Kilmurry Ibrickane 1-14 Clondegad 0-14
Experience proved crucial once more as Kilmurry Ibrickane retained their Clare Senior Football title in front of 4,916 in Cusack Park, Ennis this afternoon.
With 12 of the 21 players used being over the 30 mark in what was their sixth senior crown in ten years, Kilmurry Ibrickane had sufficient guile and winning know-how to fend off the stubborn challenge of newcomers Clondegad who were appearing in their first ever senior final.
Indeed, with the game tied at 0-8 to 0-8 by the two-thirds mark, it was the ‘Bricks impact off the bench that cemented victory as substitutes Michael O’Dwyer, Noel Downes and Peter O’Dwyer combined for 1-3 including a goal for the latter with his first touch of the game at the tender age of 38.
It was a tough physical battle throughout that drifted in tempestuousness at times as both sides finished with 14 men after replacements Peter O’Dwyer and Joe Neylon were given their marching orders in injury-time.
Crucially however for Kilmurry Ibrickane, they never allowed Clondegad to get ahead of them at any stage and looked to be the side most likely to take the honours once they emptied the bench to fruitful effect.
Early points from their younger guns Keelan Sexton, Dermot Coughlan and Darragh Sexton settled the defending champions into their stride.
And while Clondegad, thanks in the main to inter-county stars Tony Kelly and Gary Brennan, gained parity at four points apiece by the 23rd minute, late frees from county senior Sexton and goalkeeper Ian McInerney ensured the Kilmurry Ibrickane held a 0-6 to 0-4 advantage by the break.
A brace from 2013 Hurler of the Year Tony Kelly on the restart were matched by Stephen Moloney and Keenan Sexton but Clondegad obstinately reused to yield and would get back on level terms by the 40th minute after Podge McMahon and Eoghan Donnellan both converted points.
Kilmurry Ibrickane’s experience ensured that they never lost their focus though and backed by the cavalry from the bench along with superb defensive displays by captain Martin McMahon, Shane Hickey and man-of-the-match Enda Coughlan, they would turn the screw on their opponents at the turn of the final quarter.
Outscoring Clondegad by 1-5 to 0-2 in a 12 minute rally, goal chances for Keelan Sexton and Noel Downes were both repelled before the oldest player on the field Peter O’Dwyer, sprung off the bench to find the left corner of the net in the 54th minute at 1-13 to 0-10.
Game over one felt but a defiant Clondegad would not go down without a fight as they kicked four of the last five points, three from Podge McMahon to set up a grandstand finale that extended into nine minutes of additional time before Kilmurry Ibrickane finally heard the relieving sound of the final whistle that sealed a 15th ever championship triumph for the West Clare club.
Kilmurry Ibrickane: Ian McInerney (0-3f); Darragh Sexton (0-1), Darren Hickey, Mark Killeen; Shane Hickey, Martin McMahon (Captain), Evan Talty; Mark McCarthy, Keith King; Michael Hogan, Stephen Moloney (0-2), Niall Hickey; Enda Coughlan, Keenan Sexton (0-3, 2f), Dermot Coughlan (0-1)
Subs: Thomas Lernihan for Talty (21, inj), Michael O’Dwyer (0-1) for Hogan (40), Noel Downes (0-2) for N. Hickey (42), Peter O’Dwyer (1-0) for McCarthy (53), Eamonn Bracken for Moloney (57), Darren Sexton for K. Sexton (65)
Clondegad: Liam Deasy; Brian Carrigg, Cillian Brennan, Brian Casey; Brian Murphy, Cormac Ryan, Conor Gavin; Gary Brennan (0-2, 1f), James Murphy; Tadgh Lynch (0-1), Gearoid O’Connell (0-1), Tony Kelly (0-3); Podge McMahon (0-4, 3f), Shane Brennan (Captain) (0-1), Eoghan Donnellan (0-2)
Subs: Ryan Jennings for J. Murphy (HT), Joe Neylon for Lynch (40), Niall Lynch for B. Murphy (45), Niall Deasy for Ryan (54)
Referee: Pat Cosgrove (Corofin)