A point by Clonlara’s Cathal “Tots” O’Connell in the fifth minute of injury time broke Ballyea hearts and sent this tie to a replay, at the same venue on Saturday week.
Clonlara had their noses in front for most of this game but when Ballyea Martin O’Leary substitute goaled with seven minutes remaining, the pendulum swung in his side’s favour.
Moments later, talisman Tony Kelly gave them the lead from a ’65, and their supporters in the 5,035 crowd began to believe that a first title was within their grasp. In a tense finish, Kelly and O’Connell exchanged points before O’Connell grabbed another to force the draw.
After the game Ballyea manager Robbie Hogan tried his best to sum up his feelings: “It’s a mixture of emotions really. We thought we had it but that’s the nature of the game.
“You have to play it right to the end and fair play to Clonlara, they chipped over with a great score to finish. Jack Browne [Ballyea full-back] said it all in a nutshell in the dressing room now. He said what’s worse than having to play one county final or going out having to play another one. We hadn’t been in one in thirteen years and now we’ll be playing two.”
Clonlara’s full-forward John Conlan also spoke after the game: “We went four points up and then missed two or three and should have brought it out to six or seven. Look, you don’t let a team like them in and then they got the goal and once the goal went in against a team who going for a first title and their tails are up, it took something and fair play Tots to get us out of gaol.”
Conlon’s team boss Damien Power remarked, “I’m around long enough to know that it’s not over until it’s over,” in reply to a question about Clonlara’s second half dominance.
“To be fair they got the goal and came back into the game, Kelly got a few scores and the long range free was a super score.”
Conlon opened the scoring with a point before Ballyea replied, hitting three Tony Kelly frees by the mid-point of the half. Kelly, who was being man-marked by Clonlara’s Oisin O’Brien found it hard to create space for open scores but his free taking kept Ballyea in it.
Ballyea’s Cathal Doohan and a long ranged free by Clon’s Nickey O’Connell left it 0-4 to 0-2 in Ballyea’s favour by the 19th minute.
With the sides on 0-5 apiece going into the injury-time at the end of the half, Clonlara struck for a goal. Ballyea centre-back Paul Flanagan was blocked down by Oisin O’Brien who flicked to Colm Galvin and the inter-county star fired to the net, to leave a three points between them at the break (1-5 to 0-5).
Kelly pointed for Ballyea immediately after the interval, but three subsequent wides in a row, let their opponents off the hook.
A five point gap opened up by the fortieth (1-8 to 0-6), as the club chasing a first title since 2008, began to exert dominance. But a defiant Ballyea dug in and were rewarded by a Martin O’Leary goal in the 53rd minute.
The footballer cum hurler, split the defence with a fine run from the right and planted the sliothar in the bottom right corner, to level matters. Kelly’s on target ’65 minutes later put Ballyea in front and gave them a scent for victory.
In a tense finish the game was up for grabs, Cathal O’Connell pointed from the right touchline at the end of normal time before Kelly pointed, after being gifted a poor clearance by a Clonlara defender.
It seemed that it might possibly be the winner but O’Connell, had other ideas and both side will now have to do it all again.
T Kelly (0-9) 4 f’s, 1’65, M O’Leary (1-1), C Doohan (0-1).
C Galvin (1-1), C O’Connell (0-5) 3 f’s, J Conlon (0-2), D Honan (0-2), J Hastings (0-1).
K Sheehan , J Murphy, J Browne, B Carrigg, J Neylon, P Flanagan, G O’Connell, T Kelly, S Lineen (Capt.), N Deasy, G Brennan, C Doohan, PJ Connolly, E Donnellan, P Lillis.
M O’Leary for Neylon (half-time), D Burke for Connolly (38), D Egan for Donnellan (69).
G O’Connell, C Fennessy, D O’Donovan, P McNamara, C O’Donovan, N O’Connell, N Ryan, O O’Brien, J Hastings, D Honan, C Galvin, P O’Loughlin, J Conlon, M O’Loughlin, C O’Connell.
M White for P O’Loughlin (44), D Fitzgerald for M O’Loughlin (58), G Kennedy for Ryan (69).