CRATLOE.....................0-9 O'CALLAGHANS MILLS....................0-7
By Michael O Connor.
Cratloe are champions, a year after a narrow heartbreaking defeat at the hands of Tulla. On this occasion Sixmilebridge housed the decider and O Callaghans Mills were their opponents. It was a game that will not be considered a classic will mean little to the winners who were from the start of the year tipped by many as champions elect.
Conditions were far from ideal for hurling and it told on the performances of both sides as they had deal with hail showers and biting wind. A number of key players on both sides did not live up to the expectations that their supporters would have hoped for. Both sets of defences had been more than capable on the run up to the final and it was always going to be a low scoring game. Unfortunately for Conor Cooney's men they hit 18 wides and amazingly key forward power such as Colin Crehan and Gary Cooney failed to raise a flag of any colour.
O Callaghans Mills had looked with success all season to Jacob Loughnane for scores and he had delivered and he commenced the scoring along with Jamie Keane within the first ten minutes action. Yet, it was far from an accomplished Mills outfit that challenged Cratloe who were well able to hold the Mills forward line. Diarmuid Ryan and Shane Gleeson responded with scores by the end of the opening quarter to level proceedings.
The second quarter was low scoring as well with Jacob Loughnane managing three frees as opposed to a single converted free from Shane Gleeson to leave O Callaghans Mills (0-5) to (0-3) ahead at the break. The Mills were guilty of numerous wides and poor play that let Cratloe off the hook. This sense of good fortune seemed to alert Cratloe to the chance they had been given to be so near at the break and they led by Jack McInerney in the opening six minutes of the new half had drawn level on (0-5) apiece and looking well like champions.
The Mills did go back in front courtesy of Jacob Loughnane but wasted much energy hitting wides from frees and play against the wind. Again scores were at the upmost premium and Shane Gleeson was the only scorer in a seven minute spell up the end of the third quarter to level the game once more on (0-6) apiece. At this stage even though the Mills were shooting themselves out of the game they were still in contention as Cratloe were unable to score at the other end with Cillian Nugent in fine form.
Seven minutes elapsed before a great score by Sean Murphy edged O C Mills a point clear as the game entered the final ten minutes. A most improbable success for O Callaghans Mills was now on the cards as they hung on with relish until the last minute of normal time when Cratloe substitute Conor McMahon hit the equaliser. At first the match official signalled for a free out but having consulted with his umpires allowed the score to stand and extra time did look a strong probability.
Gary Cooney saw an injury time effort go wide of the post whilst Killian Nugents long range free dropped short. David O Brien led as a captain should when in the 62nd minute he sent Cratloe ahead for the first time. Once more the Mills had a chance to tie up the game but Loughnane's 65m free went anywhere but over the bar. Straight from the puck out Cratloe won a free and Shane Gleeson scored the insurance point to allow Cratloe celebrate their third under 21B win.
Best for the champions included Shane O Leary, Michael Danagher, Ciaran O Connor, Jack McInerney, Shane Gleeson, Rian Considine, Diarmuid Ryan and Jamie Arthur held their own. O Callaghans Mills will regret for many a day underperforming as this title was theirs to win on the day but all their key players failed to seize the opportunity. Only Ciaran Cooney, Michael Cotter, Killian Nugent, Conor Henry, John O Brien and Jamie Keane played anywhere the standard required to be championship winners.
CRATLOE: Eoin O Kelly, Emmet Costigan, Ciaran O Connor, Caimin Deegan, Michael Danagher, Shane O Leary, Jamie Arthur, Daithi Collins, Diarmuid Ryan (0-1), Shane Gleeson (0-4), Billy Connors, David O Brien (0-1) (capt), Jack McInerney (0-2), Conor Crosbie, Rian Considine. Subs: Conor McMahon (0-1) for Costigan.
O'C MILLS: Killian Nugent, Michael Cotter, John O Brien, Niall McNamara, David O Donnell, Ciaran Cooney, James McNamara, Conor Henry, Mark Pewter, Jamie Keane (0-1), Jacob Loughnane (0-5), Sean Murphy (0-1), Gary Cooney, Colin Crehan, Sean Cotter. Subs: David McGrath for Henry, Henry for Murphy.
Referee: Fergal Grey (Feakle)
After the game Clare county board chairman Joe Cooney presented the Under 21B cup to Cratloe captain David O Brien.