Crusheen bows out of this year’s championship after easily accounting for Clarecastle who are heading for the hurling final that no one wants.
Crusheen 1-23 Clarecastle 0-11
Clare Senior Hurling Championship Rd 3
Losing two games in a row in today’s Clare senior championship condemns a team to the relegation quagmire when form and quality go out the window.
This defeat for Fergie Touhy’s side means Clarecastle will contest a relegation final for the second time in three seasons.
Colin Vaughan’s highly motivated Crusheen took over in the second half of this senior tie played at Gurteen. A 15 point victory ensured that the club will play senior hurling again in 2018 without suffering the anxiety of a relegation final.
This was the first time that Crusheen had played a game of significance away from Cusack Park since their emergence in the middle of the last decade.
Four up at the break, Crusheen dominated the second half, keeping the Magpies scoreless for the last 16 minutes while adding nine points to their own tally to run out the easiest of winners on a perfect day for hurling at a well appointed venue.
Crusheen’s half back line turned in an excellent collective performance on a day when Donal Tuohy was rarely tested but still produced one of the best saves seen in Clare this year.
Cian Dillon tackles Stephen Ward.
Further forward, Conor O’Donnell started well with an early goal and point, while Joe Meaney also enjoyed a productive first half. Jamie Fitzgibbon did well and Colin Vaughan had a very good second half.
Conor O’Donnell had the first point of the day, when he had the ball in the net after seven minutes, fair reward for persistence after his ground strike eluded Clarecastle keeper Donnagh Murphy. Ross Hayes had delivered the ball to the former county panelist.
Crusheen had built up a 1-6 to 0-4 lead after 16 minutes, with every score coming from play, in contrast Bobby Duggan had all the Clarecastle scores from frees as the free tally was very much against Crusheen in the first half.
Clarecastle’s first point from play came from Jack Murphy after 26 minutes, but seconds later it was cancelled out after wing back Fergus Kennedy sold a dummy and pointed from distance.
The Magpies closed out the half well with the last two points, but Crusheen still held a 1-8 to 0-7 lead. From a Crusheen perspective, there was a certain amount of concern that, for all their dominance, Clarecastle were only a score in arrears at the interval.
Nonetheless, a four point advantage was a solid platform to approach the second half, and the lead was added to after the break when minor player Ross Hayes pointed, followed by another from Colin Vaughan.
Briain Lynch tries a shot as Cathal Dillon attempts a hook.
Bobby Duggan kept Clarecastle in touch with three more points from play. Apart from Duggan’s efforts with placed balls their attack was showing very little potency. By the time Jonathan Clancy pointed in the 43rd minute, his side were trailing by 1-14 to 0-11. Thereafter an increasingly confident Crusheen took over.
Vaughan added five more points while veterans Cathal Dillon and Gearoid O’Donnell both scored fine points as time ticked on. In the 51st minute Tuohy made a super diving save as Clarecastle chased after the elusive goal that never came.
Ultimately Crusheen eased their way to a comprehensive and important victory. Best for the winners were Donal Touhy, Alan Brigdale, Cathal Dillon, Ciaran O’Doherty, Fergus Kennedy, Ross Hayes, Colin Vaughan, Jamie Fitzgibbon, Joe Meaney and Conor O’Donnell.
Clarecastle now have a week to circle the wagons and decide that it is not enough to simply rely on their historical record when they are facing into the prospect of a most humbling experience in 2018.
CRUSHEEN: Donal Tuohy; John Brigdale, Cian Dillon, Alan Brigdale; Cathal Dillon (0-1), Ciarán O’Doherty, Fergus Kennedy (0-1), Ross Hayes (0-1), Jamie Fitzgibbon (0-3) Colin Vaughan (0-9), Joseph Meaney(0-3), Cillian Mullins (0-2), Conor O’Donnell (1-2), Gerry O’Grady, Paddy Vaughan.
Subs: Breffni Horner for O’Grady, Gearoid O’Donnell (0-1) for Meaney, Mark Perrill for Fitzgibbon.
CLARECASTLE: Donnagh Murphy; John Reidy, Stephen O’Halloran, Gearoid Ryan; Adam Healy, Patrick Kelly, Patrick Tuohy; Jonathan Clancy (0-1), Killian McDermott; Stephen Ward (0-1), Brian Lynch, Patrick Casey; Mark McAuliffe, Bobby Duggan (0-8), Jack Murphy (0-1). Subs: Cian Donnelly for Tuohy, Lee Brack for Casey, Packie Healy for McAuliffe, Joe Barry for Murphy, Owen O’Hara for O’Halloran.
Referee: Johnny Healy (Smith O’Briens).