Inagh-Kilnamona emerged from Cusack Park with their second title after contesting the U21 A final for the third time in a row. The amalgamation players were ultimately too strong for their local rivals Kilmaley in a hard-fought final on Easter Saturday.
Clare U21 A Hurling Championship Final
Inagh-Kilnamona 1-18 Kilmaley 1-14
Inagh/Kilnamona took the game to Kilmaley from the throw-in and it took a smart save by goalkeeper Ronan Callinan from Keelan Guyler to deny the eventual champions a goal in the first minute.
Sean Crowley clears the ball as Aidan McCarthy rushes in to challenge.
Aidan McCarthy struck over the resultant 65 before Paraic McNamara responded with a great point. The intervening minutes were the best that Kilmaley had to offer as they hit three unanswered scores from Eanna McMahon, Anthony Kelly and Cathal Darcy to hold a three-point advantage after ten minutes with the score at 0-4 to 0-1.
Despite this spell of dominance shown by Kevin McNamara’s men, Inagh-Kilnamona were the better-balanced side, holding the upper hand in the key areas.
Kilmaley started well with team captain Sean Kennedy in the starting line-up despite a hamstring injury carried over from the first minute of their semi-final win against the Bodyke-O’Callaghans Mills combination six days earlier.
It was apparent that Kennedy was still suffering the effects of the injury and his replacement at the interval had a negative effect on Kilmaley.
The sides were on level terms, 0-5 each, by the end of the first quarter thanks to scores from Aidan McCarthy (2), Keelan Guyler and Tomas Barry. The game remained close until Keelan’ Guyler’s goal opened a four-point gap before halftime, 1-10 to 0-9.
It was clear at this juncture that Kilmaley would need to play 30 minutes of their very best if they stood any hope of getting their hands on the silverware.
In the event, Kilmaley returned with David Lynch and Aidan Kennedy added to their line up in place of Sean Kennedy and Colin Hehir. They scored the opening two points of the half cutting the deficit to two after ten minutes.
Joe Carmody was responsible for the two scores, both from frees but the threatened comeback proved to be a false dawn for the men in blue and white.
Inagh-Kilnamona forged ahead to hold a five-point lead, 1-14 to 0-12, with ten minutes remaining, this was extended to eight by the end of normal time as Aidan McCarthy was dominating proceedings at Clare GAA headquarters.
Paraic McNamara passes the ball ahead of David Mescall’s challenge.
After five minutes of injury time, Kilmaley had recovered a pointed free from Joe Carmody and a Sean O’Loughlin goal to put a better gloss on the scoreboard but it was not enough to stop Inagh-Kilnamona from capturing their second title in succession.
For the winners, Stephen Foudy, Jason McCarthy, Cian McInerney, Tom Barry, Keelan Guyler and Aidan McCarthy with 0-11 of his side’s total, were best.
Kilmaley had good showings from Bradley Higgins, Paraic McNamara and Aaron Moloney while Joe Carmody contributed a total of 0-8, all from frees.
After the game, Clare county board chairperson Joe Cooney presented the Under 21A hurling cup to Inagh/Kilnamona captain Austin Kerins.
Sadly less than 12 hours later the Clare GAA family was plunged into deep sadness following a tragic road traffic accident at Woodstock in Ennis that resulted in the deaths of Kilmaley substitutes and cousins Oisin Cahill and Darragh Killeen.
A passenger in the car, their friend and club-mate Enda Hickey, is recovering in hospital after suffering serious injuries.
The tragedy stands as a reminder to all that, while sport plays a very important role in our community, it is really just a pastime that pales into insignificance when something like this happens. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
INAGH/KILNAMONA: Eamonn Foudy, Marc Barry, Stephen Foudy, Colin Shannon, Eoin Leyden, Jason McCarthy, Cian McInerney, Eoin Fitzgerald (0-1), Cian Shannon, Darren Cullinan (0-1), Aidan McCarthy (0-11), Dylan McGirr, David Mescall (0-2), Tomas Barry (0-1), Keelan Guyler (1-2). Subs: Austin Kerin for Leyden, Matthew Davenport for Fitzgerald, Jason Griffin for C McInerney.
KILMALEY: Ronan Callinan, Sean Crowley, Aaron Moloney, Bradley Higgins, Colin Hehir, Padraic McNamara (0-1), Tommy Barry, Cathal Darcy (0-1), Aidan Griffey, Sean Kennedy (0-1), Andrew Kelly (0-1), Eanna McMahon (0-2), Joe Carmody (0-8), Tom O’Rourke, Sean O’Loughlin (1-0). Subs: David Lynch for Hehir, Aidan Kennedy for S Kennedy, John Finnucane for Griffey, Sean Malone for McMahon.
Referee: Wayne King (St Joseph’s)