By Michael O Connor.
In a weekend of shocks that very nearly commenced on Friday evening when Tulla ran Clarecastle to a injury time win their country neighbours Feakle took it a step further to injure a bigger championship beast. Slay would be incorrect due to the nature of the championship and ironically Cratloe with McGrath and McInerney back in tow still remain the team to beat but take nothing away from this great Feakle effort.
The opening score fell to Feakle wing forward Martin Daly in the second minute only for Shane Gleeson to hit back with a free for the Cratloe men as the sweltering heat enveloped Cusack park. The first half scoring developed a pattern whereby neither sides was no more than two points ahead at any juncture. The first half was also totally devoid of goal opportunities as Shane McGrath and Steven Conway with a well executed score before a brilliant piece of skill from Podge Collins ended with a score to leave Feakle (0-3) to (0-2) ahead. Three in a row from Cratloe courtesy of Sean Chaplin, Aidan Browne and Shane Gleeson stretched the South Clare side (0-5) to (0-3) ahead after 14 minutes action in Ennis. The game developed into a stop start formula as a number of frees were awarded to both sides most notably of the scoring nature to Cratloe as the first half wore on. Shane McGrath responded to narrow the deficit to the minimum and indeed he was one of the main players on view in the game especially the first half when Feakle required leadership.
With a number of the established Cratloe players playing well within themselves Feakle were in control of large tracts of Cusack Park. Shane McGrath, Conor Nelson, Conor Ryan, Gleeson and McGrath again added minors in a five minutes spell as Cratloe took a narrow shortlived lead. In a free ridden first half the remaining five scores on the half were all frees, bar one. Eoin Tuohy, Gary Guilfoyle (play) and Shane McGrath were on the mark for Feakle as a brace of Shane Gleeson frees left it at (0-9) apiece entering the dressingrooms.
Cratloe recommenced the action and were quickly two points to the good as Shane Gleeson and Podge Collins swoped for scores in the opening two minutes. Indeed the East Clare hamlet were most fortunate not be five in arrears after 35 minutes as Podge Collins sent a screamer across the bow of Eibhear Quilligan's goal. The scores appeared to dry up as both sides to their credit did create but the execution was off target especially Cratloe's who hit three scorable efforts wide in three minutes. Team manager Val Donnellan was asked by referee Kevin Walsh to remain on the bench. This incident was forgotten seconds later when from outside the square Oisin Donnellan first timed a crossfield ball to the net to level matters. It was the score the game required even though the tempo had increased for the five minutes previous. Shane McGrath sent Feakle ahead in the 43rd only for Podge Collins to equalise at the end of the third quarter. Oisin Donnellan once more after 47 minutes restored a one point Feakle lead.
It was now becoming a game of nerves with any mistake or feed given away in a scorable position likely to be fatal such was the closeness of exchanges. Shane McGrath converted a close range free only for Sean Collins to respond within seconds from play to leave the minimum between the sides entering the last seven minutes. Gearoid Ryan was sharp in the Cratloe goal to deny Steven Conway a match winning goal seconds after Enda Noonan and McGrath once more had stretched the Feakle lead to three points.
It was now Feakle's game to lose and would they crack under the pressure? Not on this occasion anyway as Shane McGrath got an invaluable insurance score in the 57th minute to force Cratloe to score at least (1-1) to get extra time. Liam Markham who was their go to man in the second half pointed in the 59th minute and two minutes into injury time Shane Gleeson sent over a free but too little, too late for Joe McGrath's men who enter the losers group that is more interesting this season than the winners group.
Feakle can thank the efforts of Evan McMahon, the impressive Eoin Tuohy, Shane McGrath, Gary Guilfoyle, Martin Daly, Oisin Donnellan when moved outfield, Steven Conway and Ray Bane. Cratloe will bounce back with the likes of Gearoid Ryan, Sean Chaplin, Liam Markham, Shane Gleeson, Padraic Collins to lead the charge.
CRATLOE: Gearoid Ryan, Shane O Leary, Michael Hawes, David Ryan, Sean Chaplin (0-1), Liam Markham (0-1), Jamie Arthur, Conor Ryan (0-1), Oige Murphy, Shane Gleeson (0-8), Padraic Collins (0-3), Sean Collins (0-1), David Collins, David O Brien, Aidan Browne (0-1). Subs: James Enright for David O Brien,
FEAKLE: Eibhear Quilligan, James Noonan, Evan McMahon, Ger Hanrahan, Eoin Tuohy (0-1), Raymond Bane, Killian Bane, Shane McGrath (0-8), Con Smyth, Gary Guilfoyle (0-1), Colin Nelson (0-1), Martin Daly (0-1), Oisin Donnellan (1-1), Colm Naughton, Steven Conway (0-1). Subs: Enda Noonan (0-1) for Naughton,
Referee: Kevin Walsh (Wolfe Tones).
By Michael O Connor.
A superb defensive effort by Crusheen laid the foundations for the win in perfect conditions at headquarters. The tight marking that was evident at the throw in displayed the hard fought carried on for the hour as it was indeed the hardest game played over the weekend. Both sides were off target before as usual Niall Gilligan opened the scoring. Crusheen's freetaker Pat Vaughan was not to be outdone and he sent over a free and a second from play to settle Crusheen nerves.
Jamie Shanahan who was the primary avenue for scores in the first half for Sixmilebridge hung away from Cian Dillon and struck over three points with his first coming after 8 minutes. Gilligan and Shanahan added two more successful efforts by the 14th minute in a low scoring first quarter and when Caimin Morey sent Sixmilebridge three clear the omens were not favouring Crusheen. Pat Vaughan stemmed the tide with a free before a long range free by Vaughan in the 20th minute was doubled to the net by full forward Fergus Kennedy. This scored undid all the work of Sixmilebridge as Crusheen had done little real in front of goal and were a point clear. Three more points is all that emerged for the remainder of the half as Sixmilebridge outscored Crusheen 2 to 1. Pat Vaughan with another free in the 21st minute saw the winners move two clear only for Shanahan and Gilligan to respond in the 22nd and 25th minute to leave parity between the sides, (1-4) to (0-7) at the break.
At this juncture it did look as if Sixmilebridge would come out and win the second half in a low scoring event however it was Crusheen who received the perfect start to dull the Bridge fight somewhat early on.
Cillien Mullins and veteran Gearoid O Donnell in the first three minutes after the restart sent Crusheen two clear as Ciaran O Doherty was now at centre back to curtail Shanahan and Cian Dillon moving out to centrefield. Shanahan had his last score of the evening and when Alex Morey hit the target the sides were once again level. The decisive moments of the game had the involvement of Donal Tuohy who was probably Crusheen's man of the match. He denied Danny Morey from close range after 37 minutes as Niall Gilligan pointed in the same action. Three scores from Pat Vaughan, Gilligan and Pa Sheehan preceded four Crusheen wides in as many minutes as many felt that Crusheen were spurning the chance to close out the game.
Conor O Donnell and the increasing presence of Colin Vaughan who was a revelation when moved outfield for the last quarter levelled the game once more. Pa Sheehan and Niall Gilligan were not found wanting grabbing a brace of scores in the 48th minute. On each occasion Sixmilebridge or Crusheen went two points clear the other side hauled them back with the intervening scores.
The lacklustre nature of the first half was now replaced by a real championship effort. Pat Vaughan, Conor Deasy and Colin Vaughan were all on the scoresheet between the 50th and 55th minutes as once again deadlocked was the story on the scoreboard and extra time was looming. Surprisingly, Sixmilebridge were struggling to gain momentum and did not spring more players from their bench and more importantly gave away ground on the pitch to Crusheen who advanced up the field with precision hurling.
Pat Vaughan set up younger cousin Colin on the CBS stand side and he sent over the lead point. Jamie Fitzgibbon who had been introduced added a second lead point and now Sixmilebridge now required a goal to win. With the game on full time Alex Morey who was to the fore in the second half left the minimum entering the 2 minutes of injury time. A stoppage at the start of same ensured that four minutes plus was played. The correct playing time was played nonetheless by Ambrose Heagney. Still, more drama. Sixmilebridge launched in one last salvo. The ball came to Alan Mulready but having sense the danger before anyone Donal Tuohy raced out and body blocked the ball at the expense of a 65'. Niall Gilligan, who is entering his 21st championship the same number ironically as Gearoid O Donnell and one behind Cathal Dillon stood over the ball and his high high effort was waved wide despite despairing efforts by the veteran to claim a point.
Seconds later, Crusheen who had been tipped by many to go into decline celebrated as if it was championship success. Far from that it was but still with Clare cup points on offer as well it sets up Crusheen to concentrate on championship for the year safe in Div 1 of the cup once more. What odds both teams meet again in September. Best for Crusheen were my man of the match Donal Tuohy, Ciaran O Doherty, Jason Greene, Pat Vaughan, Colin Vaughan, Jamie Fitzgibbon and Cian Dillon in the second half. Sixmilebridge worked hard but appeared somewhat leg weary in the last quarter. Once again Niall Gilligan carried the responsibility for score making with Caimin Money, Seadna Morey, Pa Sheehan, Conor Deasy, Alex Morey also to the fore
SIXMILEBRIDGE: Derek Fahy, Noel Purcell, Barry Fitzpatrick, Cathal Lynch, Caimin Morey (0-1), Aidan Quilligan, Kevin Lynch, Seadna Morey, Pa Sheehan (0-2), Conor Deasy (0-1), Jamie Shanahan (0-4), Alex Morey (0-2), Danny Morey, Niall Gilligan (0-6), Alan Mulready. Subs: John Fennessy for D Morey.
CRUSHEEN: Donal Tuohy, Jason Greene, Gerry O Grady, Mark Perrill, Ciaran O Doherty, Cian Dillon, Cathal Dillon, Joe Meaney, Pat Vaughan (0-7), Alan Tuohy, Conor O Donnell (0-1), Gearoid O Donnell (0-1), Cillien Mullins (0-1), Fergus Kennedy (1-0), Colin Vaughan (0-3). Subs: Jamie Fitzgibbon (0-1) for Touhy, Alan Brigdale for Perrill, Alan Tuohy for J Meaney
REFEREE: Ambrose Heagney (Corofin).