Ballyea completed the quarter-final line-up for the Clare Senior Hurling Championship with Tony Kelly getting the winning point to see them past Clooney/Quin.
Páraic McMahon reports from O’Garney Park
Venue: O’Garney Park, Sixmilebridge
Tony Kelly stepped up with the all-important score to see Ballyea through to the last eight of the Clare SHC. In one of the poorer contests of the weekend, spectators were thankful for Kelly’s point as it ensured there would be no extra time, of course the Clooney/Quin supporters wouldn’t fall into that bracket but they will point out the rake of missed chances that could have seen them prevail.
Ballyea built up a four point lead inside the opening six points with two points each from Eoghan Donnellan and Tony Kelly. Cillian Duggan opened Clooney’s account on the seventh minute and it was followed by a Ryan Taylor point.
Martin Duggan put Clooney/Quin in front eleven minutes in when Fergal Lynch passed to Donnacha Murphy whose quick strike found Duggan and he batted the sliotar past Kevin Sheehan for the first green flag of the hour.
Kelly hit two more points for Ballyea but they were cancelled out by efforts from Cillian and Peter Duggan. Ballyea hit the final four scores of the half to hold a two point cushion at half-time. Substitute Daire Hannon made quiet the impact for Clooney/Quin winning his side a penalty just before half-time, however Peter Duggan’s strike to the top left corner was saved comfortably by Kevin Sheehan which was a massive lift for the leaders at the break.
James Corry and Patjoe Connolly traded scores at the beginning of the half and Peter Duggan was on target to narrow the gap to the minimum. Daire Hannon once more caused problems in attack, he was quickest on to a spillage in the Ballyea goalmouth and he flicked the sliotar to the back of the net to put Ger O’Halloran’s charges in front by two points.
Their advantage was wiped out four minutes later as Gary Brennan and Eoghan Donnellan both split the posts. Brennan and Duggan exchanged scores at the midway stage of the half as the tempo of the game dropped significantly for a knockout championship game.
Robbie Hogan’s charges hit the next three scores without reply to establish a three point advantage as the game entered the final five minutes of normal time. Clooney/Quin had no intention of letting this one slip away, Ryan Taylor handpassed to Fergal Lynch who let fly on the sliotar which flew past Kevin Sheehan and put the sides back on level terms. Their indiscipline was a factor over the hour and it was a free from Kelly on the sixty first minute that proved the difference between the teams for a finish.
Tougher tests lie ahead for Ballyea and a similar performance would not be sufficient for them to advance to the semi-finals for the first time since 2013. Some individuals in their fifteen are guilty of taking too much out of the ball instead of laying off a pass or hitting into their full-forward line that caused damage.
Their struggle to kill off the Clooney challenge is a worry on their behalf but scoring eighteen points is a positive for them and they must increase this figure the next day out. Cathal Doohan, Gary Brennan, Eoghan Donnellan, Gearoid O’Connell and Tony Kelly impressed for the men in Black and Amber.
When chances present themselves you must take them, Clooney didn’t and they can have no qualms about the result. They had some bad wides over the hour and never got to the level they showed in the opening round against Inagh/Kilnamona. They highlighted the importance of puckouts in the game, they lost close to 40% of their own puckouts which is gifting the opposition control of the ball.
Fourteen frees were conceded on their behalf and at this level indiscipline will be punished. On their day this is a game they could have easily won but their six forwards combined only got four scores. Cillian Duggan, Bryan McInerney and Daire Hannon tried hard over the hour.
Ballyea: Kevin Sheehan; Brian Carrig, Joe Neylon, Paul Flanagan; James Murphy, Gearoid O’Connell, Cathal Doohan; Tony Kelly (0-06 3f), Stan Lineen; Niall Deasy (0-04 3f), Gary Brennan (0-03), Damien Burke; Patjoe Connolly (0-02), Eoghan Donnellan (0-03), Pearse Lillis. Subs: David Egan for Lillis (58), Francie Neylon for Deasy (62).
Clooney/Quin: Keith Hogan; Bryan McInerney, Shane McNamara, Ruaidhrí McNamara; Padraig Ward, Conor Harrison, Cillian Duggan (0-02 2f); Peter Duggan (0-04 1f), Donnacha Murphy; Ryan Taylor (0-01), Fergal Lynch (1-00), James Corry (0-01); Michael Daffy, Martin Duggan (1-00), Sean Ward. Subs: Daire Hannon (1-00) for Daffy (28), Ronan O’Donnell for S Ward (28).
Referee: Ambrose Heagney (Corofin)