Tenacious Gunners finally crush brave Cratloe challenge

CRATLOE, competing in the Munster Club SHC for the first time, bowed out at the semi-final stage yesterday, losing a tight, tense, game to Ballygunner at Walsh Park.

“We rode our luck in the opening half,” Ballygunner mentor Tom Fives admitted. “Cratloe didn’t get the rewards they deserved in that half.”

“Our second-half substitutions also worked superbly well for us,’’ said Fives.

Seldom have subs impacted so decisively as JJ Hutchinson, Barry Mullane and Robert Cunningham did when given their chance after the interval.

Hutchinson rifled over two of the best points of the game, Mullane clinically scored the game’s lone goal three minutes before the end of normal time, while Cunningham set it up with his prodigious delivery out of defence.

Cratloe will bemoan their failure to translate first-half territorial dominance into scores, and while they enjoyed scoring parity at the interval, 0-7 each, they should have been at least four or five points to the good.

The Clare champions however had set out their stall from the start. Michael Hawes set his stamp of authority at the heart of a defence that looked more than up for the challenge of Paul Flynn and company in the Gunners attack. Midfielders Martin Oige Murphy and Sean Chaplin were also commanding, with Sean Collins outstanding. However, their wides then began to mount, and with veteran Fergal Hartley and wing back Wayne Hutchinson – a deserving AIB man of the match choice – magnificent in the winners’ defence, the Gunners remained in touch.

Paul Flynn found the range from frees, and his 24th minute effort gave his side the lead for the first time only for Damien Browne to send Cratloe in at the break level when he also pointed from a free in the final seconds.

No shortage of quality points however with the efforts registered by Collins and Oige Murphy for Cratloe and Brian O’Sullivan and Stephen Power for the Gunners deserving of specific mention.

In the third quarter the sides were still deadlocked at 0-10 midway through the half. Rapid fire points between the 47th and 51st minutes from O’Sullivan, Wayne Hutchinson, and Andy Moloney – from a sideline cut – put the Gunners 0-3 up and finally it seemed they had shaken off Cratloe.

But the Clare men responded in style with super scores from Liam Markham and Oige Murphy.

Then came those further priceless contributions from the super subs with Hutchinson’s second point and Mullane’s 57th minute golden goal.

That opened a five-point gap and there now looked to be no way back for Cratloe. To their credit they laid siege to the Gunners goal in a bid to retrieve the situation.

However, despite the loss of corner-back David Ryan – dismissed in the 58th minute for a second yellow card – they slashed their deficit to a goal with points from Damien Browne (free) and his fifth from play from Collins.

Another converted free by Browne made Ballygunner edgier but as Cratloe pressed forward, defenders Hartley, Hutchinson, and Alan Kirwan denied them.

Scorers for Ballygunner: P. Flynn (0-5, frees); B. Mullane (1-0); B. O’Sullivan (0-2); A. Moloney (0-2, 0-1 sideline); J. J. Hutchinson (0-2); Paraic Mahony, S. Power, W. Hutchinson (0-1) each.

Scorers for Cratloe: D.Browne (0-6, 0-4 frees); S. Collins (0-5); M. Oige Murphy (0-2); C. McInerney, L. Markham (0-1) each.

BALLYGUNNER: S. O’Keeffe; Philip Mahony, A. Kirwan, V. Molloy; W. Hutchinson, F. Hartley, T. Power; C. Kehoe, S. Walsh; S. O’Sullivan, A. Moloney, Pauric Mahony; B. O’Sullivan, P. Flynn, S. Power.

Subs: J.J. Hutchinson for T. Power (ht); R. Cunningham for Walsh (43); B. Mullane for S. Power(47).

CRATLOE: S. Hawes; P. Gleeson, B. Duggan, D. Ryan; J. O’Gorman, M. Hawes, L. Markham; M. Oige Murphy, S. Chaplin; S. Collins, J. Enright, D. Browne; C. McGrath, G. Ryan, C. McInerney.

Sub: P. Collins for Ryan (50).

Referee: John Sexton, Cork.

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