Having recovered from the ignominy of contesting a relegation final last year, Newmarket’s hopes of taking the Canon Hamilton Cup were shattered in this compelling semi-final encounter against near neighbours and close rivals Sixmilebridge.

Clare Senior Hurling Championship Quarter FinalSixmilebridge 3-17 Newmarket 2-18

Brian Corry scores his second goal for Sixmilebridge.

Brian Corry scores his second goal for Sixmilebridge.

Jamie Shanahan edged the Bridge 2 pts clear to break Newmarket hearts following a dramatic climax to a game that had been nip and tuck throughout and dominated by the two free-takers who between them tallied 2-20. John O’Meara’s side will now contest their third county senior final in five years.

Both sides had injury concerns going into the game. Seadna Morey started on the bench for Sixmilebridge due to a slight hamstring strain while Niall O’Connor tore the cast off his fractured hand to make the Blues starting line-up.  Despite playing through the pain of the hand injury, O’Connor was amongst his side’s most influential hurlers, even managing to contribute a magnificent long-range point.

Sixmilebridge have been the form team this year and began as favourites Newmarket couldn’t be written off now that they have Tom McNamara, Bob Enright, Pa Freeman, Eoin Marren and Kevin Halpin back in control.

The outcome of this eagerly awaited event was in doubt right to the final whistle when it looked like the second day out might be needed. In the end, all that separated the two was a disputed penalty and a disallowed 65 in the second half. When Newmarket reflect on this they will know that they had enough chances to have at least earned a draw.

Once again, the strength of the Sixmilebridge panel was evident. The introduction of veteran Niall Gilligan, Clare defender Seadna Morey and teenager Gavin White all helped steer them back to the final once more and 1/5 favourites tag into the bargain.

Newmarket made an impressive start with Stephen Kelly putting the first score on the board before a Colin Ryan free gave Newmarket a 2pt lead. That was undone when Fahy played the ball out to his captain, Paidi Fitzpatrick, he picked out Alan Mulready who passed to Brian Corry and he made no mistake slamming the ball to the net from close range.

Colin Ryan celebrates after scoring Newmarket’s second goal.

Colin Ryan celebrates after scoring Newmarket’s second goal.

By the 6th minute, points from Mulready, Ryan (free) and Kelly levelled the game for the first time on 1-1 to 0-4. Cathal Malone pointed for the Bridge after a mistake by Shane Kelleher in the Newmarket defence. After 15 minutes, Sixmilebridge led by 1-4 to 0-4 but the Blues fought back thanks to Ryan’s freetaking (twice) and a Shane O’Brien point to draw level again.

With 20 minutes played the score was 1-5 to 0-8. Newmarket got a great break in the run-up to half-time when a speculative effort from Colin Guilfoyle was missed by Derek Fahy and ended up in the back of the net, to throw the Blues a lifeline, and a 1-11 to 1-7 lead.

Clearly annoyed, the Bridge drove on to regain the lead thanks to a Shanahan free and a wicked second goal for Brian Corry in the 32nd minute to leave the half-time score at 2-8 to 1-11.

Newmarket had a dream start to the second half when Colin Ryan netted their second goal inside the first minute. At this moment the Blues had the winning of the game in their sights but were denied by the deadly accuracy of Sixmilebridge.

A disputed penalty was driven low and hard to the net by Jamie Shanahan to put his side in front. Scores were swapped several times and the teams were level again with ten minutes remaining.  Four minutes later they were still tied after both sides swapped points twice more through the efforts of Colin Ryan and Jamie Shanahan.

The Bridge edged two clear before Colin Ryan reduced the margin to the minimum. Newmarket had three chances to level as the game entered injury time but failed to take advantage. It was left to Jamie Shanahan to secure his side’s passage to the final when he converted a ‘65 in the fourth minute of ‘injury time’.

Best for the winners included team captain Paidi Fitzpatrick, Caimin Morey, Jamie Shanahan, Cathal Malone, Brian Corry, Seadna Morey and Niall Gilligan when introduced.

Newmarket will review the season and announce a clean bill of health when compared to 2016. The Clare Cup knock-out stages still await Bob Enright’s men.  Best for the vanquished included Stephen Kelly who had a superb first half. He was ably assisted by Colin Ryan who must surely now be offered a return to the Clare senior hurling panel and Niall O’Connor who also merits selection. Others to perform well included Colin Guilfoyle, Sean O’Connor, Enda Barrett and Shane Kelleher.

Sixmilebridge will meet Clooney-Quin in the final on October 15th at Cusack Park in what will be one of the biggest attendances on county final day for some time.

Sixmilebridge: Derek Fahy; Barry Fitzpatrick, Aidan Quilligan, Noel Purcell; Kevin Lynch, Caimin Morey, Paidi Fitzpatrick (captain); Brian Carey (0-1), Conor Deasy (0-1); Jamie Shanahan (1-8, 1 pen, 7f, 1 ‘65), Cathal Malone (0-3), Shane Golden (0-2); Brian Corry (2-0), Alex Morey, Alan Mulready (0-1). Subs; Niall Gilligan (0-1) for Deasy; Seadna Morey for Purcell; Gavin White for Mulready.

Newmarket: Ronan McCormack; Eoin O’Brien, James McInerney, Shane Kelleher; Niall O’Connor (0-1), Enda Barrett, Evan Keogh; Ronan Good, Sean O’Connor; Colin Guilfoyle (1-0), Stephen Kelly (0-3), Shane O’Brien (0-1), Mike McInerney; Colin Ryan (1-12, 9f, 2 ‘65’s), Eoin Hayes (0-1). Subs; Liam O’Connor for E. O’Brien; Martin O’Hanlon for M. McInerney; Noel Frawley for Hayes.

Referee: Damian Fox, Clooney-Quin