Newmarket-on-Fergus ended their 2017 senior hurling campaign on a high after waiting months and growing in confidence with a county semi-final slot and a Clare Cup final since dicing with hurling’s lower ranks in 2016.
Clare Cup Senior Hurling Final 2017 Newmarket 2-09 Sixmilebridge 0-14
Newmarket’s home-grown management team would have relished this clash to get an idea of what the future may hold for this squad.
Consider Sixmilebridge though, for the moment Clare Cup titles probably rank third on their list for Santa. An elusive Munster Club crown remains close to their grasp but the last two attempts have been a bridge too far for John O’Meara’s men.
Clonlara hosted the 2017 final of this competition as Newmarket-on-Fergus were crowned Clare Cup champions for the 24th time when they stopped arch rivals Sixmilebridge from achieving the championship and league double.
Unfortunately not too many spectators turned out for a full-blooded game of hurling which saw both sides level on seven occasions. In the end, Newmarket finished strongest, scoring the last salvo of points to claim the title much to the delight of their supporters.
Otherwise, there was little to separate the teams throughout and, towards the end, it looked as if a tightly fought second half would go to extra time.
When matters looked troublesome for the Blues it was the creation and successful execution of goals that won the day for Colin Ryan’s men.
There were a number of flashpoints over the hour but order was quickly restored on a day when players battled for possession as if their very lives depended on it. For all the criticism levelled at the timing of a competition that started 35 weeks ago, it showed there was still respect for the title.
Newmarket took an early lead with team captain Colin Ryan converting two frees inside the first five minutes. Sixmilebridge replied with three in a row through Brian Corry and Jamie Shanahan (2) before Ryan levelled the tie for the second time after a free was won by new county panellist Colin Guilfoyle.
Guilfoyle, who has had a stand out season for the senior side, struck for the game’s first goal in the seventeenth minute when he powered the ball past Derek Fahy after good work by Mike McInerney.
The goal put his side four points clear but Sixmilebridge responded strongly and landed the next five points, four from free-taker Shanahan and one from Niall Gilligan to hold a one-point lead as the game went into stoppage time at the end of the first half.
Colin Ryan completed the scoring to leave the sides level on 0-8 to 1-5 at the break. Over the hour, both teams totalled 10 wides with Sixmilebridge on top in this unwanted race with 6.
Sixmilebridge grabbed the game with some determination at the start of the second half and landed points from Shane Golden, Cathal Lynch and Shanahan to open a three-point lead with just five minutes played. Two minutes later they were level again after Colin Ryan first-timed Colin Guilfoyle’s cross to the net.
Sixmilebridge complained that Ryan’s goal should have been ruled out for a square-ball but worst was to follow moments later when they were refused calls for a penalty at the other end.
As the game developed a number of names entered referee Ger Hoey’s notebook before Newmarket regained the lead when their captain converted a free at the turn of the final quarter.
Jamie Shanahan responded to level matters again before putting the double chasers ahead with five minutes to go.
In between those scores, the Newmarket defence came under huge pressure and Sixmilebridge came close to scoring a goal but the winners averted the danger.
When Colin Ryan’s long-range free drifted wide of the target, to be followed by a lead point for from Shanahan, it looked like the advantage had switched back to Sixmilebridge.
However, it was Newmarket’s turn to respond and this they did with Mike McInerney levelling the game for the final time with just three minutes remaining.
Then two minutes from the end of normal time Colin Ryan had the winners back in front, during the first of three minutes of added time the skipper converted a ’65 which proved to be the final score of the game.
Enda Barrett and the impressive Evan Keogh got through a lot of work in the Newmarket defence while elsewhere Colin Guilfoyle led the way for the forwards. Colin Ryan’s contribution of 1-8 was crucial in his side’s victory as with every game since his retirement from county hurling he continues to be one of the most important club hurlers in Clare.
Aidan Quilligan and Seadna Morey were prominent in the winner’s defence while Jamie Shanahan, Caimin Morey, Niall Gilligan, Brian Corry and Shane Golden were to the fore further up the field.
After the game, Joe Cooney, chairman of Clare GAA, presented the Clare Champion Cup to Newmarket captain Colin Ryan. Joe also called for a moment’s silence in memory of young Tulla hurler Jack Lynch who passed away in the last week.