A massive sigh of relief could be heard in Shannon last Wednesday night when a dramatic late point from Kevin McCafferty helped Wolfe Tones senior hurlers claim their first win of the year.

Clare Cup Division 1B Round 7 Wolfe Tones 0-23 Tubber  2-16

It’s been a very difficult 2018 for a team in transition after losing key players to retirement and to emigration. On the positive side, some of the younger players have shown good commitment to training but it will take time to replace the bank of experience that has been lost.

Jack Cunningham outpaces James Howard.

Jack Cunningham outpaces James Howard.

Still, it has been an enormously frustrating time with six defeats in a row and championship not too far away. On Wednesday both teams lined out on Wolfe Tones Camogie pitch in ideal summer conditions, apart that is from the annoying mosquito bites.

Wolfe Tones got off to a good start with four points inside the opening three minutes courtesy of Jack Cunningham, Ben O’Gorman, John Guilfoyle and Stephen Donnellan to lead by 0-4 to 0-1. However, Tubber soon settled into the pace of the game thanks to two frees from Blaine Earley frees and points from Fergal O’Grady and Ronan Monahan to draw level on 0-5 to 0-5 by the end of the opening quarter.

As young Cian O’Rourke gave a credible performance from midfield, a point from Andy Shanagher put the home side back in front. The lead was short-lived when Blaine Earley was first to win a high ball in the 20th minute before firing to the net past goalkeeper Pa Freeman who managed to get a touch but it wasn’t enough to stop the ball hitting the back of the net.

The goal had a negative effect on Wolfe Tones as they caved in allowing the visitors to finish the half with five of the last six points. Entirely to blame for their failings was Blaine Earley who had all Tubber’s points although Domhnall McMahon had a shot at goal blocked with the game at 1-10 to 0-07.

Despite going behind by nine points shortly after the break, Wolfe Tones showed great resilience to launch a mighty comeback to the surprise of their opponents from the Clare-Galway border. Tubber had cruised to a comfortable lead with goals from Blaine Earley and Ronan Monahan on either side of half-time. When Monahan raised a green flag in the 32nd minute, it wouldn’t have come as a surprise if the visitors had gone on to win easily. 

As it happened, Denis Riordan’s charges finally got their act together and somehow managed to get back into the game with a strong team performance right through to Jim Hickey’s final whistle. John Guilfoyle put in a huge effort to take the man-of-the-match plaudits as Wolfe Tones responded brilliantly with 11 of the next 13 points to level the game by the 49th minute. 

The Tubber players were stunned, managing only a two-point rally, as they failed to stop the onslaught as the home side left aside their previous defeats and frustrations. Twice both teams drew level during that second half before Kevin McCafferty floated over a 65th-minute winner from the right wing with virtually the last puck of the game. 

Just 45 seconds into the new half, Ronan Monahan collected a Ronan Taaffe puck-out before bursting through the centre of the home team’s defence before driving a powerful shot to the top left corner of the net to move nine clear. Somehow, rather than sinking into despondency  Wolfe Tones found it within themselves to dig deep and they lifted their game to come back at Tubber with a purpose. 

John Guilfoyle got things underway with the first of four points in as many minutes, the others coming from Dylan Frawley, Jack Cunningham and Ben O’Gorman cutting the deficit to five by the 37th minute. Tones enjoyed another fine spell with five successive point midway through the half, four from Guilfoyle who came close to a goal with the scores on 2-13 to 0-19.

Kevin McCafferty tries to block Lorcan O’Grady’s clearance

Kevin McCafferty tries to block Lorcan O’Grady’s clearance

Tubber fought back to regain the lead with a free from Ronan Taaffe from inside his own half, Justin McMahon opened a two-point lead when he shot over from an acute angle on the right. To their great credit, Wolfe Tones returned to the battle to fight their way back in front in injury-time with points from Barry Loughnane, John Guilfoyle and Ben O’Gorman before Blaine Earley’s long-range free levelled the scores once again on 2-16 to 0-22.

Just when it seemed that both sides could have settled for the draw, Kevin McCafferty found space along the right wing to unleash the winning score.

Wolfe Tones: Pa Freeman; Conor Ferns, Jamie Roughan, Blaine O’Sullivan; Ben O’Gorman (0-4, 1f, 1’65), Barry Loughnane (0-1), Sean Costelloe; Jack Cunningham (0-2), Cian O’Rourke (0-1); Andy Shanagher (0-4), Dylan Frawley (0-1), Kevin McCafferty (0-1); Conor Shanagher, John Guilfoyle (0-8, 5f), Stephen Donnellan (0-1). Sub Dermot O’Rourke for O’Sullivan (40)
Tubber: Ronan Taaffe (0-1f); Emmet Quinn, John Fawle, John O’Connor; James Howard, Lorcan O’Grady, Padraig Kelly; Fergal O’Grady (0-2), Seághan Brosnan; Aidan McNamara, Domnhall McMahon (0-1), Blaine Earley (1-10, 7f, 2’65); James Taaffe, Ronan Monahan (1-1), Justin McMahon (0-1). Sub Ger Brohan for O’Connor (49).
Referee Jim Hickey (Cratloe)