Clare SHC final: A Bridge too far for Castle

Sixmilebridge3-10 Clarecastle2-8

With an extra man in defence, first Fergie O'Loughlin and then Conor Plunkett dropping back from wing-forward to act as sweeper between the full and half-lines, the underdog Magpies were trailing by four points, 0-7 to 0-3, and had frustrated all the Bridge's best efforts.

"At least two minutes of added time," came the announcement, and all Clarecastle had to do was hold the fort to the break, then wind-assisted, apply the pressure in the second half. Didn't work. From 0-7 to 0-3, it went to 2-8 to 0-3 in those last few fateful minutes.

Crowe was at the cutting edge of the late Sixmilebridge scoring burst, sub John O'Meara finishing the second goal, with inter-county stars John Reddan, my man-of-the-match, and Niall Gilligan heavily involved. Crowe had started on the wing, but after the 27th minute introduction of O'Meara, was moved to top-of-the-left. A shrewd move.

A pass from Brian Culbert set up Crowe's first score, an angled point, before the first major. Good work out of defence by Mark Culbert, a dangerous centre across the goal from Reddan and though Crowe still had some work to do, his fiercely-hit drive to the opposite corner gave James Healy no chance in the Clarecastle goal. A minute later, tails up now, the Bridge were in again. Brilliant little ground flick under pressure by Gilligan set Brian Culbert free, bearing down on goal. His shot was well saved by Healy, but O'Meara was on hand to tap in the rebound, and in three minutes, this game had turned.

At 3-8 to 0-5, it left Clarecastle with a mountain to climb. They did their best, stuck with it, corner-forward Derek Quinn their most potent threat, and a late two-goal salvo from the Fitzgeralds put some respectability on the scoreboard. On the day, however, a game that never reached any great heights, no questioning the final result, justice done.

"This was our fourth final in a row, we'll find it hard to make the fifth, so this is probably my last one," a blood-bandaged John Chaplin said.

Keeper Davy Fitzgerald was winning his sixth, also a satisfied customer. "A lot of people had written us off, even ourselves, we were beginning to question whether we had it or not. On a day when the first Sixmilebridge team to win a senior county was being honoured (1977), this makes it a lot better for us, two from four instead of one from three. Blackrock in two weeks, but we'll enjoy this for the moment."

Scorers - Sixmilebridge: J. Reddan 1-3; C. Crowe 1-1; N. Gilligan 0-4 (1 free); J. O'Meara 1-0; W. Kennedy, J. Chaplin (free), 0-1 each.

Clarecastle: D. Quinn 0-5 (0-2 frees); R. Fitzgerald 1-0; D. Fitzgerald 1-0; S. Sheedy, G. Farmer, J. Casey (free), 0-1 each.

SIXMILEBRIDGE: D. Fitzgerald; W. Kennedy, P. Hayes, T. Keogh; M. Culbert, J. Chaplin, C. Walsh; A. Chaplin, C. Chaplin (capt); B. Culbert, J. Reddan, S. Fitzpatrick; C. Crowe, N. Gilligan, J. O'Meara. Subs: J. O'Meara (A. Chaplin 27); P. Fitzpatrick (M. Culbert 42).

CLARECASTLE: J. Healy; R. Concannon (capt.), M. Sheedy, G. Canny; M. McNamara, S. Sheedy, O. Plunkett; A. O'Loughlin, G. Farmer; C. Plunkett, E. Flynn, F. O'Loughlin; J. Casey, S. Moloney, D. Quinn. Subs: R. Fitzgerald (F. O'Loughlin 24); D. Scanlon (Flynn 30); D. Fitzgerald (Casey 30); T. Kearse (Moloney 50); J. Consodine (Farmer 54).

Referee: Ger Hoey (Killanena) - not an easy game to call, given the greasy conditions, did well enough.

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