18 Clonlara (3) 1-10
Sixmilebridge (3) 1-15 Whitegate (2) 0-14
Smith O’Brien’s (2) 3-22 Feakle (2) 5-16
Scariff (2) 3-23 Éire Óg (3) 0-06
Division 5B League Round 1
Tulla (2) 1-19 Corofin (2) 2-13
Wolfe Tones (2) 1-11 Tubber (2) 0-14
Killanena (2) W/O from Ballyea (3)
Ruan (2) W/O from Parteen (2)
Division 5C League Round 1
Ennistymon (2) 1-11 Bodyke (2) 0-10
Clooney-Quin (3) 1-21 Clonbony 1-13
Broadford (3) W/O from Clarecastle (3)