Ennistymon 2-6 Cratloe 1-7
New U-21A football champions will be crowned this year after defending champions Cratloe were knocked out at Cusack Park on Sunday.
The outcome was eventually decided by a fortuitous goal a few minutes before the end. Ennistymon trailed by a point when Michael McDonagh won possession and after making good ground, his left-footed effort looked to be going over the bar but dipped and struck the upright. It seemed to catch Cratloe goalie Jamie Joyce off guard. The ball came off the upright and hit Joyce on the back and crossed the goal line. It proved to be the final score of the game and it sent Ennistymon through to the final for the second year in succession.
While the goal was fortunate, it would have been hard luck on the North Clare side had they not taken something from a tie that saw both sides enjoy periods of dominance.
The title-holders went into the game boosted by the availability of Cathal McInerney, who lined out at corner-forward having had a cast removed from his hand earlier in the week.
The winners certainly had the better of the opening exchanges and took an early lead through two David Davenport points before Enda Boyce came forward from defence to score the title-holders’ first point in the 11th minute.
A minute later, Cratloe knew they were in a battle after Brian Houlihan finished off an excellent move involving Aidan Slattery, Danny Rouine and Sean McConigley, when he punched the ball to the net.
The goal drew an immediate response from Cratloe, who hit back with a brace of pointed frees from Liam Markham. The teams were more evenly matched from here to the half-time whistle, when the score stood at 1-3 to 0-5 in the winners’ favour.
There appeared to be more urgency in Cratloe’s play after half-time and they created a good goal chance in the opening minute but Conor McGrath lost possession at a vital time. David Davenport had an Ennistymon point in the sixth minute but two minutes later Cratloe were in front for the first time when Cathal McInerney finished a good move to the net. The lead was short-lived as David Davenport hit the equaliser two minutes later.
From here to the finish, a draw appeared the likely outcome. Danny Rouine put the winners back in front at the start of the final quarter but within a minute, Conor McGrath tied up the game again when he pointed after a great break by Sean Collins.
Ten minutes from time, a Paudge Collins break resulted in a 20m free, which Cathal McInerney converted. As time ticked away, the South East Clare side clung on to the lead before McDonagh struck for the decisive goal.
Oisín Vaughan, Aidan Slattery, Francis O’Loughlin, David Davenport, Joey and Danny Rouine and Michael McDonagh got through a lot of work for the winners.
Conor Ryan, particularly in the second half, was outstanding for Cratloe, who also had good performances from Sean Hynan, Enda Boyce, Liam Markham, Dean De Loughrey and Paudge Collins.
Ennistymon: Noel Sexton; Oisín Vaughan, Michael O’Loughlin, Joey Rouine; Aidan Slattery, Sean O’Driscoll, Michael Houlihan; Ronan Linnane, Francis O’Loughlin; Danny Rouine, Brian Houlihan, Michael McDonagh; Sean McConigley, Tadhg Malone, David Davenport.
Scorers: David Davenport (0-4); Brian Houlihan, Michael McDonagh (1-0) each; Michael Houlihan, Danny Rouine (0-1) each.
Subs: Alan Horan for Houlihan (40 minutes); Enda Ralph for Linnane (50 minutes); Dara Ralph for Malone (52 minutes).
Cratloe: Jamie Joyce; John L Boyce, Sean Hynan, Barry Gleeson; Enda Boyce, Liam Markham, Wesley De Loughrey; Conor Ryan, Joseph O’Connor; Kane O’Shea, Sean Collins, Dean De Loughrey; Cathal McInerney, Conor McGrath, Paudge Collins.
Scorers: Cathal McInerney (1-1); Liam Markham (0-3); Enda Boyce, Sean Collins, Conor McGrath (0-1) each.
Subs: Shane Golden for O’Shea (45 minutes); Pat Carey for JL Boyce (48 minutes).
Referee: Michael Talty, Kilmurry-Ibrickane