Kilmurry-Ibrickane crowned Clare SFC champions
Clare Senior Football Championship Final
KILMURRY IBRICKANE 1-12 CRATLOE 0-12
By Eoin Brennan at Cusack Park, Ennis.
Kilmurry Ibrickane expertly fended off their biggest rivals Cratloe to snatch back the Clare Senior Football Championship title following a three year gap in Cusack Park, Ennis on Saturday afternoon.
With only a hundred supporters from each side permitted to witness an unprecedented finale, the familiarity was saved for the pitch as amidst a 12th championship meeting in just 11 seasons, Kilmurry Ibrickane maintained a fourth successive victory over Cratloe that coincidentally began with a 2016 final replay triumph.
And it was fully merited as once raiding for the only goal of the game through overlapping full-back Mark Killeen in the ninth minute, the 'Bricks would never look back thereafter highlighted by an irrepressible mix of power, persistence and most significantly patience.
2013 and '14 champions Cratloe, led by the Collins brothers Sean and Podge, had initially put aside back-to-back hurling final reverses, to kick three of the first four points by the eighth minute.
However, Killeen's perfectly placed goal would irrevocably alter the narrative as a buoyant Kilmurry Ibrickane produced a seven point turnaround, thanks to a five point unanswered rally that included braces from chief marksman Keelan Sexton and Noel Downes at 1-6 to 0-4 by the 29th minute.
Liam Markham did finally stop the rot after 19 barren minutes to lessen the damage to four by the break (1-6 to 0-5). However, Kilmurry Ibrickane's experience that extended to eight previous crowns since 2002, dictated that they only bolstered that commanding position in the third quarter as the ever-impressive Sexton helped his side to move 1-9 to 0-6 clear by the 40th minute.
Cratloe did inevitable rally but would be initially frustrated in their efforts as a Conal O'Hanlon back post finish to the net was disallowed for a square ball just before the final water break. Motivated by that ruling, Cratloe regrouped with the next four points through O'Hanlon (2), Sean Collins and championship top scorer Cathal McInerney to slash the arrears to just two entering the last ten minutes at 1-09 to 0-10.
However, Kilmurry Ibrickane's potency on the counter-attack soon bubbled to the surface once more as newcomer Daniel Walsh (2) and captain Michael Hogan, who has been involved in all nine title wins since the turn of the millennium along with substitutes Enda Coughlan and Michael O'Dwyer, converted crucial late scores to close out a compelling contest.
Only 12 months on from suffering a final replay defeat to neighbours St Joseph's Miltown, Kilmurry Ibrickane deservedly bounced back to a 16th ever Clare crown.
Scorers for Kilmurry Ibrickane: Keelan Sexton(0-5, 2f), Mark Killeen (1-0), Noel Downes, Daniel Walsh (0-2 each), Ciaran Morrissey, Andrew Shannon, Michael Hogan (0-1 each)
Scorers for Cratloe: Cathal McInerney (0-4f), Conal O'Hanlon (0-3f), Podge Collins (0-2), Diarmuid Ryan, Liam Markham, Sean Collins (0-1 each)
KILMURRY IBRICKANE: David Sexton; Shane Hickey, Mark Killeen, Darren Hickey; Diarmuid King, Ciaran Morrissey, Darragh Sexton; Daniel Walsh, Aidan McCarthy; Michael Hogan, Dermot Coughlan, Andrew Shannon; Keelan Sexton, Noel Downes, Martin McMahon. Subs: Daryn Callinan for Downes (50), Enda Coughlan for Hogan (57), Michael O'Dwyer for D. Coughlan (59)
CRATLOE: Pierce DeLoughrey; David Collins, Sean Chaplin, Michael Brennan; Liam Markham, Sean Collins, Martin ‘Oige’ Murphy; Diarmuid Ryan, Conal O’Hanlon; Shane Neville, Podge Collins, Shane Gleeson; Cathal McInerney, Conor McGrath, Rian Considine. Subs: Enda Boyce for Chaplin (HT), Billy Sheehan for Considine (40), Killian Phair for Neville (41)
Referee: Niall Quinn (St Joseph's Miltown)