Newcestown (Cork) 0-14 Clonakenny (Tipperary) 0-13: Victory for Cork side Newcestown in this dogged Munster Club IHC semi-final yesterday in sodden Cloughduv, but they were made to fight all the way by a strong Clonakenny outfit from north Tipperary.
The margin was just a point at the end, with Clonakenny storming the citadel for an equaliser, but Newcestown ’keeper Darren Heffernan calmly cleared the Tipp men’s last attack to see his side through to the Munster final.
In truth, Newcestown had a touch more quality than their opponents, as revealed by their ability to take long-range points as the clock wound down; by contrast, Clonakenny were left to rue a run of four wides late in the first half when, wind-aided, they might have built a significant lead.
As it was, both sides were forced to make do without key players: Michael Byrne of Clonakenny emigrated after their county final victory, while Carthach Keane of Newcestown barely lasted five minutes before an injury carried into the game forced him off.
Those early stages were spent coming to terms with the underfoot conditions. Cloughduv passed a pitch inspection before the game threw in but the going was very soft, and all through the game, players were splashing through heavy puddles in certain areas of the field.
Early on, both sides swapped scores as they felt each other out. Referee Declan O’Driscoll flashed three yellow cards to calm matters but while it was never a dirty game, rucks and mauls developed because players struggled to control the ball, and the continuity of the game wasn’t helped when there was a significant hold-up after 12 minutes as Clonakenny midfielder Conor Ryan suffered a serious hand injury.
Ryan was treated for several minutes on the field before being replaced, and this incident clearly unsettled the Tipperary men. Newcestown took the initiative with a run of three points, from Keane’s replacement Trevor Horgan and a good brace from full-forward Eoin Kelly.
That put Newcestown two up, 0-5 to 0-3, and though Clonakenny’s JJ Ryan pointed a free to cut the deficit, they had those four punishing wides as the clock ticked towards half-time. Newcestown were mixing a close-passing game with the direct approach, and midfielder Jack Meade blasted over a long-range point late in the half, only for JJ Ryan to respond with another free: 0-6 to 0-5 at the break.
Playing with the breeze in the second half, the west Cork men took control early on with three fine points, the influential Daniel Twomey hitting the first, and Meade and Horgan chipping in after him.
Credit Clonakenny, however, who never left their opponents put real daylight between them. Another JJ Ryan free and a long-range point from impressive centre-back Wilie Ryan kept them in touch. When Horgan and Meade - a cracking point, from right out on the whitewash - stretched Newcestown’s tally to 0-12, bustling William Moloughney of Clonakenny hit back with a brace of his own.
A fine Eoin Kelly point pushed Newcestown three ahead going into the final quarter, and still Clonakenny wouldn’t die: two JJ Ryan frees and a Michael John Carroll point were answered by another Twomey point and a fine effort from distance by wing-back Conor O’Neill. Two points in it and five minutes left.
Clonakenny came knocking on the door in those closing stages, and Newcestown supporters paled at a couple of the chances they carved out - a close-in free late on might have been an opportunity for JJ Ryan to go for glory, but he put the ball over the bar, and Clonakenny attacked once more from the puck-out, hunting the point that would bring them to extra-time.
Give them their due, they won possession and created a half-chance, but the ball that eventually came looping into Heffernan was meat and drink to a confident ‘keeper, and he blasted the sliotar downfield.
A good win for Newcestown, then, and one that should give them heart for their Munster final assignment.
Scorers for Newcestown:
E. Kelly (0-4, 1 free); D. Twomey (1 free), T. Horgan, J. Meade (0-3 each); C. O’Neill (0-1).
Scorers for Clonakenny:
JJ Ryan (0-6, frees); W. Ryan (1 free), W. Moloughney (0-3 each); M.J. Carroll (0-1).
D. Heffernan, G. Murphy, J. Crowley ( c), M. McSweeney, F. Keane, J. Desmond, C. O’Neill, M. Bradfield, J. Meade, C. Twomey, C. Keane, L. Meade, D. Twomey, E. Kelly, S. O’Donovan.
T. Horgan for C. Keane (5); C. Dineen for O’Donovan (48); S. Ryan for Bradfield (55).
S. Russell, D. Greed, J. Costigan, M. Costigan, M. J. Carroll, W. Ryan, P. Ryan, C. Ryan, J.J. Ryan, P. Bergin, D. Crampton, W. Moloughney, D. Ryan, D. Murray, B. Bergin ( c).
G. Byrne for C. Ryan (12); W. Costigan for Byrne (40); L. Mullally for P. Bergin (48);
D. O’Driscoll (Limerick).
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