Sixmilebridge make some history and look to the future after retaining Clare SHC title

For the conquered the wait for a first title since 1937 goes on.
Sixmilebridge make some history and look to the future after retaining Clare SHC title

Sixmilebridge’s joint captains Shane Golden and goalkeeper Derek Fahy lift the trophy. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

Clare SHC final: Sixmilebridge 0-20 O'Callaghan's Mills 0-12

A two-in-a-row wouldn't count for much in some counties but it's something of a badge of honour in Clare hurling circles and one that Sixmilebridge can now wear for the first time since 1993 after an ultimately comfortable defeat of O'Callaghan's Mills.

Maybe more impressive is that this comes as a fifth success in the last eight years.

Near neighbours on the map, there was considerably more separating them in a final which went along predicted lines with an encouraging start and an impressive ten-minute period after the break the only spells when anything like an upset looked possible.

Crusheen were the last side to do a back-to-back in this neck of the woods and, until this, the only club to manage it this century. The difficult in clearing a path for yourself in the Banner is all too apparent if you consider that eleven sides have claimed precedence since the year 2000.

There were other reasons for this one to stand out too. Newmarket-On-Fergus still stand eight clear atop the roll of honour but the Bridge have now claimed the Canon Hamilton Cup, introduced in 1957, more times than them or anyone else.

Another bit of history for an entity that didn't bother the podium at all until 1977 when, as manager Tim Crowe reminisced after the game, they trained down the bog field with three sliotars and a bottle of poteen to keep them going.

Fifteen titles later and they sound like things are only finding gear.

A state-of-the-art indoor training centre replete with a 150m sprint track is to be completed in the coming months and the excitement in Crowe's voice was unmistakable as he spoke of how a concentration on pace could revolutionise the game itself.

Brace for a generation of Seadna Moreys down the line. Bursting down it, in fact.

The wing-back was superb in this one, scoring one point and having another nixed when the referee brought play back too soon for a foul. That ability to knock scores from all angles and distances broke the back of the Mills challenge.

Cathal Malone and Brian Corry did the most damage from play with seven points between them but they were well supported by Jamie Shanahan and Alan Mulready in that regard while Alex Morey sent over a steady trickle of dead balls.

The result was another strong dose of pain for the opposition on the scoreboard and yet a championship won without the winners scoring a single goal along the way. That's an extraordinary fact but not one that bothers them a bit.

“That was probably the thing a lot of the neutrals were talking about but we put 20 points on the board today and something like 22 the last day so we like scoring points,” said Shane Golden. “Most of our lads from half-back up from shoot scores as well so we make the most of that.

Conor Henry of O'Callaghan's Mills in action against Seadhna Morey of Sixmilebridge. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Conor Henry of O'Callaghan's Mills in action against Seadhna Morey of Sixmilebridge. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

“It wasn't for want of trying, we tried scoring goals. You're also coming up against opposition that want to close it down. Mills set back lads right in front of goals.

“Their number one thing is to not concede, and a lot of teams are doing that, which gives that bit more space out in midfield and at half-forward that you have to take advantage of.” It was a policy that served them well in a first-half that finished with the holders up by thirteen points to seven but Mills enjoyed their best spell on the restart, cutting the deficit to three but losing momentum with a pair of bad wides from frees and other spoiled attacks.

The road from there to the finish was a pleasant enough cruise for the Bridge who withstood the increasingly desperate attempts to reignite the game with a goal. History made. And in more ways than one.

For the vanquished, a wait stretching back to 1937 goes on.

The game at a glance...

Key Moment:

O'Callaghan's Mills were six points down at the break but started the second-half brilliantly. Cutting the gap down to three should have been a positive but it was countered by the failure to convert two easy frees and a handful of other ineffective attacks.

A trio of points from their opponents would make them pay for that and leave them with too much to do and too little time in which to see to it. There were a handful of moments throughout when a glimpse at a goal opportunity passed them by too.

Talking Point:

Few county championships can match the Clare senior hurling ranks for competitiveness and there was a sense afterwards that the achievements this last decade of this Sixmilebridge side are not being given full appreciation.

“This is our fifth title in eight years, and they still get no credit,” said manager Tim Crowe. “This is probably the greatest Bridge team ever because they have won five titles in eight years. The best they ever done was three titles in 10 years before.”

Key Man:

Plenty of contenders from the Bridge ranks here. Cathal Malone scored more from play than any man, including the first riposte to the second-half storm being whipped up by Mills, but Seadhna Morey maybe pips him for sheer workrate on both sides of the ball alone.

Ref Watch:

A touch pedantic at times but Rory McGann did a good job on keeping the lid on any bubbling tensions, not least early on when he had to have separate words with Mills manager Donch O'Donnell and Davy Fitzgerald on the opposite side of the halfway line.

What's Next?

Nothing as long as the Munster Council and Croke Park stick to their guns. The provincial and All-Ireland championships have long been scratched from the calendar thanks to Covid and the pressures on the fixtures schedules but Tim Crowe joined the chorus for a rethink on Sunday.

Scorers for O'Callaghan's Mills:

C Crehan (0-4, 0-3 frees); G Cooney (0-3); S Cotter and A Fawl (both 0-2); J Loughnane (0-1 free), S Golden (0-1).

Scorers for Sixmilebridge: A Morey (0-6 frees); C Malone (0-4); B Corry (0-3); J Shanahan and A Mulready (0-2); S Morey, S Golden and C Deasy (all 0-1).

O'Callaghan's Mills: K Nugent; M Cotter, Conor Cooney, G Cooney; P Donnellan, A O'Gorman, N Donovan; Ciaran Cooney, C Henry; A Fawl, B Donnellan, J Loughnane; G Cooney, S Cotter, C Crehan.

Subs: S O'Gorman for Donovan (50); C Murphy for B Donnellan (23); M McGrath for Ciaran Cooney (56).

Sixmilebridge: D Fahy; B Carey, B Fitzpatrick, N Purcell; S Morey, C Morey, P Mulready; J Shanahan, P Fitzpatrick; C Malone, S Golden, J Loughnane; B Corry, A Morey, A Mulready.

Subs: C Deasy for Loughnane (50); R Shanahan for A Mulready (59).

Referee: R McGann (Newmarket on Fergus).

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