For 12 years they didn’t speak to one another but for the sake of their club Tim Crowe and Davy Fitzgerald yesterday combined forces to guide Sixmilebridge to their fourth Clare SHC title in seven years.
Cratloe had been playing champagne hurling on their way to this decider and 14 minutes in it appeared the corks would be popping south of the O’Garney river when Sixmilebridge found themselves four points in arrears.
However, they outscored their neighbours by 10 points in what followed as proven men like Conor McGrath and Podge Collins found themselves thwarted time after time. Diarmuid Ryan flew the flag for Cratloe but what they encountered was a tactical dismantling.
A magnanimous Crowe heaped praise on his coach, whom he had fallen out with when Crowe was a selector with Tony Considine in 2007.
“I think it’s down to Davy. Tactically, he devised a plan that would beat Cratloe. We were here two weeks ago in the semi-final and after 20 minutes he said, ‘I’ve made up my mind!’
So he put together this plan. We met last (Saturday) night and we went through it and I left that changing room very content. You saw today the fruition of his superb coaching and tactical nuances in hurling.
Fitzgerald admitted plenty of graft had to be done to implement it, work which involved him taking some time out from his wedding to Sharon O’Loughlin last Friday week. “I honestly think Cratloe are phenomenal. We had a lot of work to do in the last two weeks, I can promise you that. We went into a lot of detail about them and how we were going to go at them, and thankfully today things worked.
“If you look at how many goals we conceded in the championship — five games and one goal and I think we scored nine. I think you can see we were pretty consistent all year and they are a great bunch of boys. They were written off maybe at the start of the year and it’s just nice to get there.”
How Barry Fitzpatrick tagged Podge Collins worked wonders and the defender ended up outscoring his marker. “Barry did really well today, Podge is a great player and I’m delighted Barry stuck to the task and he did well,” said Fitzgerald.
Given how sluggishly they started, Sixmilebridge would have been thrilled to lead by two points at the interval, 0-11 to 0-9. Hitting Cratloe with five unanswered points and Cathal Malone providing two of them, they were level by the 18th minute and went ahead three minutes later, an advantage they never surrendered.
As a crowd of 6,330 watched on in Cusack Park, their perseverance shone through. Seadna Morey and Shane Golden began to get the upper hand in the middle and their running had Cratloe spinning on their heels. Alex Morey was also flawless from placed balls.
McGrath did draw a top-drawer save from Derek Fahy in the 27th minute but by the time Cratloe had ended a 10-minute spell without a score it was to cut Sixmilebridge’s lead to two.
Two Shane Gleeson points had Cratloe back on level terms four minutes into the second half but they were soon cancelled out by Conor Deasy and Barry Fitzpatrick points. As Alex Morey punished a rash foul on Brian Corry in the 40th minute to put the ‘Bridge three up, there was already a sense they were beginning to turn the screw.
Five minutes later and they were five up via Jamie Shanahan and Corry both adding their second scores of the game. Twice Cratloe cut the deficit to four points and they had sniffs of goal towards the end, Ryan fizzing a shot just wide and Fahy having to be dexterous to stop a flick beating him in additional time.
But Malone scores, one either side of Deasy’s second, gave Sixmilebridge the cushion to enjoy those closing minutes and it was fitting that 43-year-old veteran Niall Gilligan, so instrumental in previous Sixmilebridge successes, was afforded the final couple of minutes to savour a seventh senior county medal.
As far as letting bygones be bygones go, this was as good as it gets for Crowe and Fitzgerald.
Yeah, me and Tim had our differences in the past but they couldn’t get anyone to take the job at the start of the year.
“A lot of people turned it down and the chairman (and selector Paddy Meehan) came and asked me would I work with Tim Crowe. It didn’t take me two seconds and I said I would, and he was asked the same thing and from day one the way we’ve been with one another. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done is come back involved with Tim. It was the right thing to do, and I’m so proud to be involved.”
Crowe wasn’t going to disagree: “It should have been done years ago. It’s a lesson to all clubs that have personality clashes. Your own ego doesn’t really matter. It was just maybe to have the leadership of the chairman who put it together and saw maybe what we could do for our club. And today you saw the fruition of it.
“We should never fall out over hurling. It’s just too childish. But sometimes you get sucked into something that you imagine is bigger than it is.”
Yesterday peace and victory rhymed.
A Morey (0-8, 7 frees); C Malone (0-4); J Shanahan, B Corry, C Deasy (0-2 each); J Loughnane, S Golden, B Fitzpatrick (0-1 each).
S Gleeson (0-5, 3 frees); D Ryan (0-3); R Considine, C McInerney (0-2 each); C McGrath, E Boyce, B Connors (free) (0-1 each).
D Fahy; B Carey, N Purcell (j-c); C Morey; P Mulready, P Fitzpatrick, B Fitzpatrick; S Golden, E McInerney, S Morey (j-c); J Loughnane, J Shanahan; B Corry, C Malone, A Morey.
C Deasy for J Loughnane (h-t); A Mulready for B Corry (60); K Lynch for A Morey (60+1); N Gilligan for J. Shanahan, C Lynch for E McInerney (both 60+3).
G Ryan; O Murphy, M Hawes, S O’Leary; D Ryan. D Browne; L Markham; C McGrath (c), E Boyce, S Gleeson; P Collins, B Connors, S Collins; C McInerney, R Considine.
S Chaplin for B Connors (h-t); D Collins for S Collins (39); J McInerney for C McGrath (52);
N. Malone (Éire Óg)