Ballyea kept their championship hopes alive when they accounted for an inconsistent Clooney/Quin with three points to spare.
For Clooney/Quin a relegation battle is on the cards and had they performed anywhere near to their capability in the first half, events could have been a lot different.
It took four minutes for the first score of the game and it came courtesy of Ballyea’s Paddy O Connell. Ryan Taylor replied for Clooney/Quin a minute later. Hurler of the Year, Tony Kelly and Donnacha Murphy exchanged scores with eight minutes on the clock. The Black and Amber pushed ahead with points from Niall Deasy and Kelly at the midway stage. Peter Duggan opened his account but Tadhg Lynch responded for the Ballyea boys.
Duggan and Kelly swapped frees on the twenty seventh minute mark. A Niall Deasy goal right before half time was a sucker punch for Clooney/Quin and it ensured Ballyea were ahead by five points at the interval.
Clooney/Quin started the second half the sharpest with Mike Daffy pointing immediately after the throw in. Tony Kelly and Daffy swapped points with five minutes on the clock before Paddy O Connell pushed Ballyea further ahead. Placed balls from the Duggan cousins, Cillian and Peter cut the deficit to three with ten minutes played. Niall Deasy and Tadhg Lynch popped over points to give Ballyea some breathing space but another free from Peter Duggan kept his side within an arm’s reach of their opponents.
Clare U-21s Gearoid O Connell and Peter Duggan swapped scores with fifteen minutes remaining. Duggan put over an excellent score close to the sideline with twenty minutes played but Tony Kelly replied with a placed ball. Two further points from Kelly widened the gap for the 2013 semi-finalists. Peter Duggan found the back of Barry Cootes net with a well taken 21m free, but it was too late coming just as the game entered stoppage time.
Clooney/Quin will look back on this tie with huge regret. They scored more against the breeze than with it, had they given a solid performance for sixty minutes they would have been victorious. They outscored their opponents 1-07 to 0-08 in the second half but hit more wides also throughout the course of the game, finishing up with thirteen wides. They now face Clonlara in a meaningless fixture in the final round, Clonlara have already secured a quarter final spot while Clooney/Quin will be fighting for their senior status. If they’re to survive the drop they need to perform like they did in the second half, if they don’t they’ll find themselves in trouble.
Ryan Taylor and Cillian Duggan did best for the Clooney/Quin men. Ballyea will know they’ve a lot to improve on if they’re to live up to their possible contenders tag. Granted, due to intercounty action, club football and players travelling they haven’t played together too often but a performance like this will see their campaign end a bit earlier than they would have hoped. They faded in the second half when push came to shove and they will have to do a lot more if they’re to reach the semi-final spot that they occupied last year.
Next up is a do or die clash with Inagh/Kilnamona, the winner books a quarter final place with the loser exiting the championship. For the Black and Amber, Paddy O Connell, Niall Deasy and Cathal Doohan performed well.
Ballyea: Barry Coote, Paul Flanagan, Jack Browne, Brian Murphy, Cathal Doohan, Gearoid O Connell (0-01), Niall Keane, Tony Kelly (0-07 5f 165), Stan Lineen, Paddy O Connell (0-02), Martin O Leary, Niall Deasy (1-02), Tadhg Lynch (0-02), Gary Brennan, Damien Burke. Subs: Pearse Lillis for O Leary (50:18), James Murphy for Lynch (57:05).
Clooney/Quin: Keith Hogan, David Kennedy, Shane Mac Namara, Padraig Ward, Conor Harrison, Cillian Duggan (0-01 1f), Seamus Conroy, Enda Harrison, Donnacha Murphy (0-01), Ryan Taylor (0-01), Cathal Egan, James Casey, Peter Duggan (1-06 1-04f), Fergal Lynch, Mick Daffy. Sub: Richard Hennessy for Conroy (50:15).
Referee: Jim Hickey (Cratloe)