By Michael O Connor.
Clarecastle are indeed attaining great value in this years division three league as preparation for round 2 of the Intermediate championship. Having played seven league games they faced two games to overcome Crusheen to set up a meeting with Killanena in Tulla on Saturday.
For their part Killanena reached the final with comparative ease as they overcame Clonlara by 14 points in the semi final to gain promotion and a league final. Killanena were without the services of three of their panel entering this tie as Clarecastle were slight favourites to lift their cup.
Mark Flaherty opened the scoring from play after four minutes as the former Clare panellist once more was the key scorer for the East Clare side. David Greene lining out at midfield for Clarecastle who were without Garrett Barry responded with Clarecastle's first score. Exchanges were equal in the first quarter with Killanena ahead (0-5) to (0-3) after 13 minutes. Fintan McNamara, Jason Keehan and Mark Flaherty (2) were on target for Killanena as Mark Foley, Conor O Gorman who was impressive throughout responded for the magpies. A strong breeze was favouring Killanena in the first half but it did not appear to be having an undue influence on proceedings in Tulla before a small attendance.
Clare quickly levelled matters by the 16th minute as Adam Cassidy and Pa Casey were on target before corner forward Niall Quinn and Mark Foley with his second point put Martin Sheedy's men two clear on (0-7) to (0-5) as this four in a row from Clarecastle appeared to stifle Killanena a little.
Perhaps it was the warning that Killanena required as they had a golden spell fromthe 22nd minute to the 28th minute hitting six of the intervening eight scores. Todd Kelsey, 17 year old Toby O Meara, Mark Flaherty (3) and county minor Cathal Noonan lifted Killanena's challenge to a new level as Clarecastle depended on the roaming Pa Casey to respond with two frees to stay in touch.
At the interval Clarecastle were (0-11) to (0-9) in arrears but with a stiff breeze to their backs for the second half allied to perhaps a stronger showing from their better players they appeared in a better place than Killanena who depended a lot on frees to score. Pa Casey continued at the start of the second half as he ended the first half with a converted free to narrow the Killanena lead to the minimum. Todd Kelsey was denied a goal in the 33rd minute following a brave body block by Jonathan Reidy. The ball was sent upfield and Pa Casey from play levelled matters before Casey(free) and Flaherty exchanged scores to leave the sides sharing 24 points after 37 minutes.
Clarecastle appeared to take control and have one hand on the trophy as they hit (1-2) between the 38th and 45th minutes. Conor O Gorman, Niall Quinn hit points before O Gorman struck for the game's first goal and now Clarecastle were (1-14) to (0-12) clear at the end of the third quarter of a game that was increasing in quality with 14 different scorers throughout the hour. Mark Flaherty hit back with a free but two scores in a minute from Darragh Moloney gave Clarecastle a six point lead for the first time in the game as they led (1-16) to (0-13). The surprise substitution of Alan McNamara and then reappearance at corner forward appeared to unsettle Killanena in the back as they let in (1-4) in the intervening seven minutes after his withdrawl.
The game was now Clarecastle's to win and Killanena's to save. The Killanena rescue mission commenced in the 50th minute when a huge clearance from Killanena deceived the Clarecastle backs and Mark Flaherty who read the flight of the ball well moved accordingly and he finished with ease past the helpless Jonathan Griffey to narrow the scoreline to (1-16) to (1-13) with ten minutes to play.
Both sides began to bring on replacements as Conor O Gorman with another score put four points between the sides with 52 minutes played. When Pa Casey with another excellent free left five points between the side one could have suggested that Clarecastle has rescued their challenge and would hold on for a narrow win. Killanena, however had other ideas and David Greene had to be alert to clear off the Clarecastle line in the 55th minute. A decisive score that breathed new life into Killanena was a Mikey Noone 65 that appeared to go untouched all the way to the Clarecastle net in the 57th minute. Clarecastle were now under extreme pressure and unable to get the ball past their own 65 yard line. Mikey Noone narrowed the deficit to the minimum with a smart effort from play and a draw looked on the cards when Killanena won a free 50 metres out in the 60th minute and Mark Flaherty made no mistake to set up a second day out to decide the destination of the division three hurling title.
Best for Killanena included Mikey Noone, Mark Flaherty, Todd Kelsey, Alan McNamara early on, Andrew Flaherty, Barry Noone, Jason Keehan, Darragh McNamara and Fintan McNamara. Clarecastle were feel aggrieved that they surrendered a prominent winning position despite the sold efforts from Conor Clancy, Jon Reidy, Pa Casey, Darragh Moloney, Conor O Gorman, Adam Cassidy, Cathal Lynch and Mark Foley in the first half.
CLARECASTLE: Jonathan Griffey, Ciaran Touhy, Conor Clancy, Cathal Lynch, John McInerney, Eamonn Concannon, Jon Reidy, Stephen Malone, David Greene (0-1), Mark Foley (0-2), Conor O Gorman (1-3), Adam Cassidy (0-1), Niall Quinn (0-2), Pa Casey (0-7), Darragh Moloney (0-2). Subs: Josh Kelly for Cassidy, Stephen Barry for Touhy, Shane Galvin for Quinn, Darragh Holland for Moloney.
KILLANENA: David Noone, Andrew Flaherty, Pa Noone, Barry Noone, John O Meara, Alan McNamara, Jason Keehan (0-1), Darragh McNamara, Mikey Noone (1-1), Mark Flaherty(1-9), Fintan McNamara (0-1), Cathal Noonan(0-1), Evan McNamara, Todd Kelsey (0-1), Toby O Meara (0-1). Subs: Colin McNamara for Alan McNamara, Alan McNamara for E McNamara
Referee: Niall O Brien (O C Mills).