Lucky 13 for Crusheen as county final awaits
By Michael O Connor.
Since Crusheen made the breakthrough to contesting the knock out stages of the Canon Hamilton back in 2002 their average score has been 12-13 points so it was with little surprise in Cusack park that this time honoured tradition was upheld at the expense of Sixmilebridge who failed to even threaten Donal Touhy’s goal after their goal fest just six days previous.
Hurlers on the ditch were very much split down the centre as to who would succeed in this game. Would the Crusheen backs overcome weaknesses in their forwards or would the Crusheen attack rise to the occasion. From a Bridge perspective Niall Gilligan is the talisman but would he repeat his (2-5) from the quarter final. A similar story would more than likely end in a final place for the Bridge.
The loss of Cathal Dillon irrespective of whatever corrective surgery would be implemented by Crusheen would be impossible to replace whilst the Bridge were dealing with a full deck of cards Conditions were ideal at headquarters for this first semi final
The first score of what many expected to be a low scoring affair came after four minutes when Tony Meaney pointed after a handpass from Gerry O Grady. Pat Vaughan was off target from Crusheen’s first scorable free before Paidi Fitzpatrick who had a strong first half set up Danny Morey for his sides first score after 10 minutes. David Forde who was dominant on his side of the field and Niall Gilligan (free) exchanged scores by the 12th minute. In a tension packed first half with both sides wasting scoring chances most notably Sixmilebridge who sent three frees wides. Pat Vaughan and Gilligan once more were on target by the end of the opening quarter as they sides were deadlocked on (0-3) apiece before Danny Morey with his second point and Niall Gilligan once more from a free put two scores between the sides. Joe Meaney with a snap shot effort reduced the deficit to the minimum as Gearoid and Conor O Donnell switched roles with some success.
Unusually for Sixmilebridge they started to mount an unwanted tally of wides with Danny Morey, Shane Golden and Niall Gilligan all off target as Joe Meaney and Pat Vaughan levelled matters by the 25th minute. Brian Culbert who had impressed in the quarter final was not a factor in the semi final and was replaced by Declan Morey who also struggled to make an impression.
The hardest earned score of the half was created and executed by Gearoid O Donnell as for the first time evidence was there that the hardness created by years of narrow defeats was now ingrained into Crusheen and perhaps they were not going to die away like in previous campaigns. Conor O Donnell had the final Crusheen score as Niall Gilligan rounded off the first half sharpshooting to leave the Bridge a point in arrears, (0-7) to (0-6) at the interval. Both sides hit wides before for the half time whistle.
A whirlwind start from SIxmilebridge that suggested a prolonged period of dominance petered out to a breeze after a brace of early Caimin Morey second half scores to send the Bridge clear by the minimum. Gearoid O Donnell responded with the equaliser after 35 minutes as Paddy Meaney was replaced by Alan Touhy who sent the best chance of the game wide soon after. Pat Vaughan in the 39th and Niall Gilligan after 43 minutes swopped scores to leave the sides level on (0-9) apiece with a goal chance looked increasingly unlikely. Caimin Morey, Rory Shanahan and Shane Golden hit wides that let Crusheen off the hook and allowed them to rebuild their confidence after a shaky start to the half. Niall Gilligan once more and Gearoid O Donnell with his third point once more had the sides tied on (0-10) each on this occasion. Another foul by Crusheen allowed Niall Gilligan to score his seventh point to edge the Bridge a point clear in the 50th minute as the tension was rising with every act. Gerry O Grady with his only score of the hour in his only attack on the goal restored parity. Crusheen were now in total control of the game as Sixmilebridge emptied their bench.
Crusheen to the amazement of all in Cusack Park very nearly imploded hitting four wides in four minutes with Vaughan (3) and John Brigdale off target. It looked as if the Bridge would counter attack and get the winning scores after being let off the hook. Cian Dillon however when posed wit h the task of handling Niall Gilligan in the final quarter showed up well after a quiet first half with Ciaran O Doherty also coming into his own. A foul by Fergus Kennedy on Niall Gilligan afforded the former county star with his eighth score and his sides final of the day. Sixmilebridge were now clear by the minimum but not for long. Fergus Kennedy made up for earlier concession of frees with the equaliser from 70 yards. On the stroke of the end of normal time 19 year old Conor O Donnell will long remember the winner he scored to send Crusheen into their fourth ever county final as Sixmilebridge bemoaned a 15 minute spell in the second half when Crusheen were there to be beaten but it was not to be for Christy Chaplin’s charges.
Best for Crusheen who with even just 13 points had 8 different scorers were Pat Vaughan, Tony Meaney, Fergus Kennedy, Gearoid O Donnell, Cian Dillon late on and David Forde who tired after an steady opening half. Sixmilebridge may not yet be ready for the canon and still lean heavily on Niall Gilligan’s experience and when he is held Sixmilebridge are held. Best for the Bridge were John Fennessy, Tadgh Keogh, Paidi Fitzpatrick, Danny Morey, Caimin Morey and Niall Gilligan
CRUSHEEN: Donal Touhy, John Brigdale, Cronan Dillon, Alan Brigdale, Pat Vaughan (0-3), Cian Dillon, Ciaran O Doherty, Tony Meaney (0-1), Fergus Kennedy (0-1), David Forde (0-1), Joe Meaney (0-1), Gearoid O Donnell (0-3), Paddy Meaney, Gerry O Grady (0-1), Conor O Donnell (0-2). Subs: Alan Touhy for P Meaney,
SIXMILEBRIDGE: Derek Fahy, John Fennessy, Tadgh Keogh, Ray McNamara, Robert Conlon, Aidan Quilligan, Paidi Fitzpatrick, Shane Golden, Tommy Morey, Seadna Morey, Rory Shanahan, Brian Culbert, Danny Morey (0-2), Caimin Morey (0-2), Niall Gilligan (0-8). Subs: Anthony Liddane for T Morey, Declan Morey for Culbert, Paul Fitzpatrick for McNamara, Barry O Connor for S Morey.
REFEREE: Rory Hickey (Eire-Og).