Wolfe Tones caused a major upset as they knocked reigning champions Sixmilebridge out of the Clare SHC.
Páraic McMahon reports from Cusack Park
Wolfe Tones 2-13
Venue: Cusack Park
A place in the quarter-final is the reward for Wolfe Tones who defeated neighbours and rivals Sixmilebridge in what was the game of the championship so far. It was the meeting of the reigning Intermediate and Senior Champions with very little separating the sides over the hour.
Going into the Round Three clash, the expectation was that Sixmilebridge would prevail. As was evident from their start Wolfe Tones failed to read that script and early points from Aron Shanagher and Aaron Cunningham put them in front.
On six minutes Sixmilebridge gained a one point advantage with two points each from Alan Mulready and Niall Gilligan. The sides were level on five separate occasions in the game, all of which were in the opening thirty minutes. It was a game that ebbed and flowed filled with tenacity, skill and crisp sharp hurling, this was championship hurling.
Aron Shanagher has showed signs of his ability on a national stage this year and when needed he put over the vital frees. He got the first goal of the game on the thirtieth minute when Aaron Cunnigham’s shot was stopped by Derek Fahy with the rebound falling to the waiting Shanagher who tapped home. This goal gave them a two point cushion at the break.
Shanagher and Seadna Morey swapped scores on the resumption. Jamie Shanahan brought the gap to the minimum shortly after. Aaron Cunnigham stepped up to fire a rocket past Derek Fahy to score the second goal of the game on the thirty eighth minute. The Bridge fought back with Alan Mulready and Jamie Shanahan points.
During this revival the Shannon side hit two scoreable wides. A Seadna Morey effort was awarded by the umpires but was quickly and correctly overruled by the match officials to leave it 2-09 0-13 with forty three played. Shanagher and Alex Morey swapped scores before Ben O’Gorman landed a point from forty five metres.
Niall Gilligan and Mulready reduced the gap to the minimum as the tie entered the final ten minutes. O’Gorman and Gilligan both added frees as additional time commenced. The crucial score of the game arrived on the sixty second minute and it was the Cunningham collaboration, the younger Jack made a vital flick to dispossess the Bridge, Aaron got the sliotar and found himself under intense pressure with Paidi Fitzpatrick towering over him, from his knees Aaron struck the ball between the posts to boost their lead.
At the other end Sixmilebridge had a goal chance but Niall Gilligan’s free was stopped on the line, Gilligan added a 65 shortly after but it wasn’t enough to stop a determined Wolfe Tones from progressing to the quarter-finals for the first time since 2007.
It’s another scalp for James Carrig’s side in this championship having already conquered Newmarket-on-Fergus. Crucially they wanted to win that little bit more than their counterparts and what separates them from some of the teams remaining in the hunt for the Canon Hamilton is the dangerous attackers they posses.
Momentum is behind the Tones and it will give them a push to go further. In their forty nine year history, the club has won two Senior Hurling Championships (1996 & 2006), both years ending in six, check the calendar and you’ll see it’s 2016! This was arguably their finest hour since the late nineties and the titanic battles they had with the top teams at the beginning of the millennium. On this day they stood tall with Gary O’Connell, Aron Shanagher, Jamie Roughan and Aaron Cunningham their best over the hour.
As was the case in 2014, Sixmilebridge have come up short in their attempt to retain the Canon Hamilton. They were always in this game and up until the final whistle it could have went either way. Surprisingly they were outfought, into the final ten minutes Aron Shanagher was back inside the Wolfe Tones 45 where he disposed Cathal Malone and ended up winning a free, there wasn’t that same level of fight from the Bridge.
Defensively they did their best to contain a lively Tones attack but up front they hit eleven wides and failed to hit the heights they are capable of with County panellists Shane Golden and Cathal Malone both substituted. The concession of fourteen frees had an effect aswell. Alan Mulready caused problems early on in the game but the supply of ball to the wing-forward dried up, when John O’Meara’s men were dominating Seadna Morey was key to this at midfield. It’s a disappointing outcome for the Bridge who had strong performances from Mulready, Morey, Noel Purcell and Tadhg Keogh.
Wolfe Tones: Pa Freeman; Rory Hayes, Jamie Roughan, Dermot O’Rourke; Brian O’Connell, Gary O’Connell, Barry Loughnane; Ben O’Gorman (0-03 1f), Daithí O’Connell, Jack Cunningham; Sean Costelloe, John Guilfoyle, Aron Shanagher (1-08 7f); Aaron Cunningham (1-02), Kevin McCafferty. Subs: Andrew Shanagher for Costelloe (41), Dean Devanney for Guilfoyle (50), Kevin Justice for Roughan (53) (Inj), Declan O’Rourke for McCafferty (55).
Sixmilebridge: Derek Fahy; Noel Purcell, Aidan Quilligan, Tadhg Keogh; Paidi Fitzpatrick, Caimin Morey, John Fennessy; Christy Griffin, Seadna Morey (0-01); Alan Mulready (0-04), Jamie Shanahan (0-02 1f), Shane Golden (0-01); Cathal Malone, Niall Gilligan (0-08 4f 1’65), Danny Morey (0-01). Subs: Alex Morey (0-01) for Griffin (45), Conor Deasy for D Morey (45), Gavin Whyte for Malone (53), Brian Carey for Golden (61).
Referee: Rory Hickey (Éire Óg).
All photos by Martin Connolly