Inagh-Kilnamona ended a nine-year wait for honours a decade after their amalgamation until now they had only one senior semi-final to boast of.
Clare Minor A Hurling Championship Final: Inagh-Kilnamona 1-14 Kilmaley 1-10
Kilmaley, on the other hand, has won senior titles and have been prominent at underage so a clash of heavyweights was in play at Cusack Park on Saturday. On their way to the final, Inagh/Kilnamona accounted for Sixmilebridge while Kilmaley eased past Clarecastle.
The decider was played in bitterly cold conditions made worse by heavy showers of driving rain. Kilmaley’s lack of firepower on the day allowed their opponents to dictate much of the game, but they hung on right to the final whistle.
The winners started positively with Aidan McCarthy and Keelan Guyler scoring points in the opening five minutes. Cathal Darcy responded with Kilmaley’s opening score after 11 minutes. David Mescall and Eoin Fitzgerald had points in the 13th and 16th minutes to open up a four-point lead at the end of the opening quarter.
Oisin Cahill and the game’s top scorer Tom O’Rourke responded with points before Cian Shannon. O’Rourke and Aidan McCarthy added points to leave Inagh/Kilnamona ahead by 0-7 to 0-5 at the break.
With the elements now favouring them in the second half, Inagh/Kilnamona appeared confident that they could withstand the Kilmaley attack and lay claim to the title.
Aidan McCarthy and Tom O’Rourke swopped scores as the game entered first-half injury time before David Mescall rallied scored a well-taken point to leave three points 0-9 to 0-6 between the teams after 38 minutes.
Conor Hegarty put four between the sides with twenty minutes remaining. Kilmaley were still very much in contention despite playing well within themselves.
The highlight of the game saw Hegarty race down the CBS side before delivering a pin-point pass to Keelan Guyler who struck for a stunning goal into the top far corner of the Kilmaley net. Eoin Fitzgerald added to the Inagh/Kilnamona tally and with 17 minutes left they were cruising clear of Kilmaley by 1-11 to 0-6.
Seamus Murphy’s side showed little signs of a fightback as they only managed a point from Tommy O’Rourke in the intervening eight minutes while also denying Inagh/Kilnamona any further scores.
Kilmaley’s pressure paid off when Padraig Devitt was robbed by Tom O’Rourke who finished from close range to cut the deficit to four points with ten minutes remaining. Inagh/Kilnamona were caught napping and two more O’Rourke points left just a brace of scores between the sides entering the final five minutes.
True to form Aidan McCarthy rallied the Inagh-Kilnamona cause to restore a three-point lead. Kilmaley won a controversial penalty in the 58th minute when it appeared to many that Cathal Darcy had jumped into the Inagh/Kilnamona defender.
Parity was restored when the penalty, taken by Kilmaley goalie Ronan Callinan, was well saved by Eamonn Foudy and with that went the last real chance for Kilmaley to win the crown.
Tom O’Rourke added a score but the winners finished stronger with scores from county minor Cian McInerney and Aidan McCarthy before referee Jarlath Donnellan sounded the long whistle.
Following the game the honour of presenting the Willie Chaplin Cup to Inagh/Kilnamona captain Cian McInerney fell to Joe Pender, chairperson of Bord na nOg Iomaint, as they ended a nine-year gap since their last title.