Brilliant Ballyea finish with a flourish
Clare SHC Final
Ballyea 1-20 Cratloe 1-14
By Eoin Brennan at Cusack Park
After making the breakthrough in 2016, Ballyea produced an even greater fairytale finish to secure their second Clare Senior Hurling title with a 13 point turnaround in Cusack Park.
Seven points in arrears by the 32nd minute, the Bally Boys would benefit from Cratloe's increasing profligacy to chip away at the deficit before snatching the whip hand in style with Martin O'Leary's 55th minute goal.
Central to Ballyea's powers of resilience was unerring freetaker Niall Deasy who kept his side in touch in the opening half before adding eight placed balls in the new half to reel in a flagging Cratloe on his way to a brilliant 13 point haul.
Pearse Lillis, Gary Brennan, Brandon O'Connell, Martin O'Leary and captain Tony Kelly were others to shine on another memorable day for Ballyea at Clare headquarters.
All that after everything appeared to be going in Cratloe's favour after Cathal McInerney's 25th minute goal had helped them to a four point lead at 1-10 to 0-09 by the break which was quickly extended to seven within 90 seconds of the restart when McInerney, Shane Gleeson and top-scorer Billy Connors hit the ground running with points, backed by a sizeable breeze.
Amazingly however, they would only add a single point to their tally for the remainder, instead spurning some glorious opportunities which would prove extremely costly as Ballyea gathered momentum.
So while Cratloe misfired with eight second half wides, Deasy would fire with seven of the next eight points to topple the deficit to just one by the 50th minute while also setting up Martin O'Leary for the equaliser two minutes later.
Brandon O'Connell nudged Ballyea in front for the first time in 27 minutes from the restart while O'Leary gladly punished a defensive error from a short puck-out to arrow to the bottom right corner of the net in the 56th minute as the 2016 champions finished with an extraordinary unanswered 1-8 rally to garner their second crown in three years.
Scorers for Ballyea: Niall Deasy 0-13 (12fs, 1’65), Martin O’Leary 1-3, Tony Kelly 0-2, Gary Brennan, Brandon O’Connell 0-1 each.
Scorers for Cratloe: Billy Connors 0-8 (4fs), Cathal McInerney 1-3, Conor McGrath, Rian Considine, Shane Gleeson 0-1 each.
*BALLYEA: *Barry Coote; Brian Carrigg, James Murphy, Joe Neylon; Brandon O'Connell, Jack Browne, Aonghus Keane; Tony Kelly, Gary Brennan; Eoghan Donnellan, Tadhg Lynch, Cillian Brennan; Martin O'Leary, Niall Deasy, Pearse Lillis.
Subs: Brian Casey for Neylon (HT), Ryan Griffin for Donnellan (45), David Sheehan for C. Brennan (64).
*CRATLOE: *Gearoid Ryan; Martin Óige Murphy, Michael Hawes, Shane O'Leary; Diarmuid Ryan, Liam Markham, Shane Gleeson; Enda Boyce, Sean Collins; Conor McGrath, David Collins, Podge Collins; Rian Considine, Cathal McInerney, Billy Connors.
*Sub *Sean Chaplin for S. Collins (54), Damian Browne for D. Collins (58).
REFEREE: Wayne King (St Joseph's Doora/Barefield).