By Michael O Connor.
In the 1970s Crusheen’s Michael Moroney was known as the “King of the sideline cuts” as his successful efforts won many a club and county game. Conor Cleary may not score as many as Moroney but will never be forgotten by anyone present in Sixmilebridge for his 64th minute sideline cut that handed the Willie Chaplin cup to Kilmaley for the third time since 2004.
Often in sport characters exist to give an added extra dimension to the sport be it with a quip on the line, daring deeds on the field, or sterling efforts off the field. However a dark side also exists when they take the game into disrepute. This occurred in this fantastic minor A hurling final played before a crowd that on two occasions entered the field as a result or because of the provocations of these characters.
The efforts of the match officials to retain order or any decision made by them over the hour had nothing to do with what occurred and the national media attention that followed in the intervening days was most disappointing for those who promote gaelic games in the county.
Clarecastle were missing the services of speedy corner forward Stephen Ward as county minor sharpshooter Bobby Duggan would be looked upon for the majority of their scores. With the game in the fifth of the scheduled five minutes of injury time, the Kilmaley captain Cleary stepped up to a line ball 50m from goal and floated the ball way over the crossbar as Kilmaley won their fourth Minor A title and first since 2009.
It brought to an end a final to recount in years to come, which produced some excellent hurling and one in which the sides were level on five occasions. Kilmaley deserved the win, although few would have complained had both sides forced a second day out for supporters.
When Kilmaley went six points clear, 26 minutes into the second half, it looked all over for the Magpies. However, a Michael Casey goal a minute later brought them right back into contention and points quickly followed from their captain, Bobby Duggan, and from the impressive Mark McGuane to leave the minimum separating the sides at the end of normal time.
In the second of the five added minutes, Duggan converted a 30m free and the momentum appeared to be with the Magpies. Kilmaley goalie Conan Fitzgerald did well to save a Michael Casey effort before the new champions went on an attack, which ended with the line ball that Cleary converted.
Clarecastle went into the contest after the league series unbeaten , as they drew with Kilmaley in Round 3, and they were seen as marginal favourites. Kilmaley had a battling win over Sixmilebridge who will bemoan a terrible start to their championship following injuries and a loss of form.
Play swung from end to end for the duration of the game except when both sides had periods of dominance . Kilmaley had the opening scores with Michael O’Malley and Cian Moloney pointing before Bobby Duggan (free) and Aaron Greene replied for Clarecastle after nine minute end to end action
Scores were hard to come by in the second quarter as the respective defences did well. In the second of the two added minutes, Eoin Clearly pointed to put Kilmaley 0-7 to 0-6 ahead at the break. Clarecastle had legitimate claims that a free from Duggan that was waved wide had indeed in the opinion of many sneaked inside the post. There was an extremely bright sun into the scoreboard goal in Sixmilebridge and it was difficult to call. They were level again three minutes into the second half before Clarecastle substitute Sean Lynch gave the Magpies the lead for the only time in the game. It was 0-10 to 0-9 for Kilmaley 10 minutes into the half and a minute later, the new champions struck a major blow.
A break down the left by Brian Cahill, who had a particularly impressive second half, led to Michael O’Malley crossing to Padraic McNamara, who fired home a great goal. From the puck-out, Duggan pointed for Clarecastle and following a tackle on Kilmaley wing back Aidan McGuane a major scuffle involving mentors and spectators began. This was quelled before a second scuffle that began on the far sideline under the shadow of the stand involved supporters who had being in the stand.
Following this unwanted distraction the eventual champions hit four unanswered points in three minutes and it looked to be all over for Clarecastle. However, they had other ideas and staged a strong rally led by a well taken Mikey Casey goal to draw level before Miltown Malbay native Cleary stepped up to land that superb winning score. Cleary, Aidan McGuane and full back Darragh McMahon were prominent throughout in front of goalkeeper Conan Fitzgerald. Brian Cahill had an outstanding game, first at midfield and then at wing-back. All six forwards got on the scoresheet and played a key role.Tom Howard excelled in defence for Clarecastle, as Gearóid Ryan and Joe Barry did as much as they good. Mark McGuane, Michael Casey and Bobby Duggan were to the fore in the scoring efforts for the vanquished.
Kilmaley: Conan Fitzgerald, Shane Lynch, Darragh McMahon, Shane O’Malley, Conor Finnucane, Conor Cleary (capt)(0-1), Aidan McGuane (0-1), Brian Cahill (0-1), Eamon Bracken, Killian Normoyle (0-1), Eoin Cleary, Darragh Gregan (0-1), Pádraic McNamara (1-1), Michael O’Malley (0-3), Cian Moloney (0-6).Sub: Barry Lynch for Bracken.
Clarecastle: Ben Maloney, Joe Barry, Gearóid Ryan, Dylan Broderick, Pa Tuohy, Conor Galvin, Tom Howard, John Griffey, John McInerney, Michael Casey(1-1), Bobby Duggan (0-9), Mark McGuane(0-2), Conor Clancy, Cian Crimmins, Aaron Greene (0-1). Subs: Sean Lynch (0-1) for Griffey, and Jack McDermott for McInerney.
Referee: Jim Hickey, Cratloe.
After the game Martin Reynolds chairman of bord na n-og Iomaint presented the Willie Chaplin cup to Kilmaley captain Conor Cleary in the presence of Mrs Anne Chaplin.
Minor C Hurling Final
WOLFE TONE………….2-15 WHITEGATE………2-13
By Michael O Connor.
A game to remember and it was not in the A grade. A high scoring game with great personal performances on both sides allied to a tremendous workrate displayed by both sides. Five sides entered this Minor C competition at the start of the series and from lowly beginnings a brilliant finale to the grade was provided in Sixmilebridge.
In the semi finals Whitegate overcame Crusheen in a shock result of sorts whilst in a downpour in Shannon the home side were too strong for Meelick to set up this decider. Wolfe tones have won many titles in A grade over the last two decades but their decline has been alarming despite the hard work being carried out at underage level. As a consequence there was a huge desire for this side who had suffered many defeats from under 12 to achieve a result in this game. Whitegate have similar issues but have managed to make the most in seasons past with limited playing numbers.
Aaron Shanagher opened the scoring before Ben O Gorman who was the star turn in action opened his account to send Wolfe Tones two clear. Indeed O Gorman looks one for the future with his pace and industry. At the back the teak tough Stephen Touhy was in no mood for allowing loose ball in the full back line. Luke Patterson and O Gorman kept the scoreboard ticking over before Patterson beat 3 to shoot past CIan Collopy. Eoin Quirke who starred for the Clare minors at wing back in 2012 put three between the sides. Ben O Gorman struck for his sides first goal at the end of the opening quarter as Eoin Quirke spurned a glorious goal chance to restore a three point lead for the East clare side.
Aaron Shanagher, Colin Burke, Greg Delahunt and Luke Solan were all on target by the 28th minute to leave the sides on level terms (1-5) apiece in what was turning out to be a most entertaining game. Whitegate will bemoan a number of wides from frees and when Gavin McPhillips was retired injured the introduction of pacy Ror Hayes little did Whitegate know the damage the corner forward would inflict upon them as the game matured.
Five minutes of injury time in the first half resulted in two further free from O Gorman as Wolfe Tones held a nervous (1-7) to (1-5) lead thankful that their opponents were fouling consistently in scorable positions. Chief targetmen O Gorman and Quirke added a brace of scores each by the 37th minute before Rory Hayes struck for (1-1) in a minute to surge Shannon (2-10) to (1-7) clear . Six points resulted in the intervening eight minutes courtesy of Luke Solan (3), Dean Rudd, Rory Hayes and Colin Burke as Whitegate were chasing Shannon on a (2-12) to (1-11) scoreline. Eoin Quirke was now at centre forward with Ben O Gorman sweeping around the half back line. With 10 minutes left the real action was beginning. Whitegate were now exerting real pressure on a creaking Wolfe Tones rearguard. Colin Burke struck for (1-2) from play as the Shannon supporters were upset with frees now being awarded to them up front.
Whitegate were a point clear with five minutes remaining before Greg Delahunt equalised. The final two scores of the game went to Ben O Gorman who struck over two late frees to hand the title to Wolfe Tones.
The champions had good displays from Cian Collopy, Stephen Touhy, Sean Reidy who was dominant at centre back, Greg Delahunt, Declan Rudd, Ben O Gorman and Rory Hayes. Whitegate worked hard and suffered missing frees and open goals despite the heroics of Conor McDermott, Colin Burke, Eoin Quirke, Luke Solan, Eoin Patterson, Luke Patterson and Aidan McCarthy.
WOLFE TONES; Cian Collopy, Josh Lindsay, Stephen Touhy, Cathal McCoy, Sean Reidy, Jack Kelly, William Flynn, Greg Delahunt (0-2) Andy Shanagher, Declan Rudd (0-1), Ben O Gorman (1-7), Gavin McPhillips, Aaron Shanagher (0-3). Subs: Jack Cunningham, Rory Hayes (1-2) for McPhillips (inj), Darragh Leahy.
WHITEGATE: Noel O Donnell, Ruben Noyes, Eoin Patterson, Aidan McCarthy, Gareth Bleach, Barry Mulvihill, Conor McDermott, Colin Burke (1-4), Eoin Quirke (0-4), Liam Sugrue, Luke Solan (0-4), Dylan White, Luke Patterson (1-1). Sub: Thomas Quirke.
Referee: Fergus McDonagh (St Josephs).
Following the game amid much delight Stephen Touhy accepted the Minor C cup that has been on the circuit for nearly 40 years from County minor board PRO Tom Sheehan.