Wolfe Tones ease past Feakle after a much improved second half in Tulla on Saturday. During the break, a stirring speech from their inspirational captain, Aaron Cunningham, proved sufficient motivation each player to raise their game.
Clare Senior Hurling Championship Wolfe Tones 0-23 Feakle 0-14
History tells us that 2017 is the 30th anniversary of the Clarecastle v Feakle county senior hurling final, a fortuitous event for both clubs as the Magpies proved successful while Feakle used it as a dry run for their 1988 victory.
That feat will not be repeated in 2018 as one of these sides is destined for a relegation to the Intermediate championship.
Championship hurling today is played at a frenetic pace and a team can easily find itself slipping into the drop zone. Indeed the penalty for losing two championship games in a row, is now a front row ticket for the relegation battle.
That was the prospect facing Feakle and Wolfe Tones at the weekend. Trailing by two points at half time, things didn’t look good for the Shannon side in this senior hurling championship relegation tie, played at Dr. Daly Park in Tulla on Saturday evening.
Dean Devanney gets out ahead of his marker
During the break a stirring speech from their inspirational captain, Aaron Cunningham, proved sufficient motivation for every players to raise their game. To their credit, the Shannon men rallied and provided their supporters with the probably the best 30 minutes of hurling for many a season to guarantee their place in the senior championship draw for 2018.
When Val Donnellan’s Feakle had the opening point of the new half, stretching their advantage to three points, it appeared that the East Clare side had some semblance of control on proceedings.
It was not the case and within two minutes the momentum changed and Wolfe Tones struck for nine consecutive scores to open a six point lead. From then on the outcome was franked and sealed for the airport club. Wolfe Tones’ half back trio of Ben O’Gorman, Rory Hayes and Barry Loughnane dominated. They got great help from midfielders Daithi O’Connell and Kevin McCafferty while team captain Aaron Cunningham regularly dropped back to lend a hand.
This defensive minded strategy adopted by Wolfe Tones swallowed up space in front of the Shannon goal and curbed Feakle’s attacking efforts.
The first half was an evenly contested affair with the teams level on six occasions before Feakle edged two clear at the break, 0-10 to 0-8.
Feakle could have been a few more points ahead had they availed of some good scoring chances which they had created. A clearly relieved Shannon manager James Carrig, who has done much to revitalise the club’s premier team indicated that he plans to step down as senior manager with just one league fixture to fulfil.
Daithi O’Connell stretches his side’s lead to 6 points despite Enda Noonan’s best efforts.
When team captain Shane McGrath converted a 20m free in the first minute of the second half to open a three point lead, things looked good for Feakle. By the fifth minute, however, Wolfe Tones led with scores from Aaron Cunningham, Aron Shanagher (2) and Ben O’Gorman.
Shanagher followed with three in a row before Cunningham landed two inside one minute. Feakle were clearly rattled as the score stood at 0-17 to 0-11 at the three quarter stage.
Unusually Feakle appeared to just wilt under the least amount of pressure. While many expect the East Clare side to survive the crucial relegation final against Clarecastle, they will have to do a lot better than this.
Try as they might, Feakle just could not break down a stubborn Wolfe Tones’ defence and the Shannon men had pushed their advantage out to eight points, 0-21 to 0-13, with six minutes of normal time remaining.
For the winners, their county senior panelists were to the fore with Aron Shanagher emerging as top scorer with 0-9 to his credit, five from frees, while Aaron Cunningham landed four impressive points on a day when Dermot O’Rourke and Dean Devanney impressed along with those already mentioned.
Feakle tried hard throughout but failed to match the overall sharpness of their opponents. Evan McMahon, Eoin Tuohy, Steven Conway and Oisin Donnellan gave it 100% but the overall teamwork of the winners won the day.
WOLFE TONES Pa Freeman; Rory Hayes, Jamie Roughan, Dermot O’Rourke; Stephen Tuohy, Ben O’Gorman (0-1), Barry Loughnane; Daithi O’Connell (0-1), Kevin McCafferty, Aaron Cunningham (0-4), Jack Cunningham (0-1), John Guilfoyle (0-3), Sean Costelloe (0-1), Aron Shanagher (0-9), Dean Devanney (0-2). SUBS: Andy Shanagher for Costelloe (57); Declan O’Rourke for Aron Shanagher (58).
FEAKLE: Eibhear Quilligan; James Noonan, Evan McMahon, Henry Hayes; Eoin Tuohy, Con Smythe, Killian Bane; Gary Guilfoyle (0-2), Ger Hanrahan; Enda Noonan, Oisin Donnellan (0-2), Shane McGrath (0-5) Steven Conway (0-2), Raymond Bane (0-1), Colin Nelson (0-1). SUBS: Austin McMahon for McGrath (50), Eoin McGuinness for E. Noonan (57).
Referee: Rory Hickey, Eire Og.