By Michael O Connor.
The race for Canon 2011 is over and with it another hurling season. Tipped a long way off both sides fulfilled their potential to set up a winners take tie in rainsoaked Cusack park Sixmilebridge for the first time since 2002 and Crusheen for the third time out of five occasions locked horns with the canon and county bragging rights for the year ahead the prizes on offer.
The arrival is complete for Crusheen. In 2010 whilst many celebrated the maiden win for Crusheen many others were quietly surmising that it would be a brief sitting at the top table but with this comfortable retention of the canon Hamilton in conditions that would have had many other games called off they moved from being one hit wonders to battle hardened dual champions
The pitch was destroyed by warm up of both sides especially Crusheen who underwent a more intensive warmup as Niall Gilligan won the toss as the Bridge decided to play into the town goal. Seadna Morey shadowed Patrick Meaney as Paudi Fitzpatrick was at centre back with Aidan Quilligan at full back.
The opening score fell to Crusheen centre forward Jamie Fitzgibbon after four minutes from 30 yards after an astute pass from Gearoid O Donnell who rolled back the years with a hard working effort and in the view of many could easily have been man of the match only for Cian Dillons dominace for the second year in a row on county final day. Niall Gilligan,with the first of three opening half wides. In some of the worst ever conditions ever witnessed on county final day the pitch cut up instantly as the driving rain ensured errors by the minute. Pat Vaughan doubled Crusheen’s early advantage soon after with a converted free as Caimin Morey was beginning to trouble John Brigdale. Indeed Sixmilebridge’s first score came from a free won by Morey after catching the ball overhead Brigdale as the Crusheen corner back took him down. Niall Gilligan finally got the Bridge on the mark from the resulting free. Crusheen’s third score came from Jamie Fitzgibbon after 16 minutes before Danny Morey was on target after a smart handpass from Niall Gilligan a minute later. A crucial moment in the game materialised when Niall Gilligan was brought down in the square by Alan Brigdale but Gilligans penalty blazed over the bar in a let off for the Crusheen men as the sides were level on (0-3) after 25 minutes. A mistake under the awful conditions by Robert Conlon saw Gearoid O Donnell rob the ball and put Crusheen into a lead just before the break , (0-4) to (0-3) which they held to the half time whistle.
Leaving Caimin Morey inside hoping for the golden goal did not work and it was unusual that the Bridge did not consider moving him outfield and maybe into the half back line. On the day it was perhaps beyond the Bridge to engineer a win as with every passing minute Crusheen became more composed and crowded well in front of goal with Ciaran O Doherty’s physicality too much for Declan Morey and Donal Touhy’s safe in goal. The rain eased for the first few minutes of the second half before returning with a vengeance . Crusheen hit wides from Pat Vaughan and David Forde before the game and title were sealed in favour of Crusheen. Four points in three minutes from Gearoid O Donnell (2), Fergus Kennedy and Patrick Meaney broke any remaining resolve that may have existed in Sixmilebridge as they were now five points in arrears and spurned a goal chance when Caimin Morey batted the ball wide in front of the Crusheen goal. Pat Vaughan extended Crusheen’s lead to six points (0-9) to (0-3) at the end of the third quarter. Sixmilebridge battled manfully but despite an amount of route one hurling could not manufacture a goal with Niall Gilligan slipping under pressure as Cronan Dillon held command around the square.
Both sides managed just one score each in the final quarter as Patrick Meaney in the 55th and a late late consolation point from Niall Gilligan whose hunt for a fourth championship medal goes into a tenth year. The bookmakers simply on the power of money had Sixmilebridge as warm favourites all year and Crusheen at one stage at 14/1. I would imagine that Crusheen who went unbeaten all year in the championship and won the quarter final, semi final and final by a cumulative total of 31 points will not be 14/1 for next years championship.
In the end the success for Crusheen was franked from about the three quarter mark stage with sparkling performaces from Cian Dillon, Cronan Dillon, Gearoid O Donnell, Jamie Fitzgibbon, Patrick Meaney, Cathal Dillon and John Brigdale. Sixmilebridge never handled the power of Crusheen despite the best efforts of Derek Fahy, Tony Carmody, Niall Gilligan, Seadna Morey and Tadgh Keogh.
SIXMILEBRIDGE: Derek Fahy, Tadgh Keogh, Aidan Quilligan, Seadna Morey, John Fennessy, Padraig Fitzpatrick, Robert Conlon, Shane Golden, Tony Carmody, Jamie Shanahan, Rory Shanahan, Declan Morey, Danny Morey (0-1), Niall Gilligan (0-3), Caimin Morey. Subs: Brian Culbert for D Morey, Trevor Purcell for Conlon, David O Connor for Carmody,
CRUSHEEN: Donal Touhy, John Brigdale, Cronan Dillon, Alan Brigdale, Ciaran O Doherty, Cian Dillon, Cathal Dillon, Pat Vaughan (0-2), Joe Meaney, Gearoid O Donnell (0-3), Jamie Fitzgibbon (0-2), David Forde, Paddy Meaney (0-2), Gerry O Grady, Fergus Kennedy (0-1).
REFEREE: Rory Hickey (Eire-og)
After the game Michael O Neill presented the canon Hamilton for the second year running and the second time ever to Crusheen captain Gerry O Grady.
Crusheen now play Carrigtwohill in the Munster semi final on November 13th at a Cork venue.