NEWMARKET ON FERGUS…………3-10 CRATLOE…………0-9
By Michael O Connor.
Newmarket will wake up for the next year with a glow that even when the coldest day attacks it will be repelled with ease. The hurt of over 3 decades, the pressure to recreate the glories of the past and to come out of the shadows of multi medal holders was ended in a torrent of scores, hard hurling, great defending and just sheer determination in Cusack park. No one could have predicted a 10 point win for either side but at the break it did look like it was all over as Bob Enright’s men had Cratloe in a stranglehold that the 2009 champions looked incapable of escaping from and they didn’t.
Tears of joy and relief were shed by hard hurling men and women who had suffered the jibes of neighbours near and far suggesting they were unable to match those who had gone before them. The near misses in recent years, The successes at underage level that appeared might never be fully matured at senior level and the numerous mentors and players who had tried and failed felt they might leave this world with their work unfulfilled.
The dream final. Neighbour versus neighbour, cousin v cousin and over a century of rivalry on show for this generation to display. Newmarket, unlike other years were not the talking horse of the championship as others looked at Cratloe, Clonlara and Crusheen to lead the way. For their part the alignment with Liam Sheedy has helped their cause no end and this is agreed by all involved. They overcame Clonlara by the minimum whilst Cratloe needed all their guile and skill and a certain dollop of luck to bypass Inagh/Kilnamona in the second semi final. Indeed had Inagh/Kilnamona’s freetaking normally a huge asset being up to scratch it would have been their day in the park.
The key match ups in this years decider could have included James McInerney v Conor McGrath, Padraic Collins v Alan Barrett and David Barrett v Liam Markham. If anyone of the clubs were to win these three duels the canon would be carried aloft by their captain at 4.30pm.
Following the poor attendance at the football final the county treasury was in dire need of a large gathering of GAA folk at this years hurling to help defray the years expenses incurred by all teams and administration. The excitement of a tremendous minor A final the evening before had whetted the appetite for more of the same at the biggest day of the hurling year in Clare.
Driving rain greeted the start of the game but thankfully ended as the ball was thrown in leaving a greasy surface for both sides. A late change to the lineout saw Niall Enright out with Shane O Brien in at corner forward as Newmarket played the opening half with the breeze. A wonder start for the Blues emerged when a huge free in the first minute by James McInerney was missed by the Cratloe backs and Shane O Brien jnr delivered the breaking ball to the net. Colin Ryan kept up the pressure with a free before Sean Collins opened Cratloe’s account after a smart pass from Conor McGrath in the 5th minute. David Barrett and Conor McGrath exchanged scores in the 8th and 12th minute as the tempo of the game was more stop start that freeflowing. Both sides hit wides before Conor McGrath struck his second point from a free only for David Barrett to score a wonderful point to announce that Newmarket were here to win not succumb like in previous campaigns.
A potential hammer blow to the Cratloe challenge was a second goal by Shane O Brien who received a handpass from Anthony Kilmartin after a long ball from David Barrett and made no mistake from 10 yards. Ryan added a free to put seven points between the teams with 8 minutes left in the first half as Barry Duggan retired injured with Michael Hawes reverting to full back. The Cratloe backs were struggling to contain the pace of the Newmarket forwards especially when the ball was put in high. Five minutes of injury time saw minimal return on the scoreboard from Cratloe as they managed two Conor McGrath frees that were cancelled out by scores from three Ryan frees to leave Newmarket comfortable (2-6) to (0-6) half time leaders.
Without doubt as Cratloe entered the half time break they realised that nothing less than two goals would suffice unless Newmarket imploded. That scenario did not look possible when Ryan struck a free that sneaked in past the post a minute into the new half as Aidan Browne replaced David Ryan. The lack of any breakthrough in the Cratloe forwards with McGrath and McInerney under the cosh as one could feel Newmarket supporters playing every ball and nervous whenever Cratloe attacked. David Barrett was continually on the ball but little really coming from his efforts as the Newmarket full back line were imperious as James Liddy replaced Anthony Kilmartin. There was little real excitement in the second half for the neutral as Newmarket were in control all over the field and Cratloe unable to score at all. Such was their difficulty that Conor McGrath was missing frees to boot. 15 minutes elapsed in the second half before Cratloe’s first score and it came from Sean Collins as Cratloe began to empty their bench with the driving rain returning to GAA headquarters.
Colin Ryan with 8 minutes to go stretched the lead to nine points before a brilliant save from Darren Duggan following a goal bound effort by Sean Collins. The resulting 65 was sent over by McGrath before Colin Ryan scored a solo goal beating three from the corner flag as 31 years of wait was lifted off the shoulders of every man who ever hurled for the “Blues”. One final score was left to materialise and it was a consolation score for Damian Browne as the relief in the faces of Newmarket supporters especially the more mature lifelong followings including Mrs O Leary who put is simply “ We have waited a long time for this day”.
Best for Newmarket was the entire full back line as Enda Barrett and Alan Barrett dominated in the half back line. Every Newmarket forward tackled like defenders forcing errors that were turned into frees and scores with Ryan making little error throughout. Colin Ryan received the man of the match award but Eoin O Brien and James McInerney were in hot pursuit for this honour. Cratloe worked hard but never reached the levels of previous big games.
CRATLOE: Sean Hayes, John O Gorman, Barry Duggan, Enda Boyce, Michael Hawes, Conor Ryan, Liam Markham (0-1), Martin Murphy, Sean Chaplin, Padraic Collins, David Ryan, Sean Collins (0-2), Cathal McInerney, Conor McGrath (0-5), Gearoid Ryan. Subs: Damian Browne (0-1) for Duggan (inj), Aidan Browne for David Ryan, Shane O Leary for G Ryan, Shane Gleeson for Chaplin
NEWMARKET: Darren Duggan, Eoin O Brien, James McInerney, Sean O Connor, Niall O Connor, Enda Barrett, Alan Barrett, Eoin Hayes, Martin O Hanlon, David Barrett (0-2), Colin Ryan (1-8), Mike McInerney, Shane O Brien jnr (2-0), Anthony Kilmartin, Shane O Brien. Sub: James Liddy for Kilmartin, Ronan Goode for Hayes, Niall Enright for D Barrett.
REFEREE: Ambrose Heagney (Corofin)
Following the game the chairman of the county board Michael O Neill presented the Canon Hamilton cup to Enda Barrett and Colin Ryan received both the man do the match and top scorer for the season awards.