Lack of experience on the part of Cork champions Carrigtwohill, who were blown away in a 10-minute blitz at the start of the second half, experience on the part of Clare kingpins Crusheen, who had suffered just that fate themselves last year in their first foray into the provincial championship.
“It was like that for us last year,” reflected Crusheen manager Michael Browne. “We kind of lost concentration for a few minutes at the beginning of the second half (conceded 2-4 in five minutes against Kilmallock) and we got creeled. We were so determined (this year), and not just the management, but the lads themselves were just so focused on that at half-time, that they were not going to let that happen them again.”
At the end of a fairly even first half, Carrigtwohill led by two points (0-8 to 0-6), but given that the home side had played with the aid of a stiff breeze, it wasn’t much of a cushion. On a mild afternoon, slippery underfoot in places but largely good conditions, Carrig had created the greater number of chances but over-elaboration in attack cost them on several occasions (a failing that continued into the second half) and this, combined with a fine save by Crusheen keeper Donal Touhy from wing-forward Stephen Dineen in the 26th minute, kept the margin down.
“There was quite a strong breeze there and to end up only two points behind wasn’t bad,” said Browne; “Having said that, if Carrigtwohill had taken all their chances it might have been different. But, at two points down we were actually praising our team for the real hard effort they had put in, in the first half.”
After the break, and with those bitter memories of last year driving them on, it was Crusheen taking charge and Carrigtwohill had no answer. Three points in four minutes, one each from Gearoid O’Donnell, free-taker Pat Vaughan and Patrick Meaney, was interrupted briefly with a point from Carrigtwohill’s Michael Fitzgerald (dangerous throughout), but that was all it was, brief interruption. Another three unanswered points in four minutes, then four more on the trot, and with only 12 minutes left on the clock, the game was out of sight for Carrig, 0-16 to 0-9 behind.
They kept fighting, and had a chance in the 42nd minute but Touhy had again come to Crusheen’s rescue, a close-range save from Fitzgerald, and full-back Cronan Dillon saved likewise from midfielder David O’Mahony in the 57th minute. Carrigtwohill did finally manage a goal, in the 60th minute, a combination from two of their best attackers, county star Niall McCarthy (three fine points in the hour) lobbing to Fitzgerald who finished with authority. Too little, however, and of course too late.
A good game overall, fine defence from both sides. The Carrig inside line was magnificent, Crusheen never even getting a sniff of Liam McCarthy’s goal, centre-back Noel Furlong also starring, but the Cian Dillon-led Crusheen defence was absolutely suffocating. And yet we also witnessed some outstanding points, McCarthy and Fitzgerald individually for Carrig, a succession of superb team points by Crusheen, former Clare star David Forde pulling the strings.
“A good, hard, tough game,” reckoned Browne. “Obviously the opposition was very strong and we were concerned about what they’d do in the second half, but our backs were tremendous. I was a small bit critical of them at half-time, but there’s no criticism of them now.”
Scorers for Crusheen: P Vaughan 0-6 (0-5f, 1 ‘65’); P Meaney 0-3; D Forde 0-3; J Fitzgibbon 0-3; F Kennedy, G O’Grady, G O’Donnell, A Brigdale, 0-1 each.
Carrigtwohill: M Fitzgerald 1-3 (0-2f); N McCarthy 0-3; S Dineen, T Hogan, B Lordan, L O’Sullivan, 0-1 each.
CARRIGTWOHILL: L McCarthy; P O’Sullivan, R Power, M Foley; C O’Connell, N Furlong, M O’Riordan; D O’Mahony, L O’Sullivan; S Dineen; T Hogan, N McCarthy; B Lordan (c), R White, M Fitzgerald. Subs: A Gosnell (Foley 39); S O’Farrell (Hogan 44); S Kidney (Lordan 57).
CRUSHEEN: D Touhy; J Brigdale, Cronan Dillon, A Brigdale; C O’Doherty, Cian Dillon, Cathal Dillon; P Vaughan, J Meaney, G O’Donnell, J Fitzgibbon, D Forde; P Meaney, G O’Grady (c), F Kennedy. Subs: C O’Donnell (Kennedy 46); T Meaney (Forde 60).
Referee: J Ryan (Tipperary).