Clare Senior Hurling Championship Final – Crusheen 0-10 Sixmilebridge 0-4

Courageous Crusheen keep crown

Crusheen 0-10 Sixmilebridge 0-04

By Diarmuid O’Flynn for the Irish Examiner newspaper

Monday, October 24, 2011

IT won’t bother Crusheen today, their title retained, but the question has to be asked: should this Clare SHC final have been allowed go ahead? Conditions on the field in Cusack Park yesterday were dangerous with heavy rain falling all through the game on a pitch already water-logged. As the teams warmed up at either end the ground was already cutting up and during the game itself there was a whole series of rucks, the ball often buried in the mud, forcing referee Rory Hickey to repeatedly throw it in.

Certainly Sixmilebridge captain and full-forward Niall Gilligan, a veteran of many a game at this level, felt it should have been postponed. “I’ve never played a game in these conditions,” he stated. “I suppose it’s easy to say now, and it might sound like sour grapes, but I don’t think the game should have gone ahead. Clare was one of the first teams to get knocked out of the All-Ireland championship yet here we are only playing our county final now, the end of October, in these conditions. “Even at that the Munster club championship game is three weeks away – what difference would it have made to wait a week? The field was almost unplayable, turned the game into a lottery really. “Whoever managed to get a few points ahead was going to have a huge advantage. All they had to do was close up shop and it was going to be almost impossible to catch them. In fairness to Crusheen they did that very well.”

They did, but it took them until well into the second half to do so. After an evenly contested first half in which Crusheen were shot-perfect with Sixmilebridge hitting five wides but 0-4 to 0-3 up. Crusheen centre-forward Jamie Fitzgibbon had two points, wing-forward Gearoid O’Donnell and free-taker Patrick Vaughan with a point apiece, against two for Gilligan and one from Danny Morey for the Bridge. It was brutal stuff, however, and as stated by Gilligan, a lottery. With the rain pouring down, even Cian Dillon, Crusheen centre-back and man of the match, was questioning whether they should have kept on playing.

“Halfway through the first half I was joking with the ref, saying we might call it off to hell, but it cleared up a bit,” he said. “Conditions were bad, the ground was awful soft, but listen, we have to play what’s put in front of you and we did that today.”

But the game wasn’t called off. The second half resumed with the two teams on the pitch. Only one of those teams seemed fully tuned in, however. Gilligan had a chance within seconds of the restart, a powerful solo taking him to within about 10 yards of the goal, but his attempt at a short-stick placed shot ended with the ball stuck in the mud and Crusheen keeper Donal Touhy bravely smothered it. That, together with an earlier penalty which he opted to put over the bar, was about the only opportunity Sixmilebridge got from a mean Crusheen defence from there to the finish.

Six points in a row they scored, the hard-working Gearoid O’Donnell with two of those, corner-forward Paddy Meaney with two more, Patrick Vaughan and Fergus Kennedy completing the scoring. It wasn’t until the 30th minute of this half that the Bridge finally managed a score, Gilligan again, but on a day when the weather and the conditions destroyed the spectacle. Even on a good day, Sixmilebridge would have struggled for scores against a defence in which the three Dillon brothers, Cian, Cronan and Cathal, the two Brigdale’s, John and Alan, and the excellent Ciarán O’Doherty were always on top.

“Our defence has been strong all year,” said Cian. “As a unit we’ve improved. Our whole team play has improved from last year, it’s just excellent now. We weren’t going to let this go today. We came in to this game solely to put in a performance and nothing was going to get in our way conditions, opposition, nothing.”

Scorers for Crusheen: G O’Donnell 0-3, J Fitzgibbon, P Meaney, P Vaughan (2fs) 0-2 each, F Kennedy 0-1.

Scorers for Sixmilebridge: N Gilligan 0-3 (1f, 0-1p), D Morey 0-1.

CRUSHEEN: D Touhy; J Brigdale, Cronan Dillon, A Brigdale; C O’Doherty, Cian Dillon, Cathal Dillon; P Vaughan, J Meaney; G O’Donnell, J Fitzgibbon, D Forde; P Meaney, G O’Grady, F Kennedy.

SIXMILEBRIDGE: D Fahy; T Keogh, A Quilligan, S Morey; J Fennessy, P Fitzpatrick, R Conlon; S Golden, T Carmody; J Shanahan, R Shanahan, Declan Morey; Danny Morey, N Gilligan, C Morey.

Subs: T Purcell for Conlon (46); B Culbert (Declan Morey 46); D O’Connor (Carmody 55).

Referee: R Hickey (Eire Óg)

Waterford Senior Football Championship Final – Ballinacourty 0-6 Stradbally 0-5

Courty score sweet revenge

Ballinacourty 0-06 Stradbally 0-05

By John Murphy for the Irish Examiner newspaper

Monday, October 24, 2011

BALLINACOURTY dramatically dethroned title holders Stradbally in a tension-filled Waterford SFC final at Fraher Field, Dungarvan, yesterday. Twelve months ago, Courty ended up on the wrong side of a one-point defeat to their arch rivals, yet they got some measure of revenge and stopped Stradbally’s charge for a three-in-a-row to claim a first title win for their club since 2007. “Our agonising defeat in last year’s final was still hurting for all of us,” said Courty’s ace marksman Gary Hurney. “In the end it was the motivation from that defeat that got us across the winning line this time, but Stradbally battled right to the end just as we always knew they would.”

It was a view shared by man of the match Shane Briggs who turned in a tremendous performance in the middle of the field. “Thankfully we learned our lessons from that shattering defeat and we were determined not to have to go through the same depressing experience again,” he said. Such was the strength of the wind that neither side managed to raise a solitary flag when playing into it. The half dozen points that Ballinacourty notched all came in the opening half which they dominated and deservedly led by 0-6 to 0-0 at the interval.

Not only did Stradbally fail to score but it took them all of 23 minutes to kick their first wide and by then the winners were four points to the good thanks to a Gary Hurney hat-trick (two from placed balls) and a real beauty by John Gorman. Given the horrendous conditions, it was far from an unassailable lead and when Pat Weldon finally broke the defending champions scoring duck with a peach of a point within three minutes of the restart, it was game on.

For all their possession, Stradbally just couldn’t prize open Courty’s magnificent defensive phalanx who threw their midfielders and several attackers back to shore up the defence. They had to wait until the 53rd minute for their second point from a Shane Ahearne free as they threw all at Courty. Outstanding corner back Paddy Doyle drove them on with some super forays forward and Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh and John Coffey finally broke the Courty stranglehold around the middle. Niall Curran’s pointed free narrowed the gap further and it became a one-point final when half-time substitute Stephen Cunningham sweetly lofted over one from play in the 59th minute.

Both Shane Lannon and Shane Ahearne kicked wides from decent positions, before Ballinacourty substitute Conor Moloney’s fisted goal attempt was brilliantly stopped by keeper Oliver Costelloe. But in the end they didn’t need it and Ballinacourty are the deserving champions for a fifth time.

Scorers for Ballinacourty; G. Hurney 0-4 (3fs), J Gorman, S Briggs 0-1 each.

Scorers for Stradbally: N Curran 0-2fs, P Weldon, S Ahearne (f), S Cunningham (0-1) each.

BALLINACOURTY: S Enright; M Lavan, J Phelan, G Breen; J Hurney, P Lynch, R Foley; S Briggs, S O’Hare; J Gorman, P Hurney, M Fives; J O’Brien, G Hurney, M Ferncombe.

Subs: J O’Mahony for O’Brien (46), C Moloney for J Gorman (53), L Huney for Fives (58).

STRADBALLY: O Costelloe; P Doyle, K Coffey, T Costelloe; T Grey, E Rockett, A Doyle; M Walsh, J Coffey; P Weldon, S Ahearne, S Lannon; N Curran, R Ahearne, T Connors.

Subs: S Cunningham for Connors (ht), T Curran for Weldon (56).

Referee: T O’Sullivan (Cappoquin)