AIB Munster Club SHC Q-Final – Cratloe 3-7 Ballygunner 1-10

Cratloe (Clare) defeated Ballygunner (Waterford) by 3-7 to 1-10 in the AIB Munster GAA Club Senior Hurling Championship Quarter-Final on Sunday October 26th at Walsh Park Waterford.

Cratloe make extra man count

By Michael Moynihan for the Irish Examiner newspaper

Ballygunner 1-10 Cratloe 3-7

Cratloe’s football prowess was a bonus rather than a burden yesterday in Walsh Park, helping them past Waterford champions Ballygunner in a Munster Club hurling championship game spoiled by a howling wind. The Clare side, football as well as hurling champions in the Banner County, were hanging on to a two-point lead with eight minutes left when Podge Collins’ effort held up in that strong breeze: Cathal McInerney fielded cleanly and made ground before booting home the decisive goal, Cratloe’s third.

Observers discussing the specific challenges of the club championship might have had yesterday in Walsh Park in mind. Strong winds and yielding turf ask specific questions, and as the visitors Cratloe probably had more answers to provide. They passed the first test well, electing to play with the wind and goaling twice in the first quarter.

Neither was a result of route-one use of the elements, however. On eight minutes Podge and Sean Collins combined to place Conor McGrath for a cool finish, and five minutes later David Collins soloed down the middle before passing to McGrath on his own inside the 14-metre line: goal.

It was then 2-2 to 0-1, and Cratloe were making light of their punishing dual schedule – they were first to the ball all over the field, and though some of that apparent sharpness had to be down to the considerable wind advantage, the electric running of Podge Collins was causing Ballygunner trouble. The Waterford side struggled to impose themselves physically and their cause wasn’t aided by Padraic Mahony’s loss of form on the frees.

At the break, though it was 2-4 to 0-2, Cratloe had six wides, and manager Joe McGrath knew their lead could have been more comfortable. “We’ve been doing that all year (starting with wind) so we said we wouldn’t break with the pattern. We had three or four chances in the first-half we didn’t convert, and a nine or ten point lead would have been huge. “We said at half-time we’d knuckle down and we might have rode our luck when it came down to two points, but when push came to shove we worked savagely hard. ”

They did. They needed to. Within 10 minutes of the resumption Ballygunner were just two behind – Mahony pointed two placed balls, Conor Power flicked home a goal, and when David and Brian O’Sullivan added more points, the red and black support was roaring.

However, the game changed significantly when Brian O’Sullivan picked up a second yellow and departed. For his manager, Fergal Hartley, that was the turning point: “I think it was, what it meant was they had an extra man at the back, sweeping up lots of ball and we didn’t have the same at the far end. That made it a bit more open at our end and they were able to get a few scores they mightn’t have got if we had had a man there. It was the difference. I didn’t see much in the foul, maybe someone will tell me different or maybe I’ll watch it later on and say, ‘yeah, there was something in it’. I didn’t see his first yellow either, but that’s not to take away from Cratloe. “They’re a superb team and their character, in terms of what they’ve won this year and then to come out and play like that, that determination, it’s absolutely amazing and tells you a huge amount about their club.”

Having the extra man certainly helped Cratloe, but it didn’t win the game for them. Conor McGrath was an excellent outlet up front, winning the ball and carrying it well, while Sean Collins got through huge work in his own half-back line. The Claremen were well worth their win, though their manager was honest about their performance after the game, saying it could have been “curtains” had Ballygunner nosed ahead in the second-half.

Still, McGrath was entitled to celebrate: “We came down here in 2009 and didn’t win, so we had a bit of an agenda. To come down to Walsh Park and beat a team like Ballygunner – we had our backs to the wall in the last 15 minutes and we finished the stronger team. “We held the ball great and found the man outside. Obviously when they lost a man it made it that bit easier, but it takes composure and experience to play that game. Whether it’s the football I don’t know, but they know they can hold onto the ball.” See? A bonus, not a burden.

Scorers for Ballygunner: P. Mahony 0-5 (0-4 fs, 0-1 65); C. Power 1-0; D. O’Sullivan and JJ Hutchinson 0-2 each; B. O’Sullivan 0-1.

Scorers for Cratloe: C. McGrath 2-4 (0-3 fs); C. McInerney 1-0; E. Boyce, G. Considine, D. Collins 0-1 each.

BALLYGUNNER: S. O’Keeffe, B. Coughlan, Philip Mahony (jc), A. Kirwan, D. O’Sullivan, W. Hutchinson, S. Walsh, H. Barnes (jc), S. O’Sullivan, JJ Hutchinson, Padraic Mahony, B. O’Sullivan, C. Power, Brian O’Sullivan, P. Hogan.
Subs: S. Power for Hogan, 29; I. Kenny for Coughlan, HT; B. Coughlan for W. Hutchinson, D. Walsh for C. Power, both 52 .

CRATLOE: G. Ryan, S. O’Leary, M. Hawes, D. Ryan, E. Boyce, C. Ryhan, S. Chaplin, D. Collins, L. Markham (c), S. Gleeson, P. Collins, S. Collins, G. Considine, C. McInerney, C. McGrath.
Subs: D. Browne for Gleeson, 44; A. McNamara for Considine, 61.

Ref. D. Kirwan (Cork).