By Michael O Connor.
The strong wind that was developing all afternoon favoured the North Clare men for the first half but as scores were difficult to come by the omens did not favour Inagh/Kilnamona after the first quarter as they were ahead by the odd point in five. David Fitzgerald opened the scoring from play in the 5thminute as both sides did not threaten to score in the opening exchanges At the interval the three point lead enjoyed by Inagh/Kilnamona (2-4) to (0-7) was welcome but not enough in the view of most onlookers. David Fitzgerald operating at wing forward commenced the scoring as Inagh Kilnamona played the opening half backed by the stiff breeze. Man of the match Oisin Donnellan operating on County under 21 Kevin Hehir responded with a like score. Jason McCarthy and Oisin Donnellan exchanged scores by the 11th minute as both sides were finding their range. Donnellan put the Feakle/Killanena men a point ahead after 13 minutes only for Jason McCarthy to respond with the equaliser at the end of the first quarter. Feakle Killanena midfielder Eoin Touhy with a long range effort from a placed ball after 22 minutes sent the East Clare side a point clear. Seven minutes action had elapsed without a score.
The game required a goal to kickstart some life into the fare on view for the 1440 spectators in Cusack park. This big score materialised in the 25th minute as James McConigley pounced on a breaking ball in the Feakle Killanena square to send Inagh/Kilnamona (1-3) to (0-4) ahead. Oisin Donnellan and David Fitzgerald hit a score each inthe 28th minute before a brace of Donnellan frees before the end of normal time had the sides level on (0-7) to (1-4). Just when it appeared that this was the score that would greet second half action James McConigley raced throught the Feakle Killanena defence and slotted home his and his sides second goal to leave Inagh/Kilnamona (2-4) to (0-7) clear at the break.
The emergence of Jason McCarthy as a name for the future was franked with more certainty with two scores (1free) after just four minutes of the second half. Sean Glynn from midfield for FeakleKillanena reduced the deficit to four points before McCarthy and Donnellan once again swopped scores. It was now a case of Inagh/Kilnamona tagging on a score every few minutes and avoiding concession of no more than one goal and the title would be theirs in the final twenty minutes action.
James McConigley restored a five point lead for the North Clare side in the 41st minute. Oisin Donnellan who was now the game's dominant character and Eoin Touhy narrowed the Inagh/Kilnamona lead to three points after 44 minutes. The Inagh/Kilnamona management moved to arrest the influence of Donnellan by moving David Fitzgerald to centre back and Kevin Hehir to midfield. Within a minute Hehir had the ball over the Feakle bar and added a second score two minute later as once again Inagh/Kilnamona had a five point advantage and appeared to be safely on the home straight to the title. After a 10 minute famine Donnellan struck for a brace of scores with five minutes remaining. Two points was now the gap and the definitive moment yet to come. Todd Kelsey won possession and raced through on the new seat stand side aiming for the scoreboard goal. His effort was stopped by the rubber like reflexes of Eamonn Foudy and cleared. The referee did not call the action back for a free in after an Inagh/Kilnamona hurley was thrown at Kelsey. This was a costly error in the final analysis as the game went down to the final score in the final play of the game. As the game entered injury time Oisin Donnellan struck for his sides final score and now just the minimum separated the sides. Had the free been awarded minutes earlier the game would have prob gone to extra time. However with the final play the ball went to Jason McCarthy and he won a free that he duly converted to seal the title for his side.
As a consequence of this win for Inagh Kilnamona a number of their leading lights at this grade were invited into the Clare hurling panel to cover for the recent loss of some due to injury. A number accepted the offer and others declined according to reports.
Best for the champions was the full back line of Whyte, Cian McInerney and David McCarthy in particular. Kevin Hehir struggled at centre back but improved at midfield whilst Jason McCarthy excelled throughout aided well by goalscorer James McConigley. Eamonn Foudy and David Fitgerald had their moments. Oisin Donnellan was a one man scoring machine for Feakle/Killanena as others failed on the day.
FEAKLE/KILLANENA: Michael Burke, Justin Nelson, Eoin McMahon, James Noonan, Cathal Noonan, Con Smyth, Toby O Meara, Eoin Touhy (0-2), Sean Glynn (0-1), Todd Kelsey, Oisin Donnellan (0-12), Enda Noonan, Stephen Conway, Jason Keehan, Martin Daly. Subs: Eric Conway for E Noonan, Austin McMahon for Keehan,
INAGH/KILNAMONA: Eamonn Foudy, Keith Whyte, David McCarthy, Cian McInerney, Austin Kerin, Kevin Hehir (0-2), John Keane, Seamus Foudy, Shane McInerney, Evan McNamara, David Fitzgerald (0-2), Jason McCarthy (0-7), David Mescall, James McConigley(2-0), Barry Keating. Subs; Stephen Foudy for Evan McNamara, Evan McNamara for Mescall,
Referee: Rory McGann(Newmarket).
After the game County board chairman Joe Cooney presented the Under 21A hurling cup to Inagh/Kilnamona captain Kevin Hehir.