County senior hurling final
By Michael O Connor.
In Crusheen there is a mystical place called the Island where it is said that anyone who is to be buried in the island cemetery can hear a wailing noise just before their final breath. Legend it may be but for all those souls who lie within the Island there was a wail of delight from them and from all Crusheen people alive throughout the world at Sean McMahon’s long whistle that signalled a huge outpouring of emotion in Cusack Park on Sunday last. Crusheen after 123 years searching for solace with a county cup can now plan for an assault on the munster club championship but not before remembering a titantic campaign that ended with success over a gallant Cratloe side in Cusack park.
The start of a dynasty or the breaking of a hoodoo could be one way to describe the meeting of these apparently two evenly balanced sides in the annual battle for the canon Hamilton. The rain fall the morning of the game caused many to wonder what side it would benefit or hinder most as well as the many tactical moves and positional switches that might be put into action to gain a perceived advantage for even any juncture of the game. The prematch odds were definitely favouring the reigning champions as Cratloe were on offer at 4/7 with Crusheen at 13/8 and ominous draw sneaking in at 8/1 for those who wished a real gamble. The return of influential Cathal Dillon saw Crusheen corner forward Patrick Meaney may way to a place on the replacements bench as speculation centred around the possible inclusion from the start of Martin Oige Murphy who had missed the semi final due to a troublesome groin injury.
In the semi finals Crusheen had to battle hard to overcome a Sixmilebridge side that might feel they left it behind them whilst Cratloe need ed a replay to account for 2008 champions Clonlara. To exemplify the closeness between the sides on the scoreboard Crusheen defeated Sixmilebridge by the minimum, Cratloe and Sixmilebridge drew in the league section, Clonlara defeated Crusheen by a point and it took Cratloe a replay to account for Clonlara with the scores in all games close to each other. Crusheen’s previous appearance on county final day had ended in heartache as Tulla secured the title on a (1-7) to (0-9) success as Cratloe in their maiden final edged past Clonlara with a last gasp Padraic Chaplin goal to win the crown. As a result the portents were in place for a tension packed potboiler between two fast young sides with contrasting styles to keep the large attendance on tenderhooks.
The game started off in storming fashion as Crusheen received the start that they craved when a long free by Ciaran O Doherty fell to Fergus Kennedy and the under 21 county man finished past Sean Hawes. Within seconds Cratloe had their first score with Conor McGrath evading Cronan Dillon and popping a smart effort over the bar. Cathal McInerney added the second Cratloe score in the 4th minute before Conor McGrath set up Conor Ryan for Cratloe’s goal that saw them score (1-2) in three minutes to negate Crusheen’s positive start. Ciaran O Doherty pointed from play from wing back before sending an effort from placed ball wide of Sean Hawes. Enda Boyce, whose father John hurled a championship with Crusheen many moons after sent over a smart effort before Pat Vaughan 65 and Sean Collins added scores after only ten minutes to leave the 2009 champions (1-4) to (1-2) ahead.
Enda Boyce was dispossessed as Joe Meaney made no mistake before Pat Vaughan with a free had the sides on level terms at the end of the opening quarter. Indeed Cratloe kept Crusheen in contact by committing a number of fouls and they were fortunate that Vaughan’s freetaking let him down from tight angles on two occasions. Another Vaughan free sent Crusheen a point clear before Tony Meaney entered the referee’s notepad after a rash challenge on Sean Collins. Conor McGrath pointed the resultant free as the sides were deadlocked once again after 22 minutes. Only one more score materialised despite some spirited hurling by both sides with Crusheen shading possession percentages. Pat Vaughan with his second wide from a free made up for this with the final score of the first half after Barry Duggan brought down O Grady. Duggan signalled to the line that he was in trouble but started the second half. Crusheen went in at the break ahead by the minimum (1-6) to (1-5).
A moment of supreme skill announced the second half with a pin point pass from Damian Browne found Cathal McInerney who beat three before scoring to level the game. From the Crusheen puck out O Grady won a free that was scored by Vaughan. Crusheen had a couple of close shaves with Cratloe attacks that required Donal Touhy to be on top form. Another sharp movement involving a quick free from Markham found Murphy who in turn fed McGrath and he equalised matters after 34 minutes. Six minutes of end to end action finished with Pat Vaughan popping over yet another free with twenty minutes to play to once more put the challengers a point clear. A sense that perhaps the running game of Cratloe was not as efficient as in other games was evident as McGrath was not receiving clear cut possession as Cronan Dillon kept him away from goal. Fergus Kennedy fed Conor O Donnell who unmarked sent Crusheen a vital two points clear after 41 minutes. Kennedy was now at full forward with Patrick Meaney in at right corner forward and O Grady at top of the left. Meaney who was expected to be a goal man replaced Gearoid O Donnell as Crusheen went three clear after Gerry O Grady was on target.
Cratloe were trying too hard to score the killer goal and one might suggest they spurned two or three point scoring chances in the process. Indeed with so much expected of McGrath and the resultant pressure brought on by same Cratloe began to look to others namely Cathal McInerney as the Cratloe half forward line were decimated by a truly dominant Crusheen half back line led by the Dillon brothers with Ciaran O Doherty the enforcer on his wing. Sean Chaplin replaced Martin Oige Murphy with 15 minutes to play as John Brigdale was booked. The Crusheen lead was restored to three after another free by Vaughan after John Brigdale was booked. The score remained the same for the intervening 6 minutes before Conor McGrath hit a free as Crusheen players began to go down mysteriously with cramp in the final ten minutes. Conor O Donnell was now marking Padraig Collins as John Brigdale who was carrying a knock was out of danger at corner forward with Grady outfield. The decisive moment of the game fell to Paddy Meaney whose low trajectory shot hit the far corner of Sean Hawes net in the 57th minute. This score put Crusheen five clear. Sean Chaplin responded straight from the puck out. Pat Vaughan with another free, Joe Meaney from play and Paddy Meaney in the 63rd minute and Crusheen had ended one of the longest famines in Clare GAA.
The new champions were served well by Donal Touhy, Cronan Dillon, Ciaran O Doherty, Cian Dillon, Cathal Dillon, Pat Vaughan, Paddy Meaney, Joe Meaney and Fergus Kennedy. Cratloe had strong displays in defeat from Barry Duggan, David Ryan, Cathal McInerney, Conor McGrath early on, Liam Markham, Michael Hawes and Sean Chaplin when introduced.
CRUSHEEN: Donal Touhy, John Brigdale, Cronan Dillon, Alan Brigdale, Ciaran o Doherty, Cian Dillon, Cathal Dillon, Tony Meaney, Paddy Vaughan (0-8), Gearoid O Donnell, Joe Meaney (0-2), David Forde, Conor O Donnell (0-1), Gerry O Grady (0-1), Fergus Kennedy (1-0). Subs: Paddy Meaney (1-1) for G O Donnell, Alan Touhy for Vaughan
CRATLOE: Sean Hawes, Philip Gleeson, Barry Duggan, David Ryan, John O Gorman, Michael Hawes, Liam Markham, Enda Boyce (0-1), Sean Collins (0-1), Conor Ryan (1-0), Damian Browne, Cathal McInerney (0-3), Conor McGrath (0-4), Padraig Collins. Subs: Sean Chaplin (0-1) for Murphy,
Referee: Sean McMahon (Newmarket).
After the game the Canon Hamilton cup was presented for the first time ever to a Crusheen man Gerry O Grady by County chairman Michael O Neill, as Cian Dillon was picked as man of the match.