by Michael O Connor.
16/1 outsiders at the start of the title race and suffering in challenge games. No one, not even those diehard Tulla supporters gave their charges a real hope. Yet in the final analysis they overcame Wolfe Tones, Clonlara and now Cratloe to bridge a 18 year gap since their last under 21 crown. Cratloe, for their part had overcome St Josephs and Crusheen/Tubber in their run to the final to Cusack park
Cratloe, played as usual with Shane O Leary playing loose as the first scoring chance went abegging with Colin Corbett sending a 3rd minute free wide playing into the Clonroad goal. Niall Bolton hit the first score from a long range free as Tulla were playing with the breeze that was rising as the game went on. The first tangible attack for Cratloe finished with a score for team captain David O Brien after 8 minutes action. Pressure from Tulla resulted in Cratloe conceding a free that Colin Corbett converted.
A brilliant score under pressure from Brian Fahy drew sustained applause after 11 minutes as the men from the windswept went into a three point lead. Cratloe hit back immediately courtesy of Conor Crosbie with Brian Fahy again to the rescue of Tulla with another excellent strike. 18 minutes saw the next score as Colin Corbett hit another point from a free as Shane Gleeson, the main Cratloe dangerman was out of the action and it took until the 20th minute for him to get on the scoresheet from a free. The first display of the new advantage rule was implemented by Rory McGann as Conor Crosbie was fouled and Gleeson sent over the free to leave Cratloe (0-6) to (0-4) in arrears after 23 minutes fare in Cusack Park.
Both sides hit wides before Colin Corbett restored a three point lead (0-7) to (0-4) as the half time whistle loomed but not before more action as Brian Fahy was denied a sure goal from a body block by Eoin O Kelly in the Cratloe goal. The last real scoring chance of the half was a free sent wide by Shane Gleeson. Both sides were moving their key men around attempting to gain the maximum from those men and in this Tulla won the battle hands down.
The first score of the second half as the sleet arrived fell to Shane Gleeson whose powerful effort skimmed the crossbar to reduce the deficit to two points as Niall Bolton kept three in it with a huge free into the elements after 34 minutes. As the rain fell Shane Gleeson won and converted a free and seconds later Jamie Arthur had the sides separated by the minimum after a speculative long range effort went over the Tulla crossbar. Parity was reached in the 39th minute with Daithi Collins on target from 65 metres as the impetus was now apparently with the South Clare side. Niall Bolton arrested the slide in Tulla's fortune with another converted free before 17 year old Michael Danaher pounced on a loose Tulla clearance to tie up the sides once again.
A free awarded to Cratloe ended with Gleeson sending Cratloe ahead for the first time as the game entered the final quarter. Tension was now rising as both sides realised a mistake or big score could win or lose this game such was the closeness in scores and little real evidence of a goal being created. Diarmuid Murphy who had just been introduced hit the equaliser and a minute later Brian Fahy with his third score gave the lead once more (0-11) to (0-10) to the Tulla men who last won the title in 1997 when current mentor Brian Quinn was also involved on the sideline.
Shane Gleeson with another successful free levelled the game as extra time was now a real possibility in Cusack park. That scenario ended when a low struck shot from Colin McGrath went all the way to the Cratloe net in the 54th minute. Shane Gleeson had a goal chance but his effort spun wide of the left post. In an action packed final five minutes neither side scored and the best that Cratloe created was a half effort that spun feet past Conor Dinan's goal. Once the final whistle went great scenes of delight were displayed as the renowned battling qualities and pride of Tulla once more delivered the silver on county final day against a youthful Cratloe side.
Best for Tulla on the day were Daniel Vaughan,
Niall Bolton, Conor Dinan, Mark Lynch , Brian Fahy , Colin Corbett and Cathal Bolton.
A number of misses from play and frees cost Cratloe despite the best efforts of Eoin O Kelly, Aaron Gaule, Aaron Costigan, Shane O Leary, Daithi Collins and Shane Gleeson.
CRATLOE: Eoin O Kelly, Richard Murray, Aaron Gaule, Aarron Costigan, Caimin Deegan, Shane O Leary, Dominic Costigan, Jamie Arthur (0-1), Daithi Collins (0-1), David O Brien (0-1), Conor Crosbie (0-1), Michael Danaher (0-1), Jack McInerney, Shane Gleeson (0-6), Ciaran O Connor. Subs: Billy Connors for D Costigan,
TULLA: Conor Dinan, Kevin Conlon, Daniel Vaughan, Conor O Dwyer, Emmet Gleeson, Niall Bolton (0-3), Ian McNamara, Mark Lynch, Mairtin Torpey, Brian Fahy (0-3), Colin Corbett (0-4), Evan Corbett, Padraig Mulconroy, Cathal Bolton, Matthew Culloo. Subs: Shane Hunt for M Torpey, Diarmuid Murphy (0-1) for E Corbett, Colm McGrath (1-0) for Culloo, Joe Vaughan for Mulconroy, Fergal Conlon for Kevin Conlon.
Referee: Rory McGann (Newmarket)
After the game County secretary Pat Fitzgerald presented the under 21 B cup to Tulla Captain Cathal Bolton.