Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Timmy Ryan Reflects On A Storied Career

 WHEN ONE THINKS OF THE GREAT TEAMS OF THE PAST IN CLARE HURLING clubs such as Newmarket, Clarecastle, Sixmilebridge and St. Joseph’s Doora/Barefield spring to mind. Of course within each club grazes skilled players with names such as Cullinan, Callinan, Stack and McMahon, to mention just some, featuring in the annals of Clare hurling glór. Another skilled player was Timmy Ryan from Newmarket.

 A Clare minor for three years, a Clare U21 for four and a senior during the early 70s to early 80s. Ryan was one of the main lynchpins of the famed Newmarket side from the late 60s to the early 80s. It was during this time that Ryan and his trusty band of sidekicks such as Cullinan, Lohan, Danagher, Arthur, Cronin, O’Leary, McMahon et all were the high kings of banner hurling.

 The ‘Blues accumulated a tidy haul of ten championships within this time with experts labelling some of these games as classics. Invariably just like the great Clare team of the mid 90s and early 00s there comes a time for these great teams to go their separate ways and for other teams to come along and take their place on the throne.

 In an interview recorded at Timmy’s home in early May 2010 he gave an interesting insight not only into his own career but sport in general. As a young lad growing up in the 1960’s sport played an important part of their lives he informed me.

 “When I was growing up everyone was hurling in Newmarket. You had the parish league, which was probably the start of it. You had four different areas in the parish – Stonehall, The Village, Mooghaun and Cahercalla. I remember the first match I went to was one in Kilkishen in 1962 when Newmarket played Sixmilebridge in the famous Clare Cup final. I was 11 years of age and that was my introduction to serious hurling.”

 Ryan did not have to wait long before he tasted success with his club as he told me, winning all underage titles.

 “The first championship I won was at U15 and I won three Under-16 medals. That would have been from 1965 to ’67. I think I played in about six minor county finals and nearly every time we were in the final we were up against Ennis Rovers or Éire Óg. Whenever we met them we would usually draw the first time around and then they would beat us in the replay. The one final we won was in 1968 and I was fortunate to be captain that year. “

 One important thing Timmy took into account was a word of advice from his father, who incidentally along with his mother is still hale and hearty. That crucial bit of advice was that he had no business being on the hurling field unless he could play off both sides. Taking this into account he religiously practiced off both sides every day when he got home from school. It paid off as he was soon called in to join the ‘Blues senior team.

 “I think I was 18 when I first played senior. We won the Munster club title that year (the 1968 Munster club final) but that had actually been delayed by a year so the final was in 1969 or 70 so that’s how I ended up playing in it. I remember in 1971 I had gone away to England at the time on my summer holidays and one weekend Newmarket were playing Crusheen in the semi final. The flight at the time was £2.50 to London! For some reason I couldn’t get a flight from Heathrow to Shannon so my father, who was an aircraft mechanic at the time, said I could get a flight to Cork. The earliest flight was a Sunday morning and I arrived in Cork around 12. “

 In an era where players stick to a rigorous diet regime with dieticians and gym programmes, his eating habit back then was hardly what you would call healthy compared to what they have these days! He also attributes nerves as having a positive affect on his fine performance that day.

 “I hadn’t caught a hurley for 2-3 weeks so my nerves were at me. Kevin Marren was chairman of the club at the time, an absolute gentleman, and he collected me below in Cork. I was after having gold grain biscuits and marshmallows coming off the flight, and a bottle of Lucozade! I got home around half 2 and my gearbag was already packed so we headed to Ennis for the championship semi-final. Mick Moroney, an All-Star, was whom I was marking in that game. I actually think having nerves was the best thing that could have happened to me because I played out of my skin. Moroney was taken off me and someone else was marking me. I got 0-10 or something that day (it was more, he got 1-9!), it probably happened because I was so nervous! They went to so much trouble to collect me off the flight and you might not take any notice nowadays but it was a big thing at the time. It shows how you can be nervous before a game but that goes away once you’re out on the field.”

 As modest as ever and not interested in personal glories, Tim attributes the great players he played with on their path to success and remembers the Munster club final of 1968 when they beat Ballygunner of Waterford by 5-8 to 4-3.

 “I remember the 1968 Munster club final and the photos are below in Tess Mac’s (now called the Sports Bar) and I suppose it’s the same for people in Sixmilebridge (winning a provincial title).I played with great players such as Brendan Considine, Jimmy Cullinan, Pat Cronin, Liam Danagher and Gus Lohan [father of Brian and Frank] at the time. I have a story about Gus. One time in training I managed to turn him over and not too many can claim to have done that! He’d go in on fellas in a certain way and he would never be knocked over, apart from the time I got him in training! Another fella was John O’Leary from Newmarket. He was one of the best corner-backs around, I hated playing against him in training!”

 With all three underage titles of that time being won he also went on to win three U21 titles with his club and remembers playing in the Munster U21 final of 1972 where his participation was ended by broken finger. It would not be the first injury he would sustain in his career.

 “We won three Under-21 titles with the club as well. I remember hurling U21 for the county, in 1972 we had a very good team, we lost to Tipperary in Ennis. It was my last year playing Under-21 and in this match I broke my finger before half-time. I think it was a lad named Quinlan from the Silvermines who did it. That was a time when I was as fit as I ever was. I came off at half-time and we lost the match. I regret to this day coming off in that match. Seamus Durack [the Clare senior goalkeeper of that time] was actually playing in the forwards that day.”

 The Ryan name is synonymous with sport in Newmarket and continues to this day. All his brothers played at some level with the ‘Blues with five of them winning county titles. The former employee of Molex in Shannon married a West Clare woman, Mary Keane from Cross near Kilkee before settling in his home parish, close to Shannon. They now live on the back road from Newmarket to Shannon and have two sons Timmy Jnr and Aidan, both of who surprisingly only played a small bit of underage hurling with Newmarket.

 In his day Ryan played a lot of soccer with Newmarket Celtic at the time winning a few league title and three Haughey Cup titles, he recalls the time of the ban where before one particular final he had to put his head down for the team photograph. He considers the four-in-a-row Newmarket hurling team from 1971-1974 as perhaps the best team he played on with the 1974 team holding special pride for him.

 “There were five members of my family in the Newmarket team that won the four in a row. There was Martin [father of current Clare hurler Colin Ryan], Christy, John, Pat and myself. Another of my brothers, Ger also played senior but he wouldn’t have been in that team; it was just before his time while my other two brothers Brendan and Mike played underage.  It was easy for lads like me to come in at that time because there was a really good senior team there before us. There was no great senior team before the team that’s there now. I had to finish playing in my early 30s. My knee wouldn’t allow it.”

 When I asked Tim when he played his last game of hurling, he was unable to give me an exact year! He reckons one of his last games was in the Munster club campaign of 1981 but the book Clare GAA: The Club Scene 1887-2010 mentions him as hurling for Newmarket in the 1983 championship so it was likely around this period he played his last game. While, he may have retired he still kept an interest in the game and with his wife from West Clare, he used to follow some of the club football of that time with some of his workmates, he tells me, playing for their respective clubs.

 “When I stopped hurling I used to go back to West Clare and follow a few football matches. The biggest problem was walking to the games because my knee would come at me and I’d pay for it when I got home. I remember one time in 1980 I was in a hospital in Dublin and who was in the bed across from me but Father Harry Bohan! I was having an operation on my nose. I couldn’t breathe through one side of it.”

 The topic of a forward’s best ever-individual performance may yield an astonishing personal scoring return. However, not being one to go on about personal displays he eventually (after persuasion) gives in on his best performance.

  “My best performance was probably in the Munster club one year against St. Finbarr’s in Charleville. I wasn’t even meant to be playing that day but I ended up scoring 3-4 and I also had a goal and a point disallowed.”

 In fact, one of his last ever games for the ‘Blues was in the 1981 county final where he notched 2-1 from top of the right against Tubber and collected the man of the match gong to go with his other one from the 1978 final.

 Ryan has had his fair of injuries over the years both on and off the field. He is happy with his ten medal haul, all of which he remarkably has misplaced, oh how they would kill for those medals in that parish now days! He credits the 70s as a golden era for his club.

 “Newmarket won county titles in 1971, 72, 73, 74, 76 and 78 and lost finals in 1975 and 1980. It was in the late 70s that the cartilage in my right knee went and my playing career started going downhill. This was when I was only 27. I didn’t play at all for a year. I remember in 1981 I hadn’t been playing for a while. One of the selectors rang me before the semi-final against Eire Og asking me if I would play in a challenge game against Claughaun. I decided I would. Although I hadn’t been playing I didn’t put on any weight and I wasn’t drinking. After the Claughaun match I was sure that we would win the county title. Tubber actually beat us in the first round but at that time we came back into it via the ‘losers group’. We went on to beat Eire Og in the semi-final and my brother John was captain.”

 And what about the highlight of a golden career? Was it his ten county titles? The National League he won with Clare in 1977? Or was it the Munster club winning campaign of 1968?

 “If you’re asking me about the highlight of my career, I would say winning the Munster club title with Newmarket. I would rank it ahead of winning the National Hurling League with Clare because I didn’t actually start in that team and if you don’t have the club then you don’t have the county. “

 Ryan credits his fellow team mates and mentors of his younger days as the biggest influences on his career and he also cast his mind back to the great Under 21 team of 1972 to give me an idea of the calibre of players he soldiered with.

 “I played on a great Clare U21 team in 1972 along with Johnny McMahon, Sean Stack, Sean Hehir, and the late Paddy Hickey. I have a great story about Paddy Hickey. When we got to the Munster Under-21 final that year we were 10 points behind at half-time in the semi-final against Cork. Paddy was playing wing forward and at one stage in the first half he hit the ball into me. I was on the edge of the square and then I finished it to the net. That was the start of the revival; we came back and won the match. When I heard that he died two years ago I was very upset. I met some great lads from my time in hurling. Jimmy “Puddin” Cullinan would have been one of the biggest influences on my career, along with lads like Liam Dannaher and Pat “Fagan” Cronin who all played for Munster. I’d also mention Don O’Neill, Fr. Rodgers and Fr. Tuohy as other influences.”

 A keen follower of all sports, particularly golf, he has some interesting theories on the modern game. The all-conquering Kilkenny hurlers, both of recent times and days gone by, are the main source of his assertation.

 “I have a theory on why Kilkenny are so successful. They have played the same brand of hurling for as long as I know – they always play on the edge. By that I mean all their tackles are borderline. If you watch them, you will see when the ball comes in that the hand holding the hurley is down over the opponent’s shoulder, so they can’t jump up to catch the ball. The Kilkenny lads are taught that. Unless you were brought up to hurl like that, you can’t suddenly start doing it in a match. Clare would have been more open, certainly in my time. When you see the ball coming, you would play the ball. Kilkenny play the man first and then play the ball. That is why they have been so dominant. They were always so good under a dropping ball because it came in from a vertical rather than a horizontal position. They had time to go in under it and their opponents couldn’t. If you’re only playing the ball you’re wasting your time. Cork showed a bit of it in the win over Tipperary [May 2010] and Galway are showing signs of it as well, but Kilkenny have been playing like that for 40-50 years. Nobody else had really latched onto that style of play. If you’re up against only one opponent, nine times out of ten you’ll put the ball over the bar, but first you have to create the situation.”

 It is not uncommon for a former player with good credentials to branch into coaching or management after finishing up on the playing front. However, the 60 year old has never been involved in this capacity.

 “You might find it surprising that I’ve never gone into coaching, but I have my reasons why. Coaching is something you shouldn’t get involved in unless you can give it 100% and I was never prepared to do that. I hate when people get involved in things but don’t give it their all. I’d have to be fully committed to something or I wouldn’t do it at all.”

 But did it ever cross his mind to get involved with a team of any sorts?

“The thought did cross my mind about joining the Newmarket set-up in recent times but I think you can’t live in the past. The 30-year odd wait for a county title is a burden on the current team and if I was over them I would not bring up the past. Very few players on the current team would have been alive when Newmarket last won the county title.”

 He has this to offer on the current ‘Blues senior team and feels that there is a mental burden on them.

 “They could easily have won a county final in the last couple of years. They have the talent to do it but I think there’s a mental burden on the team. You can never be too confident heading into a game; you have to be a little nervous. If not, you’re likely to switch off. You have to have some nerves once you’re able to control them. If you don’t control them you could end up doing something stupid. Controlled aggression is ideal. One time we were playing Eire Og in a juvenile game and we were ten points behind when someone hit me on the nose – no helmets in those days! I wouldn’t be a fan of this new rule making helmets compulsory. You still get some good hard challenges but the physical side of the game is definitely being taken out. It’s a contact sport. If you went to a match you’d like to see some small bit of a scrap. If there is no form of aggression nobody would want to watch hurling.”

 Speaking of teams, another former one of his, is the county one of which his nephew Colin Ryan is currently a member. Another one of his nephews, the late Pakie (son of Christy), also hurled senior for the 'Blues and wore the Clare jersey at intermediate level. The interview was conducted not long after Wexford beat Clare in the National Hurling League Division 2 final in 2010 and he had this to say about them as he refers to the U21 success of 2009, the infamous U21 final of 2008 and having luck.

 “They have a young team. I was thrilled for that group to players to win an Under-21 All-Ireland, even though I wasn’t at the match. I was at the 2008 Munster final in Ennis all right when they played Tipperary. It was the greatest injustice I’ve seen in hurling in my life. Even some Tipp people would say that. It just goes to show that you either have cop on or you haven’t. All he had to do was go to the umpire and ask him what happened. Then he could book the guy and carry on with the match. In fairness though, he didn’t set out to do that deliberately. It’s just the way it panned out and it didn’t go Clare’s way. It’s the same with Thierry Henry. I was at an Under-21 game against Tipperary in Thurles many years back when Michael Kilmartin from Newmarket hit a ball from 21 yards out in the last minute of the game. Clare were a point down and the ball hit the Tipp goalkeeper on the forehead. They got the ball up the field, got a point and the game was over. It’s all luck!”

 While hurling is what he is best known for, he was also a useful footballer in his day and also played some handball. He played big ball with Mooghaun and one year they reached a minor A final only to be found of fielding an ineligible player from one of their hurling rivals, Sixmilebridge!

 “I played a minor football final one year against Miltown or Kilmurry-Ibrickane and we got a raw deal because we were from a hurling stronghold. The club I played with was a club from our parish that was called Mooghaun. Some of the Newmarket fraternity didn’t seem best pleased with me playing football. Another year we got to the minor football final again and the first game ended in a draw. We had a lad called Pa Joe Keane from Sixmilebridge who was playing illegally. He was about 20 at the time and he had a beard! Pa Joe was and still is a bit of a character! In the end the opposition realised that Pa Joe shouldn’t have been playing and we were disqualified then!” he laughs.

 He did eventually get a flavour of success at the big ball on the inter firms front.

 “I have an All-Ireland medal for inter-firms football, which I won with Molex. It was in 1979 and we were amalgamated with SPS. We had a few famous players on the team including Con Shanahan who played hurling and football for Limerick, John McGrath from Shannon Gaels who played with Clare, Sean Silke from Galway and Sean Foley who played wing back for Limerick when they won the All-Ireland (hurling) in 1973. My brother Pat played full-back on the team. We drew the first game and won the replay. In the second game Pat kicked a ball out to John McGrath, from Shannon Gales who was as good a footballer that you will see, who passed it on to me. I’d always try punching the ball because I could never catch it. I punched it and it got caught between the goalkeeper’s legs, spun wildly and went into the net. Pat was delighted because he’d just made a mistake which resulted in a goal at the other end!”

 It was common practice for county players to go to America to hurl in the 70s and 80s while further back some lads would play for other clubs in neighbouring counties. Ryan tells me he was actually asked to play with a club in Limerick on one occasion and how before his time two Newmarket men actually won junior championship medals in Limerick playing illegally. This is something he says went on in nearly every parish.

 “I’ll tell you a story about some of the things that were going on in GAA circles at the time. In 1965 I was playing juvenile hurling and I also used to be a golf caddy in Dromoland when a lad called Tom Harrington who owned a paper shop in Newmarket came up asking for someone to play in a final against a club from Limerick under a different name. I told him I didn’t want to because I didn’t really know what was going on. He came up to me a week before the match and offered me £5 to play. The same thing happened two lads from our parish years before that. They went to play a junior hurling final with a club in Limerick and the year after the actual Limerick junior hurling team came back and asked for the lads! This went on in every parish. Eventually I decided not to play in that game because I would never play illegally. Also, I got an opportunity to go over to the USA in the early 1970s but I wouldn’t take it because I didn’t want to be flying over and back every weekend and suffering from jetlag.“

 These days the happy go lucky figure of Ryan can be seen enjoying his retirement on the fairways of Shannon golf course. Although currently playing off 15, which many people agree is “bandit” territory for a man who once played off a handicap of four and who was off single figures not so long ago (before an operation on his hip and knee). For good measure he has got five holes-in-one in his time, one of them on a par four! What’s more, he actually played left handed when he first took up the game before switching to his right! 

 A remarkable man with plenty a story to tell, this talented all rounder certainly accomplished a lot in his career.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Clare U21 Hurling Championship Cranks Into Gear

U21 Hurling Championship Preview

THE RACE for the respective county under 21 hurling championships gets underway this St. Patrick’s weekend with a festival of fixtures down for decision. In the premier grade there are two mouth watering ties to get the championship into full swing with the pairings of Cratloe and Clonlara and of course last years winners Sixmilebridge against an Inagh-Kilnamona side strengthened by the addition of Ennistymon players. The B grade has its game of the round in the Clooney-Quin and O’Callaghan’s Mills fixture. Finally the C championship will see favourites Feakle/Killanena take on fellow neighbouring combination Scariff-Ogonnelloe with bragging rights at stake.

U21 A

Friday 16th March

Cratloe v Clonlara

@ Sixmilebridge

In 2010 Clonlara managed to sneak past Cratloe with a last minute goal in what was an exciting match that had all the thrills and frills of a good championship tie. Another tight game is in prospect this Friday with Cratloe, last year’s defeated finalists to Sixmilebridge, entering the game as favourites. They will call on the likes of Clare senior duo Conor McGrath and Cathal McInerney along with other survivors from last year Conor Ryan, Podge Collins and Enda Boyce. Clonlara, who will feature a few of their Munster winning Junior B panel, can call on the likes of Clare senior Colm Galvin, Cathal O’Connell, Cillian Fennessy and the O’Brien brothers – Oisin and Shane. It promises to be tight tussle, Cratloe appear to have match winners in McGrath and McInerney but Clonlara on paper look the better balanced. It’s hard to see McGrath being curtailed though.

Verdict: Cratloe

Saturday 17th March

Sixmilebridge (holders) v  Inagh-Kilnamona @ Clarecastle

The 2011 champions Sixmilebridge will be hoping to repeat that success again this year but they face a stiff test from Inagh/Kilnamona. Most people will look back to their semi-final encounter last year where the ‘Bridge prevailed after a tight contest. This year the Combo have the added presence of nine Ennistymon players. The 2010 U21 C champions were having trouble getting numbers for their own team and so joined forces with their neighbours. The ‘Bridge have a number of last years side available including Clare seniors Seadna Morey and Shane Golden along with Jamie Shanahan, Trevor Purcell and Pa Sheehan. Inagh/Kilnamona will look to Niall Arthur, Damien Lafferty, Brian Hehir, Haulie Vaughan and Ennistymon’s Cathal Malone. In what should be the tie of the round, the ‘Bridge should have enough to advance.

Verdict: Sixmilebridge

Ballyea v Éire Óg
@ Clareabbey

Clareabbey hosts this battle of last years U21 B champions Ballyea and Éire Óg, Ennis. Ballyea, who also reached the minor final last year, have made great progress over the past number of years and will be hoping to do well at their first year competing at this grade. Tony Kelly is their main player while the likes of Paul Flanagan, who was on the Clare panel earlier this year, Niall Deasy, Cathal Doohan and Gearoid O’Connell also expected to be in the starting fifteen. Éire Óg will want to get back to a final again, having won their last one in 2010, and can call on the likes of David O’Halloran, Shane O’Donnell, Ciaran Russell, David Reidy and Aidan McGrath. It should be an exciting game but Ballyea should have too much come the final whistle.

Verdict: Ballyea

Kilmaley v Newmarket
@ Gurteen

The 2009 Minor champions and the 2010 Minor champions will both hope to come of age in this quarter-final clash at Gurteen. Kilmaley have reached U21 B finals in the past few years with a number of their current side part of those campaigns. They will fancy their chances having won the Minor title three years ago and will look to Clare senior Daire Keane, Mikey O’Neill, Martin O’Connor, Enda Finnucane and Eoin Enright to show the way. Newmarket will have the O’Connor brothers – Sean and Niall, Shane Liddy, Tommy Griffin and Darren O’Connor in their team and will be hoping to prevail. Again, a tight affair is expected but if Daire Keane is on form the Kilmaley men should win.

Verdict: Kilmaley

U-21 B Championship

Saturday 17th March

Crusheen v Corofin
@ Ruan

In 2007 and 2008 Crusheen won this respective title before contesting the A final in 2009. They are now back in the B grade and will be hopeful of doing well. Key players for the Crusheen side are their senior panellists Jamie Fitzgibbon, Padraic O’Malley, Rory Halpin and Briain Dillon. Corofin, who always perform well at this grade, will look to Stephen Heagney, Manus Malone, Fionn Clancy and Darren Malone to inspire them. It is a hard one to call but don’t be surprised if Corofin advance.

Verdict: Corofin

Broadford v Clarecastle
@ Newmarket

Last year O’Callaghan’s Mills/Broadford scored a dramatic late win over the Magpies. This year the East Clare amalgamation is no more with Broadford flying solo. Clarecastle will hope to exact revenge and it certainly has all the ingredients of a good contest. Broadford will look to the likes of Niall Moloney, Kieran O’Connell, Mark Moloney and Donie Whelan. Meanwhile, Clarecastle will have Clare senior Stephen O’Halloran amongst their ranks while other such as Conor O’Gorman and Gearoid Ryan are expected to be in their side. Another very important player for them would be Aaron Considine but it remains to be seen whether he will be fit to line out in this one as he recovers from injury. A young Clarecastle team get the nod here and they will be one of the favourites for the title.

Verdict: Clarecastle

Clooney-Quin v O’Callaghan’s Mills
@ Tulla

This clash of near neighbours Clooney-Quin and O’Callaghan’s Mills is set to being a good crowd to Tulla. Last years finalists The Mills will start as slight favourites but their opponents do have the advantage of having playing mostly A grade hurling at underage. Clooney-Quin will call on Clare senior panellist Peter Duggan, Brian McInerney, Joe Clune and Ryan O’Neill to show the way. On the other hand O'Callaghan's Mills will be hoping for big performances from James McMahon, Jamie Lynch, Sean O’Gorman and Kevin O’Callaghan. It could be the game of the round in the B grade and if The Mills can keep Duggan quiet and limit the frees then they should advance to the next round.

Verdict: O’Callaghan’s Mills

Sunday 18th March

Wolfe Tones v Parteen/Meelick
@ Kilkishen

After the disappointment of not fielding a minor team in 2011, Wolfe Tones will be hell bent on producing a winning performance when they clash with Parteen/Meelick. Despite Parteen winning the C in 2011 they did not go up to the B grade and instead will join up, a combination that has proved fruitful over the years at underage level.Wolfe Tones have Clare senior Aaron Cunningham as their leading light while Wolfe Tones 2011 senior panelists Sean Reidy, Kevin McCafferty and John Guilfoyle will also be in their side. Parteen/Meelick will call on Parteen duo Martin Moroney and Noel Bridgeman along with Meelick’s Oisin Hickey and Sean O’Connor to show the way. To give a prediction, the South-East Clare combo appear to be the better side and should advance.

Verdict: Parteen/Meelick

U-21 C Championship

Saturday 17th March

Meelick v Newmarket (2)
@ Clooney

This will be the second game in as many games for the Meelick hurlers as they take on Newmarket’s second string. On paper Meelick look to be stronger with the likes of Sean O’Connor and 2011 Clare minors Oisin Hickey and Damien Maloney. Newmarket have the disadvantage of not knowing how many players they could lose to their A team the day before and will look to players such as James Warren, Oisin Pender and Sean Quinlivan. To conclude, the South East Clare club should advance.

Verdict: Meelick.

Feakle/Killanena v Scariff/Ogonnelloe
@ Whitegate

This neighbouring clash of two combinations will see Scariff/Ogonnelloe enter the tie as underdogs. Feakle/Killanena, defeated finalists in 2011, are being tipped as one of the favourites and they can call on the likes of Feakle duo Gary Guilfoyle and Shane McGrath along with Killanena’s Colin McNamara. Their opponents will hope Cathal Madden (Scariff), Rory Skelly and Peter English (Ogonnelloe) are on form to cause a surprise. However, with a number of the Feakle/Killanena team having featured at some grade for Clare this greater experience should see them one step closer to getting back to the final.

Verdict: Feakle/Killanena

Sunday 18th March

Whitegate v Éire Óg (2)
@ Bodyke

Whitegate will fancy their chances in this one against the Townies second team.  Players like Michael Dooley, Eoin Quirke and Tomas McNamara have all hurled senior for the East Clare team and should have enough here. Éire Óg won’t know their full team until after their A team have played but may call on the likes of Brian Nestor, Paul Moynihan and Joel Hanna. It should be Whitegate that advance to the next round with the win here.

Verdict: Whitegate

Monday 19th March

Pateen v Tubber
@ Ballyea

Having won last years U21 C championship Parteen have made the decision not to go up to the B grade, instead joining up with Meelick for the B. They will have lost a few of last years team but still posses a formidable team with the likes of Martin Moroney, Noel Bridgeman and Alan Small. Tubber meanwhile will be looking to Clare senior Patrick O’Connor to show the way along with the likes of Ronan Taaffe and Evan O’Donnoghue. The North Clare club played at B grade for the past few years and that should stand to them here.

Verdict: Tubber

Ruan v Sixmilebridge (2)
@ Clarecastle

Ruan will be hopeful of doing well this year at C level, having featured at B grade for the past few years. Clare U21 Killian Ryan back bones the side along with Eoin Hanrahan and Brendan Lyons while they could also have a few of The Banner players in their side as they have no U21 team of their own. Sixmilebridge will be equally hopeful of causing an upset here with their young side, they got to the final in 2010 and to the semi final last year with the likes of Eoin Hogan, Sean Lynch and Evan McInerney prominent. Again, just like the other second strings it remains to be seem whether or not they will lose players to their A side. If so, the older and more experienced Ruan might just edge it.

Verdict: Ruan

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Great Clare GAA Rivalries: St. Joseph’s Doora/Barefield v Sixmilebridge

St. Joseph’s Doora/Barefield v Sixmilebridge

It is no surprise that Clare’s golden era of 1995-2002 had a dramatic effect on club hurling in the county with Sixmilebridge (twice), Wolfe Tones, Clarecastle and St. Joseph’s (twice) going on to win the Munster club title and these two aristocrats claiming All-Ireland glory. Hurling was never in greater health with some of the club matches of that time living long in the memory of all supporters of the small ball. Of course, our ancient game brings passion, rivalry and skill to the table with one such fixture Sixmilebridge and St. Joseph’s a real appetiser during the 90’s and early 00’s.

The connection goes further back to the 50’s and 60’s where they met on three occasions with the likes of Matt Nugent, Mick Hayes (St. Joseph’s), Dick Barron and Mick O’Shea (Sixmilebridge) doing battle. 1956 was the year when they first crossed paths with the ‘Bridge prevailing before 1961 and 1962 produced similar outcomes. St. Joseph’s were county champions in 1954 while the ‘Bridge were no slouches either annexing two Clare Champion cup’s and contesting the 62 county final which gives us an insight into the quality of those involved. While Sixmilebridge prospered in the 70’s, St. Joseph’s went into a decline of sorts starting with their comprehensive 1974 loss to a ‘Bridge fifteen void the services of nine regulars. They did however amalgamate with some success with Kilmaley and Our Lady’s Hospital in 1979 with the PJ Purcell captained St. Brendan’s reaching the showcase final only for their future great rivals to give them a bit of a trimming. It was no surprise given all their underage glory during this period that the ‘Bridge would add a few more senior titles in the 80’s and early 90’s when Barefield were languishing at intermediate level.

Fast-forward to 1993, St. Joseph’s are crowned intermediate champions and on their first year back in the premier grade they contest the 94 final with Clarecastle. The young guard versus the experienced guard saw the Magpies win the day and the title but it was evident that St. Joseph’s were back where they belong. 1995 heralded a new era for Clare hurling with Munster and All-Ireland glory, that same season Sixmilebridge pipped Scariff in the final. They opened their shoulders up when they got to Munster with a crushing defeat of Éire Óg, Nenagh in the final before going all the way to All-Ireland success on 17th March 1996 by virtue of seeing over Dunloy. Little did they know what it would kick start for other club sides. While all this was going on St. Joseph’s were making steady progress with the calibre of Ollie Baker, Seanie McMahon and Jamesie O’Connor meaning they need not wait long for that elusive title.

 Jamesie O'Connor (St. Joseph's) and John O'Connell (Sixmilebridge) during the 1999 final

The year of 1997 re ignited the rivalry between both clubs after St. Joseph’s robbed the ‘Bridge of a final appearance with a last gasp Ollie Baker goal. This came about after a Seanie McMahon long range free was doubled to the net by Baker in the final minute to see the Parish turn a one point deficit into a two point lead that they would never relinquish with Gerry McInerney tasting defeat in his final game for the ‘Bridge. A first final in four years ended in defeat to Clarecastle but all present could sense a new team would soon leave their mark. 1998 will always live long in the memory of all within the Doora, Barefield, Gurteen and Roslevan bounds, a first round win over great rivals Sixmilebridge set them on their way to glory with a final win seeing them edge out Kilmaley before they went on to greater things. First up they beat Toomevara to clinch the Munster cup before seeing off Rathnure in the All-Ireland equivalent, emulating their O’Garney counterparts.

Their fierce rivalry was exemplified again in 99 when they locked horns with the ‘Bridge men in the county final, having led for most of the game the Parish won out by two goals as they were beginning to have the Indian sign over the Christy “Rusty” Chaplin captained side. Another Munster cup was annexed at the expense of Ballygunner that before the double chasing Barefield lost out to Athenry in the 2000 March 17th showpiece. Sixmilebridge were coming again and won the county title in 2000 with Éire Óg being vanquished before once again the Parish met them in the 2001 decider. Similar to the 99 one this was one that St. Joseph’s deserved as they made it three titles in four years. Names such as Ollie and Grey Baker, Seanie McMahon, Jamesie and Christy O’Connor, Ger and David Hoey, Ken Kennedy (St. Joseph’s), Niall Gilligan, Christy “Rusty” Chaplin, Davy Fitzgerald, John O’Connell, Pat Hayes, Martin Conlon, John Reddan and Michael O’Halloran (‘Bridge) spring to mind as some of those that made these games memorable. 2002 saw the ‘Bridge start to get on top shown by a comprehensive victory over the Parish in the group stages as they went on to win the county title.

Another victory followed for the ‘Bridge in 2003 before St. Joseph’s exacted revenge in 05. However by this stage both sides challenge had fizzled out somewhat with other clubs coming up to take their throne. All they could muster between 2003 and 2010 was a solitary final appearance between the two with the Parish reaching the 2004 final only for Kilmaley to get revenge for 98. Recent years proved fruitful for Joseph’s when they clashed with their former great rivals courtesy of a good win in 2008 followed by a narrow success the following year.

If we survey the two clubs’ now at this present time it is evident that Barefield are at the lower end of the spectrum having failed to emerge from the group while Sixmilebridge are a coming team, semi finalists for the past two years they will hope to reach the county final when they play Cratloe later today.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Daly Fires Bricks To Final

Kilmurry-Ibrickane 1-7 v 0-9 Cratloe


Senior Football Semi Final @ Lissycasey

As predicted the footballers from the barony of Ibrickane have qualified for their third county final in four years after a hard earned defeat of Cratloe. Over the past number of years the accuarte Johnny Daly has scored some vital points for his side and Daly's winner after 57 minutes could well prove to be their most important score of the year. The 2010 All-Ireland club finalists started brightly and a Michael O’Dwyer goal after 10 minutes gave the favourites a 1-1 to 0-0 advantage having had the better of the chances. This might not seem like a massive lead but in wintery conditions a goal is as good as anything and four points can be very hard to claw back. This goal was certainly the most important one of the seventeen scored over the hour and allied to the failure of their opponents to split the posts from play, save Podge Collins’ effort after 45 minutes, it showed the resourcefulness of a strong Kilmurry defence.

The favourites had an early scores with Noel Downes before O'Dwyer's goal. Centre back on the programme Enda Coughlan, who lined out in the forwards, was on the mark with the men from Quilty and surrounds showcasing their class with some crisp passing. It must be said Cratloe had their own share of possession but were not afforded the space they crave as all they could show after the first quarter was a Cathal McInerney free. McInerney swung over another placed effort only for his namesake and opposing wingback Ian McInerney to regain the three-point lead. One of the scores of the game efforts courtesy of Enda Coughlan gave the 2009 champions a seemingly comfortable half time lead only for Liam Markham  to kick over a free to give them a bit of hope.

Mark McCarthy (Kilmurry-Ibrickane) and David Ryan (Cratloe) in action

Mark McCarthy continued where he left off in the second half with a good score to increase the lead to five before they were guilty of some missed chances as they dominated the first ten minutes of the new half. Then Cratloe started to get back on terms with some ill discipline from the ‘Bricks gifting the Clare-Limerick border team scoreable frees which Cathal McInerney and Liam Markham sent over with McCarthy on the mark from a free for Kilmurry-Ibrickane. In the 45th minute Podge Collins hit their first effort from play to reduce the deficit to two before by the 55th they were level with McInerney and Markham nailing frees. Padraig Chaplin was guilty of sending a scoring chance wide from 20 metres before Markham levelled it. It was inevitable that the next score would decide the winner and while the momentum was with Cratloe the class of the ‘Bricks would eventually show again when some fluid and crisp passing produced a chance for the veteran substitute Johnny Daly who shot over from 35 metres. It was a score worthy of deciding any game and for the remaining few minutes the championship favourites showed some great composure running down the clock with short passes.

While Kilmurry deserved the win they were given a stiff test from Cratloe and should win this championship out. One worrying statistic for them is the way the seemed to go into comfort mode in the second period, they can't afford for this to happen next day out as in that period they did not replicate their commanding manner of the first. They will await the victors of the Wolfe Tones and Doora/Barefield semi final which will be played tomorrow. For Cratloe they will be dissapointed to have lost, naturally enough, with their double dream over but they have progressed again building on the quarter final appearance of 2010 which is a good return for the intermediate champions of just two years ago. They now turn their attention to the hurling next week when they play Sixmilebridge in the semi final.

Kilmurry-Ibrickane: Peter O’Dwyer Jnr, Martin McMahon, Darren Hickey, Shane Hickey, Evan Talty, Enda Coughlan (0-2), Ian McInerney (0-1f), Paul O’Connor, Peter O’Dwyer, Mark McCarthy (0-2, 0-1f), Michael Hogan, Declan Callinan, Noel Downes (0-1), Michael O’Dwyer (1-0).

Subs: Seamus Lynch, Niall Hickey, Johnny Daly (0-1), Keith King   

Cratloe: Jamie Joyce, Sean Chaplin, Barry Duggan, David Ryan, Martin “Ogie” Murphy, Michael Hawes, Liam Markham (0-3fs), Brendan Bugler, Conor Ryan, Wesley De Loughrey, Sean Collins, Sean Hynan, Cathal McInerney (0-5fs), Conor McGrath, Podge Collins (0-1).

Subs: Enda Boyce, Damien Browne, Padraig Chaplin.

Man Of The Match: Shane Hickey (Kilmurry-Ibrickane)

Referee: Rory Hickey (Eire Óg)

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hurling Team Of The Year + Young Hurler And Hurler Of The Year

It sure ain't easy to pick the fifteen standout hurlers in this years' championship as it is very easy leave out someone that will pick up the offical gong! No doubt not all of my fifteen will make it but here goes my own personal opinion on the the team and players of the year.

1. Gary Maguire (Dublin)
The Metropolitan netminder enjoyed a spectacular season between the nets on a year that brought him Walsh Cup and National League medals. Of course, Dublin were only a whisker away from a final appearance. Maguire beats off stiff competition with his saves against Galway, Kilkenny and Tipperary springing to mind.

2. Paul Murphy (Kilkenny)
What a way to finish your first year on the team than with Leinster and All-Ireland medals. The Danesfort clubman brought an injection of pace to the Kilkenny full back line where his sheer hurling class saw him slot in well with Noel Hickey and Jackie Tyrell.

3. Peter Kelly (Dublin)
The Dublin youngster is very versatile as shown this year where he eventually ended up at full back due to injuries sustained to team mates. He certainly held his own with the best there is and it will be interestingly as to where Dublin will play him when they report a full bill of health as he is a crucial player for them.

4. Michael Cahill (Tipperary)
Thurles Sarsfields have supplied many great hurlers throughout the years. Young Cahill is starting tomould himself into a quality corner back and his All-Ireland final exemplified this where he gave a solid display in the losers' defence.

5. Tommy Walsh (Kilkenny)
What can you say about Tommy? He has it all and for a man who is shorter in stature than a lot of his oppents his aerial presence and puress under the high ball is not bettered with himself and Padraic Maher the standout wing backs in the country. On top of this he is a tight marker and has all the hurling skills of a great player.

6. Brian Hogan (Kilkenny)
The Kilkenny captain had a fantastic year for the Cats ending with him scaling the steps of the Hogan stand on two occasions to recieve the Leinster and All-Ireland cup's. He gave a masterclass in the All-Ireland final and curtailed the skilled Noel McGrath.

7. Padraic Maher (Tipperary)
Maher was imperious all year long and maintains a very high standard. He is adept under the high ball and his general hurling play is flawless. This is his third All-Star in a row and if he maintains his exceptional standards he could be picking of this gong every year.

8. Michael Fennelly (Kilkenny)
Arguably the hurler of the year in many people's eyes. The Ballyhale man has blossomed into a hurler of fine skill which is no surprise considering his stock. Had an outstanding year capped off by a memorable All-Ireland goal which set his side on their way. His brother Colin also makes this team.

9. Liam Rushe (Dublin)
Hard to believe this lad is still U21 the Dublin ace can play anywhere to great effect and has lined out in four different lines in championship fare. Had an impressive season showing great work rate and skill as the Dub's clinched a first league title since 1946. Like Peter Kelly he is also very versatile.

10. John Mullane (Waterford)
The Deise ace is remarkable and his scoring average of five points per game is unreal considering he does not take the frees for his county. Mullane scored his teams all important goal against Limerick before being curtailed somewhat in their Munster final massacre. Scored 1-6 from play against Kilkenny in the semi final showing why he is one of the best. Can play to great effect at any position in the forwards.

11. Patrick Maher (Tipperary)
The "Bonnar" gets my nod after his unselfish displays all year long. Of course, he may not score what a forward is expected to but he makes up for this with his sheer work rate where he constantly sets up his team mates for scores. Had an excellent All-Ireland final and while he usually lines out at wing forward, he could easily slot in at number eleven.

12. Henry Shefflin (Kilkenny)
King Henry, what a player and what a man, to come back from two serious cruciate injuries and each time come back stronger shows the quality and skill of this player. Impressive all year long particularly in the Leinster final where he pulled the strings and in the All-Ireland semi and of course the final where he caused Tipperary many problems.

13. Paul Ryan (Dublin)
The top scorer in the championship for 2011, the Dublin maestro has really developed into a player of class and is a very accurate free taker. Ryan enjoyed a brilliant year with his county with the crowning moment being their league success. He gots my nod for the number thirteen shirt.

14. Lar Corbett (Tipperary)
Corbett had another excellent year despite being somewhat subdued in the All-Ireland final. Then again it was very hard to expect another three goals in 2011's penultimate stage. He set the standard all year long with his Munster final 4-4 up there with the best individual displays in living memory. Still, the best forward in the country.

15. Colin Fennelly (Kilkenny)
Young Fennelly gets my nod for the other corner forward berth thereby joining older brother Michael on the team. Had a fantastic season for the Cats and caused numerous problems for corner backs with his speed and skill. Two classy All-Ireland final points capped off a memorable year for the Ballyhale Shamrocks clubman.

Young Hurler Of The Year- Liam Rushe (Dublin)

Hurler Of The Year - Tommy Walsh (Kilkenny)

Cats Purr To All-Ireland Glory

Kilkenny 2-17 v 1-16 Tipperary

All-Ireland Senior Hurling Final @ Croke Park, Dublin

Sunday the 4th of September 2011

"What a difference a year makes", that well said quote is often apt in sporting circles and it is perfect to assess this result. Cast your minds back to this time in 2010 where Kilkenny were gunning for a record five titles on the trot. Everything was going to plan down on Noreside until the All-Ireland semi-final win over Cork where their orchestrator Henry Shefflin suffered that well documented cruciate injury. Of course, Shefflin is a bit like Superman and got back in the frame for the All-Ireland where he opened up with a pointed free before suffering the injury and thereby ending his participation in the early stages. Other injuries to Tommy Walsh (shoulder) and John Tennyson (cruciate) raised questions over whether or not they would be able line out (2011 Kilkenny captain Brian Hogan was injured last year), both did with the latter perhaps paying the price for it as he has since suffered a recurrence which ruled him out of action for this years championship. While the dissapointment was unbearbale for Kilkenny supporters there was plenty of excitement over the border in Tipperary as they clinched a first title since 2001. Now come back to the present time and after this display the Cats are back as a result of this hard fought victory over a Tipperary side that could not reach the heights of their performance last year and similarly on their displays up to this point in championship 2011. This is not to say that Tipperary did not show up, they did, but more to the fact of the brilliance of Kilkenny. Brian Cody certainly had his work done with the first half in particular seeing his side showing great work rate, winning a lot of possession and more importantly for them snuffling out the threat of Lar Corbett and Eoin Kelly. Corbett hardly saw any ball during this game and when he did black and amber defenders quickly surrounded him. Likewise, Kelly (unerring from placed balls with eight from nine) hardly got any ball that he craves and on the one or two occasions that he did, again he like Lar was bottled up. A tactic of Kilkenny during this half was to play Henry Shefflin on his wing where he was up against All-Ireland debutant John O’Keefe. By doing this they simultaneously kept the ball away from Padraic Maher although the Thurles Sars man was impressive all through in particular the second half when he was imperious. Furthermore, the Kilkenny back line were immense with newcomer Paul Murphy enjoying a great first half along with Jackie Tyrell who marshalled Lar Corbett to great effect while full back Noel Hickey was very good. Outside that trio, Brian Hogan held the centre well with Noel McGrath having an ineffective first half and outside him JJ Delaney was prominent as was my man of the match, Tommy Walsh (who had another great contest with the Bonnar Maher) was a sight to behold – in this half alone he caught four Tipperary puck out’s on a day when Brendan Cummins’ distribution was not as effective as in previous games. While, up the field the two Michael’s - Fennelly and Rice had the better of the duel here so much that Tipp’s influential Shane McGrath was withdrawn at half time. On to the forwards and the work rate of his sextet was very impressive at times with all six in scoring form. For Tipperary only Michael Cahill, Padraic Maher, Gearoid Ryan at times, Patrick "Bonnar" Maher, John O'Brien in patches and perhaps Eoin Kelly from frees played to form but on the day there was no denying Kilkenny as Tipp's back to back All-Ireland bid failed. 

Kilkenny enjoyed the better of the opening minutes with scores from Shefflin (free), Eoin Larkin and Richie Hogan to lead 0-3 to 0-0 by the eleventh minute. Larkin seemed to have the measure of Paul Curran beating the Mullinahone man to a 50 – 50 ball after just two minutes (the Cats were 0-1 up by this stage) the James Stephens club man turned and headed for goal but before he could get in this strike he was thwarted by an excellent intervention from Michael Cahill who flicked the sliotar from Larkin’s grasp just as the Kilkenny man was set to pull the trigger. Indeed, Hogan and Larkin combined in the twelfth minute as great vision from Hogan saw him send in a lofting high pass to Larkin with Cummins contesting the high ball with the Kilkenny full forward who managed to get a flick on the sliotar. This sliotar was destined for the net only for Paul Curran to stop it from crossing the line with a crucial intervention. Kilkenny were certainly on top during this half with more scores from Richie Power and Henry Shefflin to go into a five-point lead by the end of the first quarter as Tipp’s only scoring chance ended with Eoin Kelly’s 65 from the sideline underneath the Hogan Stand going wide as they craved a score to settle them. It took the Premier men fifteen minutes and fifty seconds to get this score when Padraic Maher found Noel McGrath who sent over a rangy point from out near the Cusack Stand. This score boosted Tipp and they hit back with two frees from Eoin Kelly to narrow the gap to two. As stated, Henry Shefflin was seeing a lot of ball and gave marker John O’Keefe a torrid time. Time and time again Shefflin was the receiver of cross-field balls, which saw him turn O’Keefe for his first score from play to put the score line at double scores. It must be said that Shefflin has bounced back admirably from last years’ career threatening injury but he will be somewhat disappointed that in the opening half he did not make the most of his chances, hitting wide of the posts twice from score able positions and sending another short into the hand of Cummins.  On other times, and in fact throughout the match, the Ballyhale Shamrocks maestro showed great intelligence to set up his teammates for scores. A Tipperary attack in the nineteenth minute produced an unusual bit of action where after a small melee referee Brian Gavin received an accidental strike of a stray Tommy Walsh hurley to the nose which held up play for a few minutes as the Offaly official received attention. When the action resumed Kelly arrowed over his third pointed free. Eddie Brennan extended the Cats lead after being set up by Michael Fennelly in the twenty-fourth minute before Eoin Kelly replied through a converted free. Tipperary introduced 2010 young hurler of the year Brendan Maher for O’Keefe at this point as they hoped to finish the half strongly. Shefflin then arrowed over a free before both he and Richie Hogan combined to start the move from where the first goal of the 2011 All-Ireland came from. Ace midfielder Michael Fennelly capped off a great move when he gathered the ball thirty five yards out before racing through and unleashing a low and powerful shot from inside the twenty one yard line to beat Brendan Cummins. Incidentally Cummins was playing in his sixty seventh-championship game, a fine achievement. The next scores of the game came from Templederry and Carrickshock respectively as Gearoid Ryan, with a crisp score on the run from underneath the Cusack, and Fennelly’s midfield partner Michael Rice traded points. On thirty nine minutes (there were five minutes of added time) Patrick Maher tried to get in for a well needed Tipp goal but the Lorrha/Dorrha clubman was impeded by Noel Hickey preventing the Bonnar from getting through. As a result of this foul referee Brian Gavin awarded the Premier county a free, which was a bit too far out for Kelly to go for goal, with Kelly sending it flying over David Herity’s crossbar for to leave the champions trailing 1-8 to 0-6 at the interval. Interestingly by the end of this match we would see every Kilkenny player from 8-15 get on the score sheet with all bar Colin Fennelly scoring in the first half.

Kilkenny attacker Henry Shefflin under pressure from Tipperary duo John O'Keefe and Shane McGrath

Tipperary were under severe pressure and needed to freshen things up as manager Declan Ryan wielded the axe with Shane McGrath and Seamus Callinan not returning for the second half. In their place came Benny Dunne and Pa Burke as followers of the premier yearned for a better second thirty. Tipperary also had a few positional changes with Padraic Maher following Shefflin. Toomevara greyhound Dunne gave the defending champions the first score of the new half when he made a trademark run before firing over on the run. Henry Shefflin replied back with a good score from play before some pressure from the Premier forced a 65 which their ace Kelly duly sent flying over the cross bar. The nippy Colin Fennelly, whose participation was in doubt through injury, showed no ill effects and got a deserved score when he rifled over to join his older brother Michael on the score sheet. Richie Power extended the Noresiders lead with his second of the hour before Shefflin again converted a placed ball to give the contenders a 1-11 to 0-8 advantage. Tipperary fought back with Conor O’Mahony showing his forwards how to do it as he pointed from play before Kelly punished ill discipline with another free. Ultimately the winning of this game arrived in the forty-ninth minute of the game when Richie Hogan goaled with a fine strike, Hogan showed his skill with this goal, which was something out of the armoury of his first cousin and Kilkenny legend DJ Carey. Eddie Brennan set up Hogan for this major when the wing forward won a ball just inside the 65 before making a piercing run through the Tipperary defence and offloading to Danesfort’s Hogan who from a difficult position controlled the ball on the hurley before then striking first time to the right hand corner of the net. Many teams in recent times have fell to pieces once the Cats start to open up the lead but not this Tipperary team who fought back gamely to provide spectators with a truly tight and exciting contest. John O’Brien started the fight back a minute later with a nice point after Lar Corbett got his first clean ball of the game before smartly hand passing to O’Brien who did the rest. It must be said that O’Brien was winning his share of ball during the final twenty minutes before eventually running out of steam near the end. The Premier were attacking in waves as Padraic Maher was starting to stamp his presence on the game making numerous clearances while up front Patrick Maher was showing immense work rate to set up chances. Henry Shefflin got the next score with a free before Noel McGrath showed his skill with a beautiful line ball that sailed over the cross bar. Then came exactly what Tipperary people from Borrisokane to Ballyporeen (and all over the country and the world of course) were baying for when Pa Burke got through for his first ever championship goal and more importantly the score their supporters were crying out four. This score came about after Brendan Maher cleared from defence finding the Bonnar Maher who tried to bore his way through before offloading to Lar Corbett who showed another deft hand pass to set up the on rushing Burke. The Sars man still had it all to do as he soloed through before hitting a low shot to the net from inside the twenty one. Some people may feel that David Herity might have done better with the shot as it went straight at him but it most definetly was well struck by Burke to set up a pulsating last few minutes. Kilkenny were now 2-13 to 1-12 up and needed to stem this tide to which Colin Fennelly stepped up to the plate to send another deft score between the two uprights. Tipperary replied through Noel McGrath, who had a quiet game by his standards even if he did contribute three points two of which came from play, and a Kelly free as followers of both teams and the neutral alike were going to be in for an exciting finale. Approaching the last five minutes and with just a goal between the two, Henry Shefflin made it a two score game when he fired over another free. Tipperary were not going to let Liam McCarthy exit from their grasp without one heck of a battle with Patrick Maher again showing excellent work rate before being fouled which yet again Eoin Kelly excellently converted in sniper like fashion. TJ Reid marked his permanent introduction with score similar to one he got in the 2008 final before a good Tipp move saw Pa Burke shaping up for a pot at goal but the Cats backs flung around him like a swarm of wasps. Next it was the turn of Tipperary to deny Kilkenny a score when Michael Cahill produced another good block to deny Larkin again. We were being treated to excellent defending further exemplified when Kilkenny captain Brian Hogan denied Tipp sub John O’Neill a certain point with a superb block before clearing the sliotar from the danger zone. On the next attack Gearoid Ryan got Tipperary’s last score of the game to make it a three-point game with normal time up and two minutes of injury time to play. The champions badly needed a second goal but they could not muster this, as Eoin Larkin sent over the insurance score in the seventy-first minute to bring back Liam McCarthy to Kilkenny to make up for the disappointment of their failed five in a row bid of 2010.

A notable achievement of this thirty third All-Ireland title for Kilkenny is that of their quartet Henry Shefflin, Eddie Brennan, Noel Hickey and substitute Michael Kavanagh who picked up an eight celtic cross to join the legendary duo of John Doyle (Tipperary) and Christy Ring (Cork) as players to achieve this feat. Shefflin and Brennan have garnered all eight on the field of play just like Doyle and Ring. Of course, they are one behind fellow Kilkenny man Noel Skehan who has nine medals, but unlike Ring and Doyle, three of which were won on the field of play. GAA president Christy Cooney from Cork presented the Liam McCarthy cup to Cats captain Brian Hogan after the game as for the fifth time in six years the cup will be residing on Noreside. Referee Brian Gavin had a good game officiating in his first All-Ireland final despite picking up a nasty but accidental blow to his nose.

Kilkenny: David Herity (7); Paul Murphy (7), Noel Hickey (8), Jackie Tyrell (7); Tommy Walsh (9), Brian Hogan (8), JJ Delaney (8); Michael Fennelly (8) (1-0), Michael Rice (7) (0-1); Eddie Brennan (7) (0-1), Richie Power (7) (0-2), Henry Shefflin (8) (0-7; 0-5fs); Colin Fennelly (7) (0-2), Eoin Larkin (8) (0-2), Richie Hogan (7) (1-1).

Subs: TJ Reid (7) (0-1) for C.Fennelly (blood sub), Reid for Brennan, John Mulhall (6) for Hogan. 

Tipperary: Brendan Cummins (7); Paddy Stapleton (7), Paul Curran (7), Michael Cahill (8); John O’Keefe (6), Conor O’Mahony (6) (0-1), Padraic Maher (8); Gearoid Ryan (7) (0-2), Shane McGrath (6); Seamus Callinan (6), Noel McGrath (7) (0-3; 0-1 sideline), Patrick Maher (8); Eoin Kelly (7) (0-8; 0-7fs, 1 65), John O’Brien (7) (0-1), Lar Corbett (6).

Subs: Brendan Maher (7) for O’Keefe, Benny Dunne (6) (0-1) for S.McGrath, Pa Burke (7) (1-0), David Young (6) for O’Mahony, John O’Neill (6) for O’Brien.  

Referee: Brian Gavin (7) (Offaly)

Man of the Match: Tommy Walsh (Kilkenny)

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Cratloe and Crusheen win

Senior Hurling Championship Round 3

"Cratloe Eventually See Off Whitegate"

Cratloe 0-20 v Whitegate 2-12
@ Cusack Park, Ennis

In what looked to be a one sided affair particularly when they extended their lead to ten points early in the second half, Cratloe were lucky to escape with the two points in this one. At the end of a dour first half the South Clare men led by 0-11 to 0-3 with Damien Browne hitting five from play in that period alone. Whitegate were fighting to no avail as the end product was simply not present and it must be said their first touch and a lot of the striking was woeful. Thankfully for the neutral match goer they were a changed side during the second half and started to hurl with abandon and run at the Cratloe men. That said Cratloe were much the better side in the first thirty and produced some lovely hurling with Browne hitting some good points along with his compatriots. Indeed, Conor McGrath was causing trouble during this half but he blazed wide on three occassions when he would have been expected to score. McGrath started to find form in the second period and verall his side can thank him in part for two outstanding scores near the end to knock Whitegate back. The East Clare revival started after Andrew Fahy goaled from a 21 metre free midway into the second half as Sean Hayes could not get a strong block to the sliotar as it spun into the net. This woke the Whitegate boys from their slumber and some fine efforts from George Waterstone (1-4) and Micheal O’Brien (3) made it an edgy final run in for the 2009 champions. Waterstone got a brilliant goal when he pounced to pot the ball into the goal after he appeared to be bottled up by two opposing defenders. It could very well have been a drawn game when into injury time O’Brien soared in from the stand side before unleashing a shot that narrowly flew over the crossbar. Cratloe had good games from David Ryan in the first half, Michael Hawes, Liam Markham, Sean Chaplin, Damien Browne, Conor McGrath and Sean Collins. Whitegate will rue their bad first half with Brendan Bugler, the returning Tommy Holland, Cathal Mulvihil, Pat Minogue when moved to wing forward, Andrew Fahey, Micheal O’Brien and Waterstone doing well.

Cratloe: Sean Hayes (6); John O’Gorman (6), Barry Duggan (6), David Ryan (7); Enda Boyce (6), Michael Hawes (7), Liam Markham (0-1; 65) (7); Sean Chaplin (7), Sean Collins (7); Cathal McInerney (0-2) (6), Conor Ryan (0-2) (7), Damien Browne (0-6) (8); Podge Collins (6), Padraig Chaplin (0-1) (7), Conor McGrath (0-8; 0-5 fs) (8).
Subs: Philip Gleeson (6) for O’Gorman, Thomas O’Connor (6) for P.Chaplin.

Whitegate: Andrew Fahy (1-0; f) (7); Cathal Mulvihil (7), John Bugler (6), Trevor Kelly (6); Tommy Holland (7), Brendan Bugler (7), Jason Malone (6); Pat Minogue (7) (0-1), Ian Fahy (7); Eric Minogue (6), Raymond Cahill (6), Tomas McNamara (6); Micheal O’Brien (0-4) (7), George Waterstone (1-7; 0-6fs) (7), Shane O’Rourke (6).
Subs: John Minogue (6) for Kelly, John O’Brien (6) for E.Minogue (injury), Christy Jones (6) for Malone.

Man of the Match: Damien Browne (Cratloe).

Referee: Seanie McMahon (Newmarket).

"Crusheen Defeat The Blues At Third Attempt"

Crusheen 3-10 v Newmarket 1-11
@ Cusack Park, Ennis

Reigning county champions Crusheen all but assured their place in the knockout stages after this hard fought win at Cusack Park on Saturday evening. Honours even coming into the last seven minutes the Blood and Bandages got through for a crucial score when former Clare star Gerry O’Grady hit the ball low into the corner of Kieran Devitt’s net to give them a three point lead. This was to be a defining score and ultimately it gave Crusheen the fuel they needed to motor them to victory. Newmarket fought back with Colin Ryan sending over a minor to set up an exciting final five minutes. Then their hopes were dashed when a long and high ball into the Newmarket full back line saw Paddy Meaney and Blues duo Kieran Devitt and Stephen Kelly contest the dropping ball with Meaney soaring highest to execute a spectacular overhead pull to the net on the stroke of full time. Meaney’s major sealed the contest for what was the third meeting of these two in the past three weeks (incidentally Newmarket won those two meetings in the league). These two Crusheen goals were the defining scores in a game that saw the ‘Blues go in one ahead at the interval when David Barrett found the net near half time. It was neck and neck for the majority of the second period save for a rich spell for Newmarket with Enda Kelly (2) and David Barrett sending them three clear 1-9 to 1-6 before Crusheen clawed back the deficit thanks to the efforts of Pat Vaughan (2) and Fergus Kennedy. Then came the final furlong, which proved to be a fruitful one for the champs who had Cian Dillon in imperious form at centre back. Others to impress were Alan Brigdale, Ciaran O’Doherty, Cathal Dillon, Pat Vaughan, Fergus Kennedy and Gerry O’Grady. The ‘Blues had good displays from James McInerney, Enda Barrett, Enda Kelly, Colin Ryan in patches and both Shane O’Brien’s.

Crusheen: Donal Tuohy (7); John Brigdale (7), Cronan Dillon (7), Alan Brigdale (8); Ciaran O’Doherty (7), Cian Dillon (8), Cathal Dillon (7); Shaun Dillon (6), Pat Vaughan (0-3; 0-2fs) (7); Tony Meaney (6), Gerry O’Grady (1-2) (7), David Forde (6); Gearoid O’Donnell (6) (0-1), Joe Meaney (1-0) (7), Fergus Kennedy (0-3) (8). 
Subs: Paddy Meaney (1-1) (7) for Vaughan (injury-blood sub), Jamie Fitzgibbon (6) for S.Dillon, Meaney for O’Donnell, Conor O’Donnell (6) for Forde.

Newmarket: Kieran Devitt (6); Shane O’Brien Jnr (7), Stephen Kelly (6), Padraig Kilmartin (6); Alan Barrett (6), James McInerney (7), Enda Barrett (7); Colin Ryan (0-6; 0-4fs) (7), Martin O’Hanlon (6); Sean O’Connor (6), David Barrett (1-1) (7), Enda Kelly (0-2) (6); Martin Murphy (6), Shane O’Brien Snr (7) (0-1), Tommy Griffin (6).
Subs: Darren Duggan (6) for Griffin, Eoin O’Brien (6) for Murphy, Noel Frawley (6) for E.Kelly.

Man of the Match: Cian Dillon (Crusheen)

Referee: Ambrose Heagney (Corofin)