Cratloe secured their place in the final of the Clare Senior Hurling Championship after a hard fought win over Clarecastle on Sunday evening.
A tally of 3-04 from County star, Conor Mc Grath was crucial to the Cratloe cause aswell as the vast amount of accurate passes he provided to his fellow forwards who duly pointed on several occasions.
Indeed it was Mc Grath was who first on the scoresheet as he pointed with less than two minutes played. A long delivery from the Cratloe defence found Mc Grath and he took on his marker to bury the sliotar to the Clarecastle net, five minutes into the tie. Clarecastle responded immediately as toJonathan Clancy passed to Stephen Ward who drilled to the back of Gearoid Ryan’s goal. Bobby Duggan with a free levelled matters with eight minutes on the clock. Derek Quinn pointed with nine minutes played to give Clarecastle a one point lead but points from Mc Grath and Sean Collins put the Cratloe boys back in front. Stephen O Halloran got his name on the scoresheet at the midway stage but Cratloe responded with a point from Sean Collins.
Cathal Mc Inerney and Bobby Duggan swapped scores with seventeen minutes gone. Clare U-21 panellist Shane Gleeson raised a white flag for Cratloe with twenty minutes played but the Magpies responded with an effort from captain, Jonathan Clancy. Conor Mc Grath added to his tally but Bobby Duggan brought the gap down to the minimum shortly after. Podge Collins pointed for the Cratloe men with twenty three minutes on the clock but Stephen Ward brought the gap back to one. The Brian Lohan trained side pushed on with points from Mc Grath and Podge Collins. Their lead was increased on the twenty seventh minute as Conor Mc Grath broke through the Clarecastle defence and raised another green flag. Podge Collins added another shortly after but the final score of the half fell to Bobby Duggan to leave six points between the sides at the half-time break.
The Magpies were first off the mark in the second half as points from Stephen O Halloran and corner back Seanie Maloney narrowed the distance. Efforts from Pakie Healy and Bobby Duggan sailed over the bar with nine minutes played to leave two between the sides. It took nine minutes for Cratloe’s first score of the half and it fell to Cathal Mc Inerney. Bobby Duggan and Sean Collins exchanged scores with eleven minutes gone. Another effort from Duggan brought his side to within two points of the South Clare side. Excellent footwork from Podge Collins enabled him to shimmy past his opponents and leave the sliotar in the bottom corner of the Clarecastle net with seventeen gone.
Two Bobby Duggan points in succession cut the deficit to four. The Cratloe contigent got another reason to cheer when Mc Grath completed his hat-trick with nineteen minutes on the clock. A fine long range effort from Martin Oige Murphy sailed straight between the sticks to strengthen Cratloe’s lead with twenty six minutes played. Bobby Duggan added a 65 for the Magpies on the twenty eight minute but substitute David Collins replied for Cratloe. Two efforts from Eamon Callinan brought the gap to four points just before the sounding of the full time whistle.
Cratloe will be delighted to have made a return to the County Final stage for the first time since 2012. Their journey so far hasn’t been easy yet they’ve a 100% record to show for it. They were more calm both on and off the pitch and this was essential as it meant they didn’t panic at any stage of the contest. Although they let Clarecastle take the lead on occasions, the pivotal thing was they stayed going and overturned the gap. Conor Mc Grath, Sean Chaplin, Conor Ryan and Podge Collins were the star performers for the Joe Mc Grath managed side.
Great progress has been made with this Clarecastle side in 2014, few would have predicted that they would have made the last four but they got there and their younger players gained invaluable experience. Had they cut the supply of ball heading in Conor Mc Grath’s direction and kept all of their clearances away from Conor Ryan, more than likely they would be preparing for a County Final.
Questionable decisions were made by the Clarecastle management, Jamie O Connor one of their best players all year was substituted at half-time without having done much wrong. So too was Eric Flynn, an experienced player who has been part of the club’s finest days and has always fought till the end which was lacking with some of their players, but Flynn was taking off for missing a goal chance he should have taken, despite countless others making more severe errors.
The Magpies best were Bobby Duggan, Conor Plunkett, Stephen O Halloran, Jonathan Clancy and Gearoid Ryan.
Cratloe: Gearoid Ryan, Shane O Leary, Michael Hawes, David Ryan, Sean Chaplin, Conor Ryan, Enda Boyce, Liam Markham, Oige Murphy (0-01), Podge Collins (1-03), Shane Gleeson (0-01), Sean Collins (0-03), Cathal Mc Inerney (0-02), Gearoid Considine, Conor Mc Grath (3-04 1f). Subs: David Collins (0-01) for Considine (35:29), Damien Browne for Gleeson (55:22), Philip Gleeson for Markham (61:44) (Inj).
Clarecastle: Jamie Coughlan, Seanie Maloney (0-01), Patrick Kelly, Kevin Clohessy, Jamie O Connor, Conor Plunkett, Gearoid Ryan, Jonathan Clancy (0-01), Stephen O Halloran (0-02), Conor Galvin, Stephen Ward (1-01), Bobby Duggan (0-10 5f 165), Derek Quinn (0-01), Eric Flynn, Pakie Healy (0-01). Subs: Mark Mc Guane for Flynn (H/T), Adam Healy for O Connor (H/T), Eamon Callinan (0-02) for Galvin (44:06).
Referee: Seanie Mc Mahon (Newmarket on Fergus).