By Michael O Connor.
Sixmilebridge are Minor A champions once more at the fourth attempt following defeats to Inagh/Kilnamona, Newmarket and Kilmaley they have with some joy one could suggest taken the crown they wanted the most against the opposition they craved the most namely Ballyea.
A strange atmosphere in Clarecastle on county minor final day where as many turned up for the ancillary action as much as the onfield fare. They were not disappointed as Kevin Walshe who issued yellow cards with justification could have easily sent at least three players to the line with one late incident very nearly costly to Sixmilebridge's key player.
The most eagerly awaited game of recent years at minor level between two teams who have clashed with some vigour over the last half decade. Sixmilebridge winning four under 16A crowns but to their chargin failed to capture the minor A crown in this period. Ballyea have made enormous strides over the last half decade and with a bit of luck and good judgement could have celebrated Minor A and B successes. To see hardened Sixmilebridge men who have won it all on the sideline and the pitch celebrating this crown as if it was the first ever displayed how much this day meant.
One could cut the tension with a hurley at the start and within seconds the first flare up that culminated with a brawl on the sideline that ended with referee Kevin Walsh laying down the law with respective managers Donal Kelly and Brian Culbert. The next minute saw four players, two from each side booked at the Bridge end of the field. Eventually hurling broke out amid the tension with some marvellous scores over the hour and unbelievable commitment from both sides.
Alan Mulready opened the scoring with a free in the first minute and it took until the 10th minute for the next score when Tony Kelly scored a great effort which he repeated a minute later to send Ballyea into the lead. Stan Lineen and Tony Kelly with his third effort sent Ballyea three clear at the end of the first quarter. Tony Kelly was inches wide with a goal effort after a powerful solo upfield as Seadna Morey was rerouted to man mark him.Jamie Shanahan added to Sixmilebridge's sole point before Aonghus Keane and Kelly with his fourth point left Ballyea (0-6) to (0-2) ahead with six minutes to go in the first half.
The Sixmilebridge fightback that had been hampered by half a dozen wides in the first 25 minutes kicked into life in the final minutes of the half when they outscored Ballyea (1-2) to(0-1) with Gearoid O Connell hitting the Ballyea point. Seadna Morey scored a wonder score as Darragh Fitzgerald added another Bridge point before Alex Morey doubled on the rebound from Conor Deasy's goal effort that was parried by Conor Harkins. The half time score read Sixmilebridge (1-4) Ballyea (0-7) as it appeared Sixmilebridge were now looking likely winners.
Ballyea took the game to Sixmilebridge early in the second half as Niall Deasy was just wide with a goal effort as Seadna Morey scored from the throw in to send his side into the lead that was matched a minute later by Tony Kelly (free). Kelly was now positioned at full forward and spent half the second half there and in that period Ballyea were humbled on the scoreboard conceding (1-5) without reply. One would suggest that Ballyea were attempting to drag Morey back into the backs knowing he would follow Kelly. It backfired as Conor Deasy, Mulready and Shanahan who had a day to forget from frees took over the middle of the park
Conlith Agnew, Conor Deasy (2), Brian Carey and Mulready were on target before Mulready blasted the second goal of the game from close range a minute after Alex Morey was denied a similar chance. Sixmilebridge were now coasting clear on double scores, (2-10) to (0-8) as Kelly was now back at midfield with Gearoid O Connell. This move revitalised Ballyea who scored four in a row with Kelly (3, 1 free) and Ryan Griffin on the mark to halve the Sixmilebridge to four with six minutes remaining.
When Kelly once more from play narrowed the score to just a goal with three minutes remaining Sixmilebridge finally realised that one more rally upfield. This was achieved when James Shanahan scored a wonderful free that was followed with a late late effort from Seadna Morey as Tony Kelly was booked for a late tackle on his county colleague. Seconds later mass celebration and despair in equal measure broke out with Kevin Walshes final whistle on a game that he handled with ease.
Best for the champions who won their 13th title were Eoin Hogan, Conlith Agnew, Conor Deasy who starred, The excellent Seadna Morey, Brian Carey, Jamie Shanahan, Alan Mulready and Alex Morey. Ballyea had good displays from Tony Kelly who finished the game with a remarkable tally of ten points, Gearoid O Connell, Jack Browne, aonghus Keane Stan Lineen who had a good first half and Conor Harkins.
SIXMILEBRIDGE: Pa Freeman, Eoin Hogan, Conlith Agnew (0-1), Evan McInerney, Darragh McNamara, Seadna Morey (0-3), Dylan Fleming, Brian Carey (0-1), John Mulready, Brian Corry, Jamie Shanahan (0-2), Darragh Fitzgerald (0-1), Alex Morey (1-0), Alan Muready (1-2), Conor Deasy (0-2). Subs: Sean Lynch for J Mulready, David Murphy for Fitzgerald,
BALLYEA: Conor Harkins, Darragh Crowe, Eoin Donnellan, Lee Brady, Aonghus Keane (0-1). Jack Browne. Joe Neylon, Gearoid O Connell, Tony Kelly (0-10), Tadgh Lynch, Stan Lineen (0-1), Ryan Griffin (0-1), Paul Meaney, Niall Deasy, Diarmuid Lorrigan. Subs: Lee Sherlock for Lorrigan, Alan Dalton for Meaney,
Referee: Kevin Walsh (Wolfe Tones).