By Michael O Connor.
An adult GAA title for 2011 has winged its way to Clonlara but not what they expected. The title was captured with all the usual suspects involved but not in their usual positions against a team whose first love is the sport that Clonlara play when other activities have been completed.
Junior B football title is Clonlara's claim to fame for 2011 as a late scoring spree overcame a gallant Clondegad side who in Colm Quinlivan was their dominant player for 45 minutes until Thomas O Donovan moved back to curtail the gigantic Clondegad targetman as John Conlon moved outfield. Clondegad earlier in the month won the Intermediate football which was their holy grail but this crown would have been a wonderful jewel in the crown
Prior to the throw in as Clondegad went about the warm up with precision Clonlara who were put through their paces by captain/coach Cormac O Donovan were more relaxed. The tremendous skill of Nicky O Connell was evident as he scored the opening effort from 35 yards after beating two Clondegad men for the opening score before Gearoid O Connell set up Cormac O Donovan for CLonlara's second score as they raced into an early lead. Colm Quinlivan who was giving John Conlon a tough time of it scored two in a row (1 free) to level matters after 8 minutes. Brian Woods restored Clonlara's lead as Gearoid O Connell sent a goal chance wide from close range. Barry O Connell struck for a point either side of (1-1) from Quinlivan that included a penalty to leave Clondegad (1-3) to (0-5) ahead and beginning to show signs of the form and battling qualities that saw them past Corofin after a marathon series of games. Once more the sides were brought together on the scoreboard as Nickey O Connell set up elder sibling Gearoid who made no mistake from 25 yards. The high ball into the Clonlara square was paying dividends for the estuary men yet it was a crossfield ball the opened the path for the second goal as minor Niall Deasy made no mistake to leave his side (2-3) to (0-6) clear at the interval.
Starting the second half it was apparent that Clonlara who were carefree in their tactics would need to tackle harder and might need another goal as Clondegad would need another goal to win the tie. A large dollop of luck fell Clonlara'a way when a high lobbing ball by Ronan Carey bounced in front of Clondegad goalkeeper Kenneth Breen and into the net as the sides were level two minutes into the second half. Nicky O Connell and Colm Quinlivan exchanged scores by the 36th minute as both sides began to refreshen their line ups with Clonlara bringing on pace in Domhnall O Donovan, Colm Galvin and Cathal O Connell. When Quinlivan converted two free sand Niall Deasy scored from play it appeared that Clondegad, who now led (2-7) to (1-7) were about to press on and take the laurels. Yet Clonlara woke up and realised that the time was nigh to finally get to work. Thomas O Donovan moved to full back and this ended Quinlivan's impact in the air, Galvin and Tots O Connell entered the fray and from here on in the game was dominated for the last ten minutes by Clonlara. Nicky O Connell now at number 14 kicked a point from play. Cathal O Connell did likewise. Colm Galvin got in between two Clondegad defenders and blasted to the net to send Clonlara two clear with four minutes normal time remaining. Freetaking , an issue of concern for Clonlara all afternoon was fixed when Nicky O Connell pointed from a placed ball as Gearoid O Connell rounded it off with the final score a minute into injury time Indeed Clonlara scored all bar two points from play.
Best for the winners were Thomas O Donovan, CIllian Fennessy, the accurate Nicky O Connell, Barry O Connell, Cormac O Donovan, Colm Galvin, man of the match Gearoid O Connell for his many forays upfield and pace that belongs at a higher grade and John Conlon were moved away from full back. Clondegad were gutted at the final whistle but lacked a second option up front when Quinlivan was negated. Their best included John Griffin, Eoin Griffin, Joe Neylon, Colm Quinlivan, Niall Deasy, Declan Keane and Kevin Sheehan.
Clondegad were outsiders entering the tie but should be well capable of adding this title next year.
CLONLARA: Alan O Connell, Pat Conlon, John Conlon, Paul Barry, Thomas O Donovan, Jason Murphy, Cillian Fennessy, Gearoid O Connell (0-2), Ronan Carey (1-0), Nicky O Connell (0-5), Cormac O Donovan (Capt)(0-1), Paul Nihill, John Moloney, Brian Woods (0-1), Barry O Connell (0-2). Subs: Colm Galvin (1-0) for Moloney, Domhnall O Donovan for P Conlon, Cathal O Connell (0-1) for Woods, Conor O Shea for Barry
CLONDEGAD: Kenneth Breen, Kevin White, John Griffin, Emmet Smithwick, Declan Keane, Eoin Griffin, Joe Neylon, Kevin Sheehan, Alan Carrig, Ray Flannery, Colm Gavin, Barry Coffey, Niall Deasy (1-1), Colm Quinlivan (1-6), David Sheehan. Subs: Shane O Neill for Carrig, Charlie MccCarthy for Coffey
REFEREE; Rory Hickey (Eire-og).
After the game county chairman Michael O Neill presented the Junior B Cup to an overjoyed Cormac O Donovan who admitted they had focussed on the football this year and were delighted to have succeeded.