The Clarecastle youngster got the vital touch to a Peter Duggan delivery in the 55th minute to strike the goal that propelled St Flannan’s into a four-point advantage and proved the key score in deciding this game.
A late free from the outstanding Tony Kelly rounded off a fine afternoon’s work for St Flannan’s as they maintained their unblemished record after two games in this group and ensured they have already booked their spot in the quarter-final stages after Christmas. For St Colman’s their Dr Harty Cup adventure has not yet concluded. But they face a critical final round match against Thurles CBS next month which they must now win to claim the second quarter-final spot on offer in the group.
In the early stages, the spoils of this match looked like being claimed by the Cork outfit. Backed by a strong wind, they settled best to the tricky underfoot conditions and rattled off 1-4 without reply in the opening eight minutes. Their hurling was crisp and sharp with Daniel Mangan setting the ball rolling with a pointed free before Kevin O’Neill, Anthony Spillane and Ronan Bransfield popped over fine points. The St Colman’s onslaught was completed when Noel McNamara raced through to billow the net in the eighth minute.
St Flannan’s were left reeling from that opening burst but last year’s semi-finalists made a pivotal positional alteration that helped get them back into contention. Tony Kelly, their marquee name following his exploits for the Clare minor and U21 hurling teams last summer, began the game at midfield yet was quickly withdrawn to centre-back to bed down the St Flannan’s challenge. He produced a marvellous defensive performance as he repelled several St Colman’s attacks and also weighed in with eight points from placed balls over the hour.
Allied to the vital contributions of Shane Kelleher, Jack Browne, Gearóid Ryan and Martin O’Leary, St Flannan’s came back into contention before half-time. Kelly hit four points while Cian Moloney and Peter Duggan grabbed one piece as St Flannan’s chipped away at St Colman’s advantage. Daniel Mangan rifled over two frees to give St Colman’s some breathing space and enable them to lead 1-7 to 0-6 at the interval.
The second half was a hard-fought affair as St Flannan’s, now backed by the elements, strove to peg St Colman’s back while the Fermoy school, powered by the Castlelyons defensive spine of Colm Barry and Colm Spillane, sought to protect their advantage. St Flannan’s were indebted to a sparkling save by Eibhear Quilligan when he tipped a McNamara drive over the bar in the 33rd minute and gradually they started to get on top, with the positioning of Peter Duggan at centre-forward paying a rich dividend as his impact grew.
St Flannan’s, who had to line out without Clare minor attacker Shane O’Donnell through injury, crept into the lead for the first time in the 49th minute through Conor Cleary but this was quickly cancelled out by Bransfield. Yet the Clare side finished stronger with 1-2 without reply in the last eight minutes to clinch victory.
Scorers for St Flannan’s: T Kelly 0-8 (0-7f, 0-1 65), J Barry 1-1, C Maloney, P Duggan, D Conroy, M McGuane (f), C Cleary 0-1 each.
St Colman’s: N McNamara 1-1, D Mangan 0-4 (all f), R Bransfield 0-2, K O’Neill, A Spillane 0-1 each.
ST FLANNAN’S: E Quilligan (Feakle); S Kelleher (Newmarket-on-Fergus), J Browne (Ballyea), D Clancy (St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield); G Ryan (Clarecastle), C Cleary (Kilmaley), A McGuane (Kilmaley); M O’Leary (Ballyea), T Kelly (Ballyea); C Moloney (Kilmaley), M McGuane (Clarecastle), S Ward (Clarecastle); B Duggan (Clarecastle), P Duggan (Clooney-Quin), D Conroy (St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield).
Subs: J Barry (Clarecastle) for O’Leary (inj) (h-t), D Reidy (Éire Óg) for M McGuane (41).
ST COLMAN’S: E Barry (Castlelyons); P Blackburne (Glanworth), C Barry (Castlelyons), M Brennan (Fermoy); P Roche (St Catherine’s), C Spillane (Castlelyons), M Mulcahy (St Catherine’s); T Condon (Glanworth), R Bransfield (Castlelyons); P de Róiste (Fermoy), K O’Neill (Watergrasshill), D Mangan (St Catherine’s); N McNamara (Kilworth), M Wade (Kilworth), A Spillane (Castlelyons).
Subs: A Fenton (Castlelyons) for de Róiste (38).
Referee: S Hourigan (Limerick).