Feakle qualify for first Clare SHC semi-final since 1989

Pic: Eugene McCafferty

Feakle returned to the semi-finals of the Clare SHC for the first time in twenty seven years after they saw off the challenge of Wolfe Tones.

Páraic McMahon reports from Cusack Park

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Feakle 2-19
Wolfe Tones 2-15
Venue: Cusack Park

A goal in the last puck of the game from Aaron Cunningham put a gloss on the scoreline for Wolfe Tones who never hit the levels of their quarter-final win over Sixmilebridge. Feakle on the other hand continue to improve and a place in the last four is just rewards for their championship endeavours this year.

County man Aron Shanagher was ruled out for this tie and his loss was devastating, it gave Feakle the opportunity to focus on curbing Cunningham’s attacking threat and by doing this it limited what Wolfe Tones could do.

Feakle raced into an early three point lead with Gary Guilfoyle, Raymond Bane and Shane McGrath on target. Wolfe Tones who were forced to rejig their lineup two weeks on from dethroning the County Champions opened their account through Ben O’Gorman who started at centre-forward. They were back on level terms with Aaron Cunningham and John Guilfoyle raising white flags.

Throughout the first half the sides were level on three different occasions. A late goal in the opening half from John Guilfoyle left a two point margin between the sides. It was badly needed as Feakle had built up a five point lead prior to his strike.

Gary Guilfoyle raised a green flag six minutes into the second half as a poor Wolfe Tones clearance gifted Feakle possession, Guilfoyle’s effort was a scrappy finish but it put his side back in the driving seat with a four point advantage.

Shane McGrath and Ben O’Gorman traded points with forty one minutes on the clock. Shortly after his fifth point O’Gorman was given his marching orders after his late strike on Ger Hanrahan resulted in a sending off.

Surprisingly Wolfe Tones failed to let the numerical disadvantage hinder their cause and it was the men from East Clare that struggled to know what to do with the extra man. The Shannon men hit five of the next six scores as they left a single point between the teams.

Oisin Donnellan struck for goal on the fifty seventh minute after Steven Conway made an excellent catch to set-up the Clare Intermediate whose strike deflated his Shannon counterparts. A brace from Shane McGrath sealed the win while a late free from Aaron Cunningham dipped over Eibhear Quilligan and into the net to make the scoreline more respectable.

Whether they enjoyed their last eight win over Sixmilebridge too much or the loss of Aron Shanagher impacted on their minds, there was something different about Wolfe Tones in this outing. Teammates were criticising one another during the game and their touch wasn’t as sharp as it has been plus their distribution of the ball was poor. An opportunity to make a semi-final doesn’t come around every day and this was a chance they failed to grasp.

For a finish they were without two of their main men in Shanagher and O’Gorman which for them proved to be too much. Overall James Carrig’s side can view this year as a success as they have re-established their reputation as contenders in the Clare Senior Hurling Championship.

This win is massive for Val Donnellan’s charges. It is their second year back in the senior ranks and to have reached the last four is an incredible achievement. The test now for this young panel is whether or not they will be satisfied with a semi-final spot or do they want to go one step further.

It was a strong team display from Feakle who won the majority of individual battles. In contrast to Wolfe Tones, the news of Aron Shanagher’s absence would have given them a major confidence boost and it ensured they could focus a lot more attention on keeping Aaron Cunningham quiet. To make the County Final they will need a much bigger scoring contribution from their full-forward line. Shane McGrath, Killian Bane, Oisin Donnellan and Evan McMahon impressed for the winners.

Feakle: Eibhear Quilligan; Henry Hayes, Evan McMahon, James Noonan (0-01); Killian Bane (0-01), Con Smyth, Eoin Tuohy; Ger Hanrahan, Shane McGrath (0-11 6f); Gary Guilfoyle (1-02), Oisin Donnellan (1-02), Raymond Bane (0-01); Steven Conway (0-01), Colin Nelson, Martin Daly. Subs: Enda Noonan for Daly (53), Colm Naughton for Nelson (60).

Wolfe Tones: Pa Freeman; Dermot O’Rourke, Jamie Roughan, Rory Hayes; Brian O’Connell, Gary O’Connell, Barry Loughnane; Jack Cunningham (0-02), Daithí O’Connell; Aaron Cunningham (1-05 1-01f), Ben O’Gorman (0-05 4f), John Guilfoyle (1-01); Sean Costelloe, Declan O’Rourke, Kevin McCafferty. Subs: Andy Shanagher (0-02) for Declan O’Rourke (44), Brian O’Connor for Costelloe (45), Kevin Justice for McCafferty (53), Dean Devanney for J Cunningham (57).

Referee: Johnny Healy (Smith O’Briens)

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