Clare were crowned Allianz National Football League Division 3 Champions with a dramatic one point win over Kildare.
Venue: Croke Park.
The longest running chat show in the world broadcasts from Dublin on Friday nights but it is this particular late late show on a Saturday evening that will be remembered for years to come by those involved in Clare football.
Gary Brennan played a crucial role in Clare’s two goals. He first set up David Tubridy with a handpass at the end of the opening half after he rose highest to claim a delivery from Keelan Sexton. This score gave the Banner a one point lead at the break 1-10 to 1-09
Brennan orchestrated what would be the decisive moment in the game as despite falling to the ground still managed to hold on to the ball before offloading to Dean Ryan who finished to the back of the Kildare net. This brought the sides back on level terms with seventy minutes on the clock but there would be some more twists and turns before the sounding of Noel Mooney’s final whistle.
Seven minutes of additional time were played. In that period Enda Coughlan handpassed over the bar to give Clare the smallest of margins. Neil Flynn levelled matters from a placed kick. With Kildare already down to fourteen men following the dismissal of full-forward Kevin Feely, there were to be further red cards. Miltown’s Graham Kelly was given his marching orders for a stamp. Ryan Houlihan was shown a second yellow and the resulting free was pointed by Eoin Cleary to rapturous applause from the Clare faithful and it would turn out to be the winning kick of the game.
Throughout Clare showed a never-say-die attitude; with six minutes played in the first half, Kildare led 1-03 to 0-02, thirty minutes later Colm Collins’ men were one point ahead. On the resumption, the Lilywhites became the dominant force again but Clare refused to panic and kept creating chance after chance, and while some of these were poor efforts it didn’t deter them and this resilience proved to be the difference between the sides.
It is the first time since 2004 when Clare captured the Tommy Murphy Cup that a male football team from the County has lifted silverware. Key to the win was a strong collective performance but in his first outing in Croke Park, Cian O’Dea was exceptional, at the back Kevin Hartnett and Martin McMahon constantly put their counterparts under immense pressure, Cathal O’Connor in the middle of the park won a lot of ball in the air, Eoin Cleary popped up vital scores at the right time but the star was captain Gary Brennan who may not have been as influential for the full game, had it not been for him, there would have been no goals and it is only fitting that he was the man to lift the trophy.
Clare: Joe Hayes (Lissycasey); Seanie Malone (St Josephs Miltown), Kevin Hartnett (Meelick), Martin McMahon (Kilmurry/Ibrickane); Sean Collins (Cratloe), Dean Ryan (Éire Óg), Cian O’Dea (Kilfenora); Cathal O’Connor (Coolmeen), Gary Brennan (Clondegad); Pearse Lillis (Cooraclare), David Tubridy (Doonbeg), Jamie Malone (Corofin), Pat Burke (Kilmacud Crokes), Keelan Sexton (Kilmurry/Ibrickane), Eoin Cleary (St Josephs Miltown). Subs: Podge Collins for Malone (HT), Graham Kelly (St Josephs Miltown) for Sexton (66), Enda Coughlan for Burke,
Kildare: Mark Donnellan, Peter Kelly, David Hyland, Ollie Lyons, Ryan Houlihan, Fergal Conway, Ciaran Fitzpatrick, Paul Cribbin, Tommy Moolick, Adam Tyrrell, Niall Kelly, Eoghan O Flaherty, Alan Smith, Kevin Feely, Neil Flynn. Subs: Eoin Powederly for Fitzpatrick (68).
Referee: Noel Mooney