Ballyea 2-14 Clonlara 2-11: Ballyea made history at Cusack Park, Ennis yesterday, winning a first ever Clare SHC title in a replay against Clonlara. Just as in the drawn game, this tie hung in the balance right up to the end, but late scores by Niall Deasy, Damien Burke and Tony Kelly ensured the Cup found a new home.
Clonlara were crestfallen at the end, having also lost last year’s decider to Sixmilebridge.
They fought gallantly throughout but had ground to make up after they were left reeling by Ballyea’s whirlwind start.
The winners were 1-4 to 0-1 up by the 11th minute, exhibiting a determination and hunger not seen by either side during the drawn encounter.
A jubilant Ballyea manager Robbie Hogan paid tribute to his players: “We’ve shown great character. We’ve leaders all over the field – the likes of Gary Brennan and Niall Deasy, they’ve led us throughout.
Two weeks ago we had one hand on the cup, today we’ve two hands on it,” he quipped.
From the off, Ballyea went about business. Points by Gary Brennan and Pat Joe Connolly settled early nerves before Nicky O’Connell opened Clonlara’s account with a pointed free. Brennan and Tony Kelly added scores before All Star football nominee Brennan, who began on the edge of the square, finished to the net following a mistake by goalkeeper Ger O’Connell. O’Connell earlier had saved a certain goal from a Martin O’Leary shot but on this occasion could only look on.
Clonlara had scores by Cathal O’Connell, John Conlon and Micheál O’Loughlin to keep them in touch. But then Ballyea struck for another goal in the 16th minute, this time by man-of-the-match Niall Deasy. Connolly provided the pass and the big forward ran at the defence before dispatching to the Clon net, making it 2-4 to 0-4.
By half-time, the men from South East Clare had clawed it back to a three-point game, with Ballyea 2-5 to 0-8 up at the whistle.
The winners kept their noses in front early in the second period but were put to the test when John Conlon goaled for Clonlara on 41 to draw the sides level (2-9 to 1-12). The sides were level on two further occasions but Ballyea were never lead and those three late scores swung it.
After the game, Ballyea’s biggest name and former Hurler and Young Hurler of the Year Tony Kelly said: “This is definitely up there with the All-Ireland win with Clare in 2013, if not higher. It’s just unbelievable to win with the lads you grew with.”
Scorers for Ballyea:
N Deasy (1-3, 1 free); G Brennan (1-2); T Kelly (0-4, 1 free, 1 ’65); PJ Connolly, J Neylon, J Browne, B Carrigg, D Burke (0-1 each)
Scorers for Clonlara:
C O’Connell (0-8, 7 frees); J Conlon (1-1); C Galvin (0-2); N O’Connell (f), D Honan, M O’Loughlin (0-1 each)
K Sheehan, B Carrigg, J Browne, J Neylon, P Flanagan, G O’Connell, J Murphy, T Kelly, S Lineen (Capt.), N Deasy, PJ Connolly, C Doohan, M O’Leary, G Brennan, P Lillis.
Subs, D Burke for O’Leary (45), D Egan for Connolly (53).
G O’Connell, C Fennessy, D O’Donovan, G Kennedy, C O’Donovan, N O’Connell, N Ryan, C Galvin, O O’Brien, M O’Loughlin, D Honan, J Hastings, G Powell, J Conlon (Capt.), C O’Connell.
Subs, S O’Brien for Ryan (25), P O’Hare for C O’Donovan (39), P O’Loughlin for O’Hare (58), D Fitzgerald for Galvin inj. (60).
D Fox (Clooney-Quin)
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