By Michael O Connor.
Nerves played a huge part in this most dreadful of games played in living memory that along with the Clonlara/Killaloe game did little to encourage punters to part with their cash. One fact was would be true was that both sides fought as if their lives depended on it and when the final whistle was heard Cratloe who were on the verge of elimination five minutes prior were jumping for joy. Indeed one of Cratloe's better performers was team manager Mike Deegan who provided a number of the highlights of the game with three great catches as the ball was constantly put out over the line.
Cratloe made life difficult from themselves with poor shot choice, wides from impossible angles, overcarrying the ball in attacking positions whilst Inagh/Kilnamona lacked physical power bar Cathal Lafferty who invariably got tied up when in possession. Both sets of defenders were on top and if one happened to be present at the match it was easy to understand why. It must be accepted that Cratloe will improve from this game and no-one will want to take them on in the last eight even though they might not be the potent force of the county title winning season.
Conor Tierney who will see action in Thurles on Saturday evening opened the scoring after three minutes Conor McGrath responded a minute later. Gerry Arthur (free) and McGrath once more after eight minutes had the sides deadlocked on two points apiece. Four minutes went by before the next score as McGrath converted his second free. The standard of fare even at this early stage was below what was expected with aimless high ball being sent into the Cratloe forwards by their half back line and midfield. Dermot Lynch went marking Conor McGrath at this stage and indeed McGrath was well bottled up for the remainder of the game depending on lucky breaking ball for possession as many of the colleagues were well under par performance wise.
McGrath hit his fourth score after twenty minutes to leave Cratloe nervous (0-4) to (0-2) clear with a stiff breeze backing them. Niall Arthur (2 frees) and Sean Collins who finally became a second Cratloe scorer after 27 minutes left Cratloe ahead by the odd point in nine at the break. The second half was worse than the first half with only four scores in the first twenty minutes as Cratloe held a (0-7) to (0-6) lead. Niall Arthur (65), Conor McGrath (free), Conor Tierney and McGrath will a well taken score were the scorers in this period. Gearoid Ryan replaced Cathal McInerney with the game entering the final ten minutes as Shane Griffin entered the fray for Haulie Vaughan as both sides were making mistakes with ease. Gerry Arthur levelled the game for the fourth time in the 52nd minute from a placed ball as a goal chance for either side looked impossible to imagine never mind creating. Eight more minutes went by and with the game in the 60th minute a pass from Paudge Collins found McGrath and he made no mistake as Cratloe thanked their lucky stars he was the man on the spot . Cratloe were now one clear as three minutes injury time was announced. With thirty seconds remaining referee Johnny Healy awarded a contentious free to Inagh/Kilnamona on the 45 yard line at the CBS side hitting into the Tesco goal. It looked a nailed on score for Inagh/Kilnamona but Ger Arthur sent the ball wide at the near post as Cratloe jumped for joy.
Cratloe are now through to the quarter finals. If Tubber and Inagh/Kilnamona draw it will be down to scoring average which favours Inagh/Kilnamona. A win for Tubber will see them top the group with Cratloe second. A win for Inagh/Kilnamona will see them second and through. It's that simple and yet that complicated. Best for the winners were Barry Duggan, Michael Hawes who was superb in the second half, David Ryan, Conor McGrath, John O Gorman and Oige Murphy. Inagh/Kilnamona will rue chances missed but honestly did not deserve to win the game despite the best efforts of Pat Kelly, Milo Keane, Dermot Lynch, Cathal Lafferty, Conor Tierney and David Hegarty.
INAGH/KILNAMONA: Pat Kelly, Milo Keane, Brian Glynn, Dermot Lynch, Ronan O Looney, David Hegarty, Colm Pilkington, Thomas Kelly, Brian Foudy, Cathal Lafferty, Damian Lafferty, Eoin Vaughan, Ger Arthur (0-2), Niall Arthur (0-3), Conor Tierney (0-2). Sub: Haulie Vaughan for Kelly, Shane Griffin for E Vaughan
CRATLOE: Sean Hayes, John O Gorman, Barry Duggan David Ryan, Enda Boyce, Michael Hawes, Sean Chaplin, Martin Oige Murphy, Conor Ryan, Sean Collins (0-1), Damien Browne, Paudge Collins, Conor McGrath (0-7), Cathal McInerney. Sub: Gearoid Ryan for McInerney,
REFEREE: Johnny Healy (Smith O Briens).
CLONLARA......2-25 SMITH O BRIENS............0-14
By Michael O Connor.
The 2009 champions missing Darach Honan and Domhnall O Donovan will also now face the county quarter finals in four weeks time without Pat O Hare and he and Pat Vaughan were redcarded by referee Sean McMahon as the game was long decided in the final quarter. Smith O Briens full back Seamus Gleeson also received his marching orders for two bookable offences as amazingly this most one sided of games ended with 10% of the playing numbers being sent off.
Never for one minute did it look that Smith O Briens might offer even a semblance of resistance to Pat Conlon's charges and whilst many will now have Clonlara on their shortlist the reality is that they have qualified from the weakest group and will now have to consider how buoyant the challenge is when they consider their opposition in the group stages.
John Conlon struck for a goal in the first minute and county minor star for the last two years Colm Galvin added two points by the 6th minute as the winners went five clear with the minimum of fuss. Thomas O Donovan added a point before Mark O Halloran finally opened Smith O Briens account with 12 minutes elapsed. With twenty minutes of action witnessed Clonlara had stretched their lead to seven points to lead, (1-7) to (0-3) as Nicky O Connell (2), Tommy Lynch and Cathal O Connell were on target with Smith O Briens responses coming from Liam Walsh and Michael Ryan who was one of this sides better performers.
Another malaise for the East Clare side was their inaccuracy in front of goal in the first 30 minutes as they hit seven wides that they could scarcely afford to do as Clonlara hit two wides . the second quarter turned out to be a duck shoot for Clonlara as they added ten points with just four in response from Smith O Briens. John Conlon (3), Donal Madden (3), Tommy Lynch, Nicky O Connell, Thomas O Donovan and Pat O Hare were the sharpshooters with John Cusack (2), Kevin Walsh and Ryan on target for the under pressure Killaloe men. At the interval a deserved ten points lead separated the sides to leave Clonlara (1-17) to (1-7) clear.
A solid opening five minutes from Smith O Briens gave slight hope that whilst they might not take the game to Clonlara for the entire half they might give some entertainment to the small gathering of hurling followers. Micheal Ryan (2) and John Cusack hit three points to narrow the deficit to seven points which was ironic considering that Clonlara were in absolute control of the game. This recovery was soon stifled as Clonlara struck for (1-3) in the intervening seven minutes as Thomas O Donovan hit the games second goal with Nicky O Connell (2) and Conlon added points. Seamus Gleeson, Pat O Hare and Pat Vaughan were all dismissed at this juncture. The final quarter was a complete non event as even Clonlara looked poor such was the reduction in tempo and intensity with the three players dismissed and Killaloe surrendering all over the place. Cormac O Donovan, John Conlon, Cormac O Donovan, Nicky O Connell and younger brother Cathal rounded off the scoring and officially granted their club a place in the last eight of the canon Hamilton title race.
It would be beneficial for all involved if the bottom side in this years championship would be rerouted to Intermediate hurling and reduce by one the number of rounds that it takes to place the championship off. This move would radically improve the intermediate championship with four groups of four in that grade and four groups of four in the senior grade.
Best for the winners were John Moloney, Nicky O Connell, Colm Galvin, Thomas O Donovan, John Conlon, Cathal O Connell, Donal Madden and Cillian Fennessy. Smith O Briens were second inmost departments with only John Cusack, Micheal Ryan, Liam Walsh, Trevor Howard and Mark O Halloran holding their own.
CLONLARA: Ger O Connell, Shane O Brien, John Moloney, Senan Nihill, Nicky O Connell (0-6), Paul Nihill, Pat O Hare (0-1), Cormac O Donovan (0-2), Neil Ryan, Colm Galvin (0-2), Thomas O Donovan (1-2), Tommy Lynch (0-2), John Conlon (1-5), Donal Madden (0-3), Cathal O Connell (0-2). Subs: Cillian Fennessy for S Nihill, James Hastings for Conlon, Conor O Shea for Ryan
SMITH O' BRIENS: Jonathan Hayes, Michael Culhane, Seamus Gleeson, Kevin McEvoy, , Trevor Howard, Pat Vaughan, Shane Touhy, Micheal Ryan (0-4), John Cusack (0-3), Kevin Walsh (0-2), Willie Neary, Mark O Halloran (0-2), Anthony O Sullivan, Liam Walsh (0-2), Shane O Brien. Subs: Mark Stritch for O Brien, Brian McInerney for Walsh, Dwane Sheedy for Antony O Sullivan, Mark McInerney (0-1) for Ryan,
Referee: Sean McMahon (Newmarket).