In a tight and tense semi-final at Cusack Park yesterday, Cratloe reached the Clare SHC decider with a point to spare over Kilmaley.
Played in blustery conditions, both side squandered scoring chances, with the wides count deadlocked at 19 apiece. Cratloe hit 12 in the opening half and seven in the second while Kilmaley missed nine in the first period and ten after the break.
The turning point came in the 40th minute when corner-forward Rian Considine drilled to the Kilmaley net, to put his side five points up (1-11 to 0-9.)
After the game Cratloe manager Alan Neville referred to the club’s attempt to repeat the 2014 successes by winning the hurling and football double, when he said: “We were under no illusions coming here as to what Kilmaley would bring. We had only seven days to prepare so our lads prepared as well as they could and fought to the bitter end.
We are delighted with the performance and getting to the final.
Cratloe led throughout the game and Neville, an All-Ireland medalist in 1995, spoke of the difficulties endured because of the swirling wind: “Considering the elements, it was important to get ahead. People might say at half-time that we weren’t far enough ahead but having a lead and having a lead under the circumstances today, fellows are going to have wides.
“You are shooting under pressure. You are not going to get the opportunity to shoot with nobody around you, so both sides had a number of wides and Kilmaley will look back, especially in the first half, and regret the wides they had.”
Playing with the wind at their backs, Cratloe opened the scoring with a Podge Collins point after three minutes of play. Collins began at left corner-forward but played a more roving game as the game progressed.
Michael O’Malley had Kilmaley’s opener on five before Collins’ brother, Sean, fired Cratloe in front again with a good score from the left sideline.
They failed to capitalise on good possession after that and shot four wides on the trot before captain Conor McGrath found the target in the 10th minute after some good support play by Sean Collins.
Midway through the half, Kilmaley corner-forward Daire Keane fired over a fine point to put the minimum between them, 0-5 to 0-4.
Four minutes before the break, Cratloe’s McGrath split the Kilmaley defence and sent a rocket of a shot towards goalkeeper Brian O’Loughlin. O’Loughlin was brave and knocked it out for a ’65, which Billy Connors converted. Shane Gleeson added another, from a free on his own ’65m line, and Cratloe went in 0-9 to 0-5 ahead, at the whistle.
A third Collins brother, David, made it 0-10 to 0-5 just seconds after the restart but Kilmaley kept in the hunt with early points by Sean O’Loughlin and Cian Moloney. Cratloe’s Cathal McInerney made a great run off the right wing and hand-passed to David Collins. Collins found the unmarked Considine on the edge of the square and the youngster made no mistake from close range.
Kilmaley rallied with points by Moloney and Michael O’Neill and were just two adrift as the game entered injury time. O’Malley grabbed a late point but the elusive equaliser, despite chances, never materialised.
: R Considine (1-4), C McGrath (0-2), C McInerney (0-2), S Collins (0-2), D Collins, P Collins, B Connors ’65, S Gleeson f, (0-1) each.
: M O’Malley (0-4), S O’Loughlin (0-3), C Moloney (0-3) 1 f, 1 ’65, D Keane (0-2), M O’Neill (0-2), T O’Rourke (0-1), e Bracken (0-1).
: G Ryan, S O’Leary, M Murphy, M Hawes, S Gleeson, L Markham, D Ryan, E Boyce, C McGrath (Capt.), D Collins, S Collins, B Connors, R Considine, C McInerney, P Collins.
, S Chaplin for Boyce (60).
: B O’Loughlin, E Enright, C McGuane (Capt.), B Higgins, A McGuane, C Cleary, K Kennedy, C Darcy, S Kennedy, S O’Loughlin, M O’Malley, T O’Rourke, D Keane, M O’Neill, C Moloney.
, E Bracken for O’Rourke (43), P McNamara for S Kennedy (48), A Kennedy for Moloney (52), J Clohessy for A McGuane (60).
: R McGann (Newmarket-on-Fergus)