Cratloe’s bid to reclaim their crown as County Hurling Champions took a blow when Ballyea outfought and outhurled them in Round One of the Clare Senior Hurling Championship.
Venue: Cusack Park.
In a close affair it was Ballyea who led from start to finish and were fully deserved of their victory. Pádraic Collins damaged his knee in the game and looks a major doubt for the upcoming Munster Football semi-final while his county teammate Martin O’Leary appeared to have done serious damage to his arm which looks like it will rule him out of the Cork game.
Gary Brennan was first on the scoresheet after turning and striking straight between the posts, one minute into the clash. They pushed ahead with points from Martin O’Leary, Tadhg Lynch and Tony Kelly to hold a four point lead with twelve minutes played.
Pádraic Collins opened the Cratloe account on fourteen minutes and the screams that followed were not of delight but of immense pain as the Clare footballer was forced to hobble off the pitch with what looks to be knee ligament damage.
Tony Kelly and Tadhg Lynch added to their tallies to increase Ballyea’s lead to five points with twenty one minutes played. David Collins pointed from distance for Cratloe but good link up play between Kelly and Gearoid O’Connell from a sideline cut saw Kelly extend his side’s advantage. Cratloe hit back with three unanswered scores via Conor McGrath, Cathal McInerney and Sean Collins to leave two points between the sides at half-time.
While this game pitted Cratloe against Ballyea, the second half was the battle of Kelly and McGrath with the former hitting all of Ballyea’s second half scores and McGrath got all but one of Cratloe’s second half points as Conor Ryan pitched in with the final score of the game on the thirty third minute.
The second half saw Kelly raise six white flags with McGrath one behind as he hit five second half points. This difference between scores got by two of Clare’s greatest hurlers just highlighted the fact that Ballyea were always that bit ahead of Cratloe across all boards on the day.
Losing a player of Podge Collins’ stature is a blow to any team and Cratloe failed to recover following his departure; with the quality of players in their side they should have been able to regroup but they never did so. There is no need to start panicking in the Cratloe camp as they just didn’t deliver a performance that did themselves justice.
They now find themselves having to go through the losers section of Round Two and this may not be the worst thing for Joe McGrath’s men as when the stakes are upped so this is their performance. The 2014 Champions were second best to the majority of play in their own half throughout but they still possess such talent up front that any team is going to be wary of them. It is a setback for Cratloe but one with which they should recover from. Conor McGrath and Enda Boyce did well for Cratloe.
This was a display from Ballyea that has been all too rare; a display full of determination, hunger and controlled aggression. The Claret and Amber dictated matters against the County Champions and this will really lift their confidence and there will be greater belief within the panel that they can have a say in how the Championship unfolds.
Robbie Hogan’s men have benefited from the introduction of David Forde as Coach with the Ogonelloe man adding a structure and plan to the way in which they approach the game. Key to their victory today was that they stood up all over the field and took the game to Cratloe and didn’t wait for things to happen, instead they made things happen and won the majority of individual battles all over the field. Tony Kelly, Jack Browne, Mark Coughlan, Gary Brennan and Martin O’Leary up until his departure stood out for Ballyea.
Ballyea; Barry Coote, Paul Flanagan, Cathal Doohan, Brian Carrig, Jack Browne, Mark Coughlan, Gearoid O’Connell, Tony Kelly (0-09 5f 1’65), Stan Lineen, Niall Deasy, Martin O’Leary (0-01), Damien Burke, Tadgh Lynch (0-02), Gary Brennan (0-01), Eoin Donnellan. Subs: Declan Keane for Doohan (41) (Inj), David Egan for O’Leary (44) (Inj), Paddy O’Connell for Flanagan (61) (Inj).
Cratloe: Gearoid Ryan, Shane O’Leary, Michael Hawes, David Ryan, Sean Chaplin, Conor Ryan (0-01), Enda Boyce, David Collins (0-01), Liam Markham, James Enright, Podge Collins (0-01), Sean Collins (0-01), Cathal McInerney (0-01), Gearoid Considine, Conor McGrath (0-06 4f). Subs: David O’Brien for P Collins (15) (Inj), Michael Danaher for Enright (50).
Referee: Ger Hoey (Killanena).