Cratloe. Indefatigable Cratloe, whether it’s with the big ball or small, they just keep rolling along from week to week and match to match in pursuit of county senior titles.
Hurling semi-final one Sunday, football the next — the first box being ticked as they cruised past Crusheen with 15 points to spare to reach a sixth county final in a decade to tee up a local derby final against Sixmilebridge.
A blistering second-half display that yielded a remarkable 3-16 blew Crusheen away, with the hardy annuals from south east Clare serving up a vintage as special as anything they’ve produced since their championship breakthrough year of 2009.
All-Ireland winners Conor McGrath, Liam Markham, Podge Collins and Cathal McInerney ran amok, but it was 20-year-old Rian Considine that stole the show with 2-3 that left Crusheen reeling and beaten long before the end.
Considine struck for a goal inside 15 seconds of the restart after latching onto a McGrath delivery to put Cratloe back on terms after they’d trailed by 0-10 to 0-7 at the interval, while his second in the 34th minute after a sweeping move involving Diarmuid Ryan and Cathal McInerney put the two-time champions in front and on their way.
This Cratloe sparkle had been there in the first half when they raced into a 0-5 to 0-1 lead after just six minutes, with Conor McGrath, Shane Gleeson, Cathal McInerney and a Billy Connors brace bookending an impressive start.
However, it was as good as it got for them in that first 30 minutes as a resurgent Crusheen responded with eight unanswered points between the seventh and 21st minutes as they carved out a fully deserved interval lead.
The old hands of former Clare captains Cian Dillon and Patrick Vaughan were the steadying influences, with the latter contributing 0-3 from play while Ross Hayes, Eanna McMahon and Breffni Horner also found the range as Crusheen gained a foothold and kicked on to lead by three at the break.
Cratloe were fire-fighting and needed late points from Gleeson and Diarmuid Ryan to stay in touch, but the manner in which normal service was resumed in the opening minutes of the second half, when they turned to play with the breeze, showcased Cratloe’s star-quality.
The swagger was there, but also the innate team-work and understanding that pulverised a crestfallen Crusheen, restricting them to just two points in the first 25 minutes, while tacking on scores of their own at will.
Crusheen did manage a couple of goals before the end through Mark Perrill and Ross Hayes, but they were no consolations against a Cratloe side whose thoughts had by then turned to other things.
“All we can do is what’s in front of us,” said Cratloe manager Alan Neville, “and that’s Kilmurry Ibrickane in the senior football semi-final and once that’s over we’ll look forward to the final. We have lots to work on. We haven’t put a 60 minutes together and that’s a concern for us,” he added.
R Considine (2-3), B Connors (0-6, 1f), S Gleeson (0-4, 3f), C McInerney (1-1), C McGrath (0-3), P Collins (0-3), D Ryan (0-2), S Collins (0-1), L Markham (0-1).
R Hayes (1-5, 1-3f, 1 ’65), P Vaughan (0-3), M Perrill (1-0), E McMahon (0-2), C O’Doherty (0-1), B Horner (0-1).
G Ryan; M Murphy, M Hawes, S O’Leary; D Browne, L Markham, S Gleeson; C McGrath (C), E Boyce; S Collins, R Considine, D Ryan; B Connors, C McInerney, P Collins.
S Chaplin for Boyce (30), D Collins for Gleeson (52), J McInerney for Connors (54), K Danaher for C McInerney (59), A Costigan for McGrath (60).
D Tuohy; G O’Brien, Cathal Dillon, J Brigdale; T Dean, Cian Dillon (C), C O’Doherty; R Hayes, J Fitzgibbon; E McMahon, F Kennedy, P Vaughan; C O’Donnell, C Mullins, B Horner.
L Hayes for O’Brien (43), M Perrill for Mullins, S Mhaoir for Vaughan, D O’Doherty for Kennedy (52).
Niall Malone (Éire Óg, Inis)