Cratloe suffered their first loss in the Clare Senior Football Championship since the 2012 quarter-final, 1058 days to be precise as they went down to a more determined Cooraclare outfit.
Cooraclare picked up their second one point win on the trot in the 2015 Championship as they coped with the greasy conditions in Clarecastle whereas their opponents Cratloe never hit the heights they have so often scaled.
Colm Collins’ side were minus four of their starting team from the 2014 County Final as Podge Collins, Michael Hawes, Martin Oige Murphy and Pearce DeLoughrey were all unavailable for selection, while the absence of this quartet hindered Cratloe’s cause, it was the black card issued to Liam Markham that really affected them on the day.
With just over a minute played, Conor McGrath sent a cross field pass in the direction of Cathal McInerney and the lethal attacker made no mistake in firing past Killian Roche for the first goal and score of the game. They built on their lead with a Liam Markham point which was made possible by a quick Fergal Lynch free.
Joe Downes opened Cooraclare’s account on the fifth minute from a placed kick but Cratloe replied with another white flag from Liam Markham. Thomas Downes and Tadhg Lillis added successive scores for the Milesians to cut the gap to two points.
A stunning strike from Thomas Downes levelled matters on the fourteenth minute as the ball broke around the Cratloe danger-area and Downes made no mistake in slotting the ball to the top left corner of Jamie Joyce’s goal in a truly magnificent finish. Enda Boyce and Conor Ryan added points to put the County Champions back in front on nineteen minutes.
Clare U21 hurling panellist Damien Burke popped over a nice score on the twenty second minute. Liam Markham was shown a black card shortly after for what is believed to have been a late tackle on Joe Downes. Cratloe were forced to redeploy Conor Ryan to centre-back in Markham’s absence. Pearse Lillis pushed the Sky Blues ahead from a free but Cathal McInerney had the sides level at the break after slotting between the posts.
Joe Downes was on target from a free with just over a minute played following the resumption. Former Limerick inter-county footballer John Galvin got the slightest of touches to a Conor McGrath strike as he flicked the ball over Killian Roche’s crossbar to leave the sides deadlocked on thirty three minutes. Damien Burke pushed Cooraclare back in front with an excellent kick off his right foot six minutes into the second half.
Substitute Jack Morrissey added a fine score to mark his introduction with forty nine minutes on the clock as he blasted the ball over the bar from thirty yards out. Cratloe lowered the gap with a pointed Cathal McInerney free and drew level courtesy of a superb Sean Chaplin point after receiving a handpass from David Collins to fire over from an acute angle.
With time running out and the sides level, up stepped County Senior Rory Donnelly to fire Cooraclare into the lead and the quarter-finals with an all-important point inside his own 45 off the reliable right foot. Cratloe had their chances to send the tie to extra time but Killian Roche pulled off a fine save to deny John Galvin a match-winning goal while the resulting 45 from Cathal McInerney sailed to the left of the Cooraclare goal.
Losing in the Clare Senior Football Championship is something Cratloe haven’t been too accustomed to in recent years with just three defeats prior to today since winning promotion from Intermediate in 2009. While defeat is unusual for them, so too was their uncharacteristic performance which lacked the class they normally produce. Granted they were missing key players but they still possess one of the strongest teams in the County, yet they didn’t show it.
Surprisingly Colm Collins and his management made just one change over the hour, that being the forced substitution of Liam Markham. They hit a total of twelve wides which is unlike them but their lack of composure in front of goal deterred confidence in their own behalf and at the same time inspired their Cooraclare counterparts. In his twenty two minutes on the field, Markham scored more from play than any of his teammates who played the entire game. It is a setback for the three-in-a-row chasers as they must now prepare for Round Three but they will still have a big say as to where Jack Daly will reside for the winter. Sean Chaplin, Barry Duggan and Liam Markham up until his black card were best for Cratloe.
Ger Lawlor a resident of Cratloe but manager of Cooraclare will be delighted with how hard his charges fought for every ball. They showed the grit and determination that was required to come out on top and their defensive structure put their opponents under an amount of pressure.
At times there were lapses in concentration in the Cooraclare camp, it almost gifted John Galvin a winning goal but Killian Roche saved their blushes. The win meant an awful lot to them and teams will be hoping to avoid the Milesians in the quarter-finals. Damien Burke, Thomas Downes, Pearse Lillis, Thomas Donnellan and Rory Donnelly were very influential for the victors.
Cooraclare; Killian Roche; Colm Carroll, Thomas Donnellan, Conor Marrinan; Fergal Lillis, James Burke, Andrew O’Neill; Michael Kelly, Pearse Lillis (0-01 1f), Joe Downes (0-02 2f); Thomas Downes (1-01), Tadhg Lillis, Damien Burke (0-02); Rory Donnelly (0-01), Caoimhin Donnellan. Subs: Jack Morrissey (0-01) for C Donnellan (36), Sean O’Donoghue for J Downes (48), Shane O’Donoghue for O’Neill (52) (Inj), Caoimhin Donnellan for T Lillis (57).
Cratloe; Jamie Joyce; Sean Chaplin (0-01), Barry Duggan, David Ryan; Enda Boyce (0-01), Liam Markham (0-02), Sean Hynan; Cillian Duggan, Fergal Lynch; John Galvin (0-01), Sean Collins, Conor Ryan (0-01); Cathal McInerney (1-02 2f), Conor McGrath, David Collins. Sub: Conor Cooney for Markham (22) (BC).
Referee: Pat Cosgrave (Corofin)
Kilmurry/Ibrickane got their Championship campaign back on track with a facile 1-25 to 0-04 victory over Shannon Gaels. The sides met in the 2014 Championship with the Bricks earning a thirteen point victory but they added a further eleven points to that margin this time round.