By Michael O Connor.
Scorelines can be deceptive. Optimistic viewpoint would say that there were only 2 scores between the sides whilst a pessimist would say six points was the difference. However, for all present in Clonlara on a lovely evening for hurling an ocean of quality separated these sides and how Cratloe only managed to be six clear at the end belied their total superiority over the hour.
Clonlara fielded a second string side aided by a quintet of regulars as Cratloe had a strong core of over 10 of their preferred championship side and this quickly told in terms of fluidity and movement on and off the ball. Predictability the star forward for each side, namely John Conlon and Conor McGrath were to the fore in the scoring stakes as they opened the scoring by the 3rd minute. The intervening saw a scoring blitz from Cratloe realising (1-3) with Enda Boyce, Damian Browne (2) grabbing points as Conor McGrath scored the first of a hat trick of goals. Clonlara struggled in the backline to contain a fast moving Cratloe forward sextet and indeed had Cratloe over the hour converted all their chances they would have ended with over 20 points and perhaps three more goals. With no sign of Clonlara scoring Cratloe another (1-4) courtesy of Damien Browne (2frees), Cathal McInerney and McGrath’s second goal as Cratloe were (2-7) to (0-1) clear after 25 minutes.
Neil Ryan managed a rare score for the home side as they were 11 points in arrears facing the second half and looking assured of their third defeat out of four outings in the Clare cup. One could sense that the Clonlara effort was not enough to win games in lower division never mind the premier grade due to the absence of Cillian Fennessy, the O Donovan twins, the Galvins, Nicky O Connell, the Downey’s and others. John Conlon and Damien Browne (2) hit the opening hat trick of points in the second half and Cratloe led (2-9) to (0-3) after 35 minutes. Whilst attempting a speculative effort for a point Darach Honan was forced to retire with what appeared to be a groin or hamstring injury which dismayed supporters of both sides who would wish to see him in action for the county squad in five weeks time.
Neil Ryan forced a fine reflex save from Gearoid Ryan at the expense of a 65 scored by John Conlon who quickly added another free. Spectators began to depart from Clonlara when Conor McGrath struck for his hat trick as Cathal McInerney set up the Clare under 21 captain of last season. This proved to be the last score of the game for Cratloe who hit eight wides in the final twelve minutes action. McGrath was withdrawn from the fray as Barry Gleeson was introduced. On the negative side for Cratloe they did not play with real zeal in front of goal against as stated before a very average home side. McGrath’s goals aside they hit wides under little pressure and gave away possession that against better structured sides would have ended in scores.
Clonlara rounded off the scoring with (1-5) as Thomas Begley, John Conlon (4fs) and a well taken goal from James Hastings gave a sense of respectability to the scoreline as Clonlara will point to a weakened squad and hope that the game time given to the squad will strengthen same for the long year ahead in senior and junior A action. Cratloe were far from satisfied with events surrounding their defeat at the hands of neighbours Newmarket and will welcome a return to winning form irrespective of the opposition.
Best for Cratloe included Damien Browne, Conor McGrath, Cathal McInerney, Gearoid Ryan, David Ryan, Michael Hawes, Sean Collins, Enda Boyce, John O Gorman and Oige Murphy. Clonlara improved as the game petered out but the damage was inflicted in the opening twenty minutes. Their best included Neil Ryan, John Conlon who once again tried his heart out and does look at home in a defensive role when required, Cathal O Connell, Eoin Meehan and James Hastings.
CRATLOE: Gearoid Ryan, John O Gorman, Barry Duggan, David Ryan, Philip Gleeson, Michael Hawes, Martin Oige Murphy, Enda Boyce (0-1), Sean Collins Padraig Collins, David O Gorman, Damien Browne (0-6), Aidan Browne (0-1), Cathal McInerney (0-1), Conor McGrath (3-1). Subs: Barry Gleeson for McGrath, Michael Carey for P Gleeson,
CLONLARA: Ger O Connell, Shane O Brien, Oisin O Brien, Patrick Conlon, Ger Powell, Eoin Meehan, Ronan Carey, Neil Ryan (0-1), James Hastings (1-0), Thomas Begley (0-1), John Conlon (0-8), Padraig Moloney, Michael O Loughlin, Darach Honan, Cathal O Connell. Subs: Patrick Clancy for Carey, Jason Murphy for Moloney, Chris O Kane for Honan (inj),
Referee: Sean McMahon (Newmarket on Fergus)