Sixmilebridge look like strong contenders for the Canon Hamilton after a resounding victory over a weakened Clarecastle side in the first round of the championship at Cusack Park. All teams have days to forget but this seemed different as Clarecastle can count themselves fortunate that they didn’t concede up to seven goals, thanks in large part to some courageous netminding by goalkeeper Jamie Coughlan.

Clare Senior Hurling Championship Round 1
Sixmilebridge 3-25 Clarecastle 1-11

Jamie Coughlan blocks Cathal Malone's shot at goal

Jamie Coughlan blocks Cathal Malone’s shot at goal

Are Sixmilebridge this good? Probably not, based on the efforts of their hapless opponents but on this form they are definitely in contention to return with the Canon Hamilton in 2017. Having suffered the frustration of an early exit a year earlier, John O’Meara’s team aimed to ensure they were on the right side of the draw for the second round of championship.

For Clarecastle manager Fergie Tuohy, one of the Clare legends of 1995, the game was a baptism of fire. Missing a number of players with injury, Tuohy was forced to rely on youth but will hope to have more of his regulars available when the time comes.

Prematch predictions were for a Sixmilebridge win, but no-one could have foreseen the final scoreline. Cathal Malone and Bobby Duggan swopped points in the opening moments and by the 7th minute the sides were level with further scores from Jamie Shanahan, Duggan, Brian Corry and Conor Galvin.

Brian Corry races clear of Patrick Tuohy.

Brian Corry races clear of Patrick Tuohy.

At this early stage there was no sign of Clarecastle’s impending collapse. However their shooting was wayward with six wides in the opening 15 minutes. Brian Corry, Alex Morey, Shane Golden and Bobby Duggan were amongst the scorers as Sixmilebridge eased clear by 0-7 to 0-4 after 19 minutes.

A minute later Clarecastle were level after Stephen O’Halloran’s shot rebounded into the path of Bobby Duggan who blasted the sliotar to the net. This stung Sixmilebridge into action and they responded with points from Cathal Malone, Jamie Shanahan and Alex Morey to go three clear.

Conor Galvin and Conor Deasy swopped scores before the first Bridge goal brought Clarecastle to their knees. Shane Golden grabbed the opener before the interval to go in 1-11 to 1-5 leaders.

Clarecastle introduced Killian McDermott, Pakie Healy and Lee Brack in the third quarter but this blend of youth and experience had little impact on the marauding Sixmilebridge attack.

Gavin Whyte struck for the second Bridge goal in the third quarter and they added points from Morey (3), Conor Deasy and Shanahan with Clarecastle’s responses from Bobby Duggan, Conor Galvin and Jonathan Clancy.

Shane Golden takes a shot

Shane Golden takes a shot

Leading by 2-16 to 1-9 with less than 15 minutes to play, Sixmilebridge were on their way to a comprehensive win. In the final quarter John O’Meara changed things in the forwards introducing veteran Niall Gilligan for his 23rd campaign, Alan Mulready and Cathal Lynch.

Gavin Whyte completed the Sixmilebridge goal tally with a third as the game rumbled to a conclusion with both sides trading points near the end. Best for Sixmilebridge were Seadna Morey, Paidi Fitzpatrick, Alex Morey and Jamie Shanahan. Outstanding player for the Magpies was Bobby Duggan, goalkeeper Jamie Coughlan did his best under difficult circumstances while Jonathan Clancy and Stephen O’Halloran tried hard.

Sixmilebridge; Derek Fahy; Noel Purcell, Aidan Quilligan, Barry Fitzpatrick; Caimin Morey, Seadna Morey (0-1), Paidi Fitzpatrick (captain); Kevin Lynch, Brian Carey (0-2); Cathal Malone (0-3), Conor Deasy (0-3), Jamie Shanahan (0-4); Brian Corry (0-1), Shane Golden (1-2), Alex Morey (0-7f). Subs; Gavin Whyte (2-1) for Deasy (45 minutes), Niall Gilligan (0-1) for Carey (48 minutes), Alan Mulready for Corry (48 minutes), Cathal Lynch for A. Morey (53 minutes)
Clarecastle; Jamie Coughlan; John Reidy, Jamie O’Connor, Gearoid Ryan; Niall Galvin, Adam Healy, Patrick Tuohy; Stephen O’Halloran (captain) Jonathan Clancy (0-1); Bobby Duggan (1-6, 0-6 frees), Briain Lynch, Stephen Ward; Jack Murphy, Conor Galvin (0-3), Mark McAuliffe. Subs; Killian McDermott for McAuliffe (29 minutes); Lee Brack for O’Connor (half time); Pakie Healy (0-1) for Lynch (37 minutes)
Referee; Damian Fox, Clooney-Quin