Birr of Offaly have won their third All-Ireland Club Hurling championship after beating Clarinbridge of Galway 2-10 to 1-05 at Semple Stadium in Thurles this afternoon. The Offaly club's previous triumphs were back in 1995 and 1998 and on this St Patrick's Day they join an illustrious group of four clubs that have three All-Ireland Club Hurling titles to their name. It was no more than they deserved after they took complete control of this tie in the second-half, outscoring their opponents 1-08 to 0-01 in the second 30-minute period.
Birr made their intentions very clear from the start when Declan Pilkington netted inside the opening minute of the action in Thurles but, within ten minutes, Clarinbridge had taken the lead after Daragh Coen converted a free and then corner forward David Donoghue took advantage of some poor defending from Birr to score a goal.
Coen then exhanged points with brothers Brian and Simon Whelehan as very little separated the two clubs on a dull and dreary afternoon in Semple Stadium. As half-time approached Brian Whelehan missed a free to level matters and before the whistle sounded for the interval, the Galway club extended its lead to two points - 1-04 to 1-02 - when Donoghue fired over from wide on on the left.
Within five minutes of the re-start, Birr had taken the lead after five quick points in succession from Gary Hannify, Rory Hannify, Stephen Browne and Brian and Simon Whelehan, leaving them firmly in the driving seat. Clarinbridge could only manage one point in total from their efforts in the second-half and this arrived in the 44th minute when Coen successfully converted a free.
On 50 minutes, with Birr now leading 1-09 to 1-05, Johnny Pilkington broke away and although his first effort to net was saved by Liam Donoghue, he made no mistake with his second chance and kicked the sliothar over the line. A minute later, Birr extended their advantage when Simon Whelehan fired a penalty over the bar. With time running out, Clarinbrige needed to act fast if they were to make any fightback but with Coen missing several vital frees in the dying minutes, there was no doubt that the All-Ireland title was on its way back to Offaly.
Filed by Amanda Fennelly