Sarsfields 2-10 Craughwell 0-14: And so the cycle of history goes on. It wouldn’t be a Sarsfields success in Galway without the Cooneys at the forefront.
They were the dominant force not just in Galway, but nationally, back in the 1990s when Joe Cooney and his brothers formed the backbone of a brilliant team which became the first to win successive All-Ireland club hurling titles.
Yesterday it was the sons of Joe and his wife Catherine who were the decisive figures as Sarsfields captured their seventh county title and first since 1997.
Joseph was the team captain, scored the opening goal through sheer brilliance, and went on to win the man of the match award. Younger brother Kevin, a minor this year, came off the bench to shoot the decisive two points in the closing minutes.
And the youngest of six children Tomás was the team mascot and will surely follow in the footsteps of those who have gone before him and line out in the white and green of a club which will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year.
That milestone alone will ensure Sarsfields will not be content to settle for a county title and already they are plotting an All-Ireland semi-final showdown with Cushendall next February.
“That is the next thing,” noted their 38-year old player-manager Cathal Murray. “It is not about celebrating this, we will celebrate it but we can go on further now if we want, and that is what we will be focusing on, taking the next step.”
He is as near as they have to the glory days when they were All-Ireland champions in 1993 and ’94. He won his first medal as a sub in 1995, missed their last success through injury in ’97, and yesterday delivered on the field when it mattered most.
“It’s a long time to be hanging around. Myself and Ronan Quinn have been here, I think he was there in ‘97. I’ve been here since ‘95.
“The two of us are good friends and we’ve always said there was a crop of players coming through. We thought if we held on long enough, these players would come through,” he said.
They came through yesterday in a replay which was much better than the drawn encounter two weeks ago.
The sides were tied three times in the opening half yesterday but while Craughwell recovered from the concession of one goal, they never got back to parity when Noel Kelly superbly connected with a long Niall Quinn free just before the break to score a second. It sent Sars in at interval 2-6 to 0-8 ahead.
Earlier Joseph Cooney had collected a pass from Kelly and used his strength to brush past challenges and then his style to neatly finish.
Craughwell, looking for a first title since 1931, managed to get the gap down to a point in the second half, largely through the free-taking of Niall Healy.
But young Kevin Cooney emerged and broke their hearts with two key scores just when it seemed that Craughwell, who have been building in recent years, looked set to force extra-time.
Their day may yet come and manager Stephen Glennon hopes this is just a bump along the way to finally adding their sixth Galway title and ending a famine for a club that traces its history to long before the GAA was founded.
“It’s heartbreaking. We put in a massive effort in the last three years. It has been building up to this. It’s a setback, that is the way we have to look at it. Hopefully next year the lads can regroup.
“They have a taste of it now coming back, but all credit to Sarsfields. They willed it over the line, that is what it takes sometimes, just to will it over the line. They did that, and that’s it.
“There was a lot on the line, it was a huge opportunity for both clubs. Unfortunately we just couldn’t make it count,” said the Roscommon native.
Sarsfields did make it count and another generation of Cooneys and other families are now up and running in New Inn and Bullaun.
Scorers for Sarsfields:
N Morrissey (0-6, 5 frees); J Cooney, N Kelly (1-0 each); K Cooney (0-2); K Wade, S Kelly (0-1 each)
Scorers for Craughwell:
N Healy (0-9, 8 frees); Jamie Ryan, A Callanan (0-2 each); F Healy (0-1)
C Dolan; K Hynes, D Skehill, E Cleary; C Murray, N Quinn, D Murray; R Quinn, I Fox; J Cooney, N Kelly, K Wade; I Skehill, A Ward, N Morrissey.
K Cooney for D Murray (20), S Kelly for N Kelly (35), I Kelly for Ward (57).
A Ryan; S Dolan, I Daniels, M Monaghan; John Ryan, A Cullinane, M Horan; N Callanan, G O’Halloran; F Healy, S Hynes, Jamie Ryan; T Monaghan, A Callanan, N Healy.
A Greaney for N Callanan (40), K Cullinane for Hynes (51).
Shane Hynes (Liam Mellows)
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