By Michael O Connor.
Kilmallock are in the semi finals of the Munster club as a result of a three point win over maiden Clare champions Crusheen following a low key quarter final played in Cusack Park that started with an disappointing first half but finished with a stirring second half from both sides.
At some stage in every campaign a team has to suffer through errors or poor play which tests their resolve to rally back. Sometimes they manage to overcome adversity and other times it overcomes the team. In Cusack park on Sunday Crusheen's normally dependable defensive unit had a number of shaky moments conceding over half their opponents scores in a five minute spell before dominating the last twenty minutes.
Kilmallock for their part did not look overly impressive in the first ten minutes and the last twenty, yet when they were on form looked the better side with a strong physical size and dominated key areas for most of the game. A test of motivation for Crusheen after their maiden championship with many tipping Kilmallock for a major tilt at the provincial crown was the common viewpoint amongst hurling supporters.
Aided by a stiff breeze Crusheen raced into a confident three point lead after only five minutes, Gerry O Grady, Pat Vaughan (free) and Gearoid O Donnell were the sharpshooters as they played the ball with confidence. Cian Dillon who looked dominant in the early exchanges damaged his thumb and after five minutes staying on the field was replaced for 10 minutes as he gained medical attention. In this period Kilmallock began to play to the standard accustomed to the county champions.
Paudie O Dwyer opened the Kilmallock account after 14 minutes before Jake Mulcahy and Andrew O Shaughnessy had Kilmalock only a point behind after 20 minutes. Dillon resumed his place on the field with Meaney making way as Pat Vaughan who was truly brilliant for the duration he was on the field scored a sideline cut as John Brigdale was booked by Cathal McAllister. Both sides added two points each in the final seven minutes with Shaughnessy and Eoin Ryan on target for the Limerick champions. Pat Vaughan responded with a brace of frees as Crusheen went in at the break (0-7) to (0-5) ahead but the suspicion that Kilmallock had underperformed in the first half.
In probably the greatest scoring spree of importance in any game this year at Cusack Park. Kilmallock stunned Crusheen between the 32nd and 37th minute hitting (2-4) with all coming from play. Paudie O Dwyer, Graeme Mulcahy (2) now at wing forward and Jake Mulcahy hit minors for the South Limerick side before the hurricane arrived. A high lobbing ball into the Crusheen square and was first timed to the net by Andrew O Shaughnessy . Within a minute the ball once more nestled in the Crusheen net as a floated ball into the Crusheen square was tfinished by the inrushing Shane O Donnell . Crusheen were now (2-9) to (0-7) in arrears and looked a beaten side.
Amazingly for the remaining 25 minutes action Kilmallock managed just two more points and despite troubling Crusheen did not look like scoring a third goal. Gearoid O Donnell who worked hard scored his second point in the 38th minute as Patrick Meaney replaced Tony Meaney. Pat Vaughan scored his second sideline cut as Shaughnessy pointed a 40th minute free. Gearoid O Donnell and Pat Vaughan were on the scoresheet once more by the end of the third quarter. Despite a revival in their fortunes Crusheen were unable to curb the displays of Eoin Ryan, Gavin O Mahony and Byran O Sullivan. With ten minutes to play Pat Vaughan scored from play but then had to retire with a recurrence of a groin injury and this effectively ended the real Crusheen challenge as without him they resorted to high balls into the square that failed. Joe Meaney (2) narrowed the Kilmallock lead to two points entering the final four minutes and when Paudie O Brien scored in the 59th minute the game and place in the Munster semi final against Thurles Sarsfields was sealed.
The Limerick champions managed by Tony Considine will know the poor start and poor end may prove costly against Thurles but when they play well look the part. They had strong displays from Eoin Ryan, Gavin O Mahony, Philip O Loughlin, Bryan O Sullivan, Graeme Mulcahy, Paudie O Brien, Paudie O Dwyer, Andrew O Shaughnessy and Jake Mulcahy. Crusheen started well, suffered and then rallied but it was not enough despite the performances of Cronan Dillon in the second half, Cian Dillon, Cathal Dillon, Pat Vaughan who is hurler of the year in Clare, Gearoid O Donnell and Joe Meaney when moved from centre forward.
CRUSHEEN: Donal Touhy, John Brigdale, Cronan Dillon, Alan Brigdale, Ciaran Doherty, Cian Dillon, Cathal Dillon, Tony Meaney, Pat Vaughan (0-7), Gearoid O Donnell (0-3), Joe Meaney (0-3), David Forde, Conor O Donnell, Gerry O Grady (0-1), Fergus Kennedy. Sub: Patrick Meaney for Cian Dillon (inj), Cian Dillon for Meaney, Paddy Meaney for T Meaney, Patrick O Grady for Vaughan (inj).
KILMALLOCK: Barry Hennessy, Liam Hurley, Philip O Loughlin, Kevin O Mahony, Liam Walsh, Gavin O Mahony, Bryan O Sullivan, Eoin Ryan (0-1), Paudie O Brien (0-1), Paudie O Dwyer (0-2), Shane O Donnell (1-0), Gavin O Sullivan, Graeme Mulcahy (0-2), Andrew O Shaughnessy (1-3), Jake Mulcahy (0-2). Subs: Paddy Connery for O Donnell, Kevin O Donnell for J Mulcahy.
Referee: Cathal McAllister (Cork).