County Champions Cratloe secured their place in the quarter-finals of the Clare Senior Hurling Championship with a five point win over O’Callaghans Mills.
O’Callaghan’s Mills 3-14
Venue: Cusack Park, Ennis
Cratloe will be counting themselves very lucky that there wasn’t another couple of minute to be played in this one when Rory Hickey blew for full time.
Having led by 15 points midway through the second half, they took the foot off the gas and started to hit wides rather than stick the ball between the posts.
A late hat trick from Adrian Donovan had some Cratloe supporters biting their fingernails waiting for the whistle and the final score made the game look a lot tighter than it was for long stages.
Shane Gleeson finished the scoring in this one when he put five between the sides in injury time, and it was also the County U21 who had opened the scoring after just 30 seconds.
It looked straight from the off as if we were going to get a performance straight from the textbook of the all-conquering Cratloe of 2014 when they shot to a three point lead within minutes.
Gleeson’s opener and a McGrath brace without reply had them in front but the Mills were intent on an upset.
Within the space of five minutes, the Mills had turned over the lead and Cillian Nugent had denied McGrath an early goal.
Points from Jacob Loughnane (f), Conor Cooney, Niall Donovan and the impressive Gary Neville put the East Clare side in front. That lead didn’t last long, however, as Gleeson responded almost immediately from the puck out.
Cratloe were doing most of the hurling. Cathal McInerney had been pulled out the field to allow McGrath and David O’Brien space inside but they had failed to really test the full back line in the opening exchanges.
James Enright and Sean Collins both provided long range scores before a brace from Neville tied it up once more for the Mills.
Quick thinking from a sideline cut provided Sean Chaplin with an opportunity to restore Cratloe’s advantage and he duly obliged before McGrath slotted over a free.
The Mills were doing well to stay within touching distance, helped by Cratloe’s wides tally and lack of goal chances.
Nice combination play between Conor Ryan and David Collins set up Liam Markham for another score before McGrath picked off the first major.
With the two man full forward line, space was plentiful and when McGrath got the ball in hand and turned at the goal, he had one idea in mind. He put the head down and when O’Brien’s run cleared the path, McGrath made no mistake in putting the ball low across Nugent and into the net.
The Mills responded well through Loughnane and Neville but they were failing to stop the Cratloe onslaught.
A point for David Collins lifted his momentum and less than a minute later, he split the Mills’ defence with a direct run before popping the ball into McGrath who rifled to the back of the net again.
The holders took a seven-point lead in at the break and it seemed to be a case of how much would they get home by.
That line of thinking was only aided by David O’Brien’s goal 20 seconds after the restart. Having already been denied, O’Brien’s first time pull nestled in the corner. Jacob Loughnane’s last action was to respond to that goal with a pointed free.
Cratloe looked very comfortable and outscored the Mills by 0-7 to 0-1 over the next 20 minutes of play. That momentum was broken by Donovan’s first goal. Having earlier been deployed as a man-marker on Conor McGrath, Donovan and the Mills threw caution to the wind and went on the offensive.
With the ball being fumbled about on the Cratloe ’14, it was Donovan who emerged with it and lashed it past Gearoid Ryan to muffled cheers.
Neville added a free to that first goal and there was still a nice level of comfort about Cratloe’s lead. The attack didn’t stop and Rory Hickey awarded the Mills a free within goal-scoring range. Donovan stepped up and his shot found the back of the net via one of the hurleys on the goal line. The muffled cheers had become hopeful cheers and the lead was now at nine.
Another point from substitute Michael McGrath separated the second and third goals for Donovan. When another free in a promising position was awarded, Donovan stepped up and the result was the same. The spin on the ball deceived Ryan and his defence and suddenly there was renewed hope for the final couple of minutes.
Gleeson responded for Cratloe with what proved to be the final score of the match and their passage to the Quarter-Final.
Cratloe looked a convincing team for large parts of this game but failure to convert chances on a number of occasions nearly haunted them and would have against one of the stronger teams in the competition.
Plenty to work on and plenty to work with from that outing for the current holders of the Canon Hamilton. Shane Gleeson’s performance in the middle of the park was a big plus, along with effectiveness of the Collins brothers and McGrath.
Cratloe: Gearoid Ryan; Aaron Gaule, Michael Hawes, David Ryan; Sean Chaplin (0-1), Conor Ryan, Enda Boyce; Liam Markham (0-2), Shane Gleeson (0-5); David Collins (0-1), Sean Collins (0-2), James Enright (0-1); Cathal McInerney (0-1), David O’Brien (1-0), Conor McGrath (2-6, 5f). Subs: Philip Gleeson for Gaule (HT), Gearoid Considine for Hawes (49).
O’Callaghan’s Mills: Cillian Nugent; Ciaran Cooney, Gerry Cooney, Adrian Donovan (3-0, 2-0f); Bryan Donnellan, Aidan Fawl, Paddy Donnellan; James McNamara, Niall Donovan (0-1); Jacob Loughnane (0-4f), Aidan O’Gorman, Adrian Flaherty (0-1); John Cooney, Conor Cooney (0-1), Gary Neville (0-5, 1f). Subs: Colin Crehan for Loughane (37), Eoin McInerney (0-1) for N Donovan, Michael McGrath (0-1) for McNamara (43), Conor Cooney for J Cooney (52).
Referee: Rory Hickey (Éire Óg).
All photos by Gary Collins