CLARE’S YEAR OF the draw was confirmed this afternoon as for the second successive Sunday, there would be no winner in the senior final in Cusack Park.
Following in the footsteps of Cratloe and Kilmurry Ibrickane’s dramatic stalemate the previous week in the football version, a replay would also be forced in the hurling decider after Cathal ‘Tots’ O’Connell popped up with a last-gap 65th minute equaliser to deny Ballyea a first ever title.
Trailing by five by the 40th minute, Ballyea seemed to gather momentum at the perfect time, inspired as ever by Tony Kelly who finally escaped the clutches of fellow county senior Oisin O’Brien to reel in Clonlara before substitute Martin O’Leary accelerated past Clonlara’s last line for a levelling goal in the 53rd minute at 1-9 to 1-9.
Kelly nudged Ballyea in front for the first time in almost 30 minutes, only for O’Connell to regain parity on the hour mark.
However, as tensions heightened a scrappy period eventually saw a poor Clonlara clearance fall straight to talisman Kelly to fire over from 60 metres in the 62nd minute.
Clonlara refused to panic though and were given one last chance as a puck-out broke perfectly for O’Connell to fire over and ensure another day out for the sides.
In a low-scoring tense encounter, Gearoid O’Connell operated superbly as a sweeper for Ballyea who thanks to three early Kelly frees were 0-4 to 0-2 clear by the end of the opening quarter.
Cathal O’Connell and Darach Honan got Clonlara back on terms as the half developed and their hopes of a first county title in eight years were boosted going in at half-time after Colm Galvin blocked down a clearance and was put through on goal by Oisin O’Brien to billow the net and give Clonlara a 1-5 to 0-5 lead.
Tony Kelly scored only eight seconds into the new half, only for John Conlon to cancel it out on the puck-out while Galvin and Honan eventually pushed Clonlara five clear by the 40th minute.
Missed chances meant that they couldn’t see out the game though and it almost came back to hurt them as Kelly and O’Leary got Ballyea to the brink of a first senior crown.
In the end though, a second bite of the cherry was merited for both sides who will be expected to lock horns once more in a fortnight’s time.
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Scorers for Clonlara: Cathal O’Connell 0-4 (2f); Colm Galvin 1-1; John Conlon, Darach Honan 0-2 each; Nicky O’Connell (1f), James Hastings 0-1 each
Scorers for Ballyea: Tony Kelly 0-9 (4f, 1’65); Martin O’Leary 1-1; Cathal Doohan 0-1
1. Ger O’Connell
25. Paul McNamara
7. Domhnall O’Donovan
27. Cillian Fennessy
9. Cormac O’Donovan
5. Nicky O’Connell
6. Neil Ryan
4. Oisin O’Brien
13. James Hastings
19. Paraic O’Loughlin
8. Colm Galvin
11. Cathal O’Connell
14. John Conlon (Captain)
15. Michael O’Loughlin
10. Darach Honan
22. Michael White for P. O’Loughlin (44)
23. David Fitzgerald for M. O’Loughlin (57)
29. Garrett Kennedy for Ryan (60)
2. Shane O’Brien for McNamara (64, inj)
1. Kevin Sheehan
7. James Murphy
3. Jack Browne
4. Brian Carrigg
6. Paul Flanagan
5. Gearoid O’Connell
2. Joe Neylon
8. Tony Kelly
9. Stan Lineen (Captain)
10. Niall Deasy
11. Gary Brennan
12. Cathal Doohan
13. Pat Joe Connolly
14. Eoghan Donnellan
15. Pearse Lillis
17. Martin O’Leary for Neylon (Half-Time, inj)
18. Damien Burke for Connolly (38)
19. David Egan for Donnellan (60)
Referee: Rory McGann (Newmarket-on-Fergus)
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