That South Clare senior hurling sides Cratloe and Clonlara are evenly matched was highlighted again at Cusack Park on Sunday when their meeting in the semi-final of the senior title race ended in a draw.
In an entertaining game of hurling, the teams were level on nine occasions. Both sides looked to have taken a grip on the game at different times in the second half but, when referee Ger Hoey sounded the final whistle in the third minute of injury time, they were still level.
Both sides were forced to make changes to their regular starting line-ups. Clonlara were without Tomás O’Donovan, Donal Madden and Pat O’Hare but the latter two did come into the action and did well.
Cratloe were without Martin ‘Ogie’ Murphy due to a leg injury but, on the credit side, they had Cathal McInerney back from injury at corner-forward.
Both sets of players looked somewhat nervous in the opening half and it took seven minutes before the first score came. It was for the title-holders Cratloe and it came from a 20m free by Conor McGrath. The lead lasted a minute as Darach Honan landed a 70m free to tie up the game.
Points were exchanged twice more before Clonlara introduced Pat O’Hare in place of Cillian Fennessy. Nicky O’Connell gave Clonlara the lead for the first time when he landed a 65’ with eight minutes to go to the break but Cratloe’s Collins brothers, Paudge and Sean ,combined three minutes later for Sean to level the match for the fourth time. McGrath and Honan then exchanged points and with the sides level at 0-5 each at the end of normal time in the first half.
Two additional minutes were signalled and in that time, Cratloe added three points through Sean Chaplin and McGrath (2) to lead 0-8 to 0-5. The first of McGrath’s two (Cratloe’s seventh point) led to some confusion with one umpire waving the ball wide as his colleague reached for the flag. After consultation with referee Hoey, the score was confirmed.
Clearly stung by Cratloe’s strong finish to the half, Clonlara stepped up a gear on the resumption and they scored 0-6 to Cratloe’s 0-1 in the first ten minutes of the second half.
Two points ahead (0-11 to 0-9), the champions of 2008 looked take a grip on proceedings but Cratloe came storming back. Enda Boyce cut the margin to the minimum and then the title-holders put a great move together which ended with a goal.
Sean Hawes won possession close to his own goal and he sent a perfect 40m pass to Liam Markham who found Paudge Collins. Handpassed to Cathal McInerney whose shot on goal deflected off a Clonlara defender onto the crossbar before rebounding off the shoulder of a Clonlara player over the goal line.
The handworking Tommy Lynch pointed for Clonlara before John Conlon levelled with nine minutes to play. Both sides missed chances to increase their scores with Donal Madden and Conor McGrath wide of the target from placed balls.
A foul on Darach Honan presented Madden with the chance to give Clonlara the lead with four minutes remaining and he obliged but in the final minute of normal time Conor McGrath levelled for the champions. Three minutes of additional time were signalled and in the second of those, Cratloe substitute, Conor Ryan pointed what looked like the winner. From the puck-out, Clonlara were awarded a free in their own half and centre back Paul Nihill coolly converted the 95m effort to set up a replay.
Barry Duggan, David Ryan, John O’Gorman, Sean Chaplin, Conor McGrath and Paudge Collins got through a lot of work for the champions. Tommy Lynch, Conor Galvin, Cathal O’Connell, in the second half, Paul Nihill, Domhnaill O’Donovan and Paul Collins were prominent for Clonlara.
Cratloe: Sean Hawes; Philip Gleeson, Barry Duggan, David Ryan; John O’Gorman, Michael Hawes, Liam Markham; Enda Boyce, Sean Chaplin; Sean Collins, James Enright, Damian Browne; Cathal McInerney, Conor McGrath, Paudge Collins.
Subs: Gearóid Ryan for S Collins (39 minutes); Conor Ryan for Enright (45 minutes); Barry Gleeson for Boyce (55 minutes).
Scorers: Conor McGrath (0-7, 3f); Cathal McInerney (1-1), Enda Boyce, Sean Chaplin, Sean Collins, Conor Ryan (0-1) each.
Clonlara: Ger O’Connell; Paul Collins, John Moloney, Senan Nihill; Nicky O’Connell, Paul Nihill, Domhnaill O’Donovan; Tommy Lynch, Cormac O’Donovan; Colm Galvin, John Conlon, William Slattery; Cillian Fennessy, Darach Honan, Cathal O’Connell.
Subs: Pat O’Hare for Fennessy (20 minutes); Donal Madden for Slattery (32 minutes).
Scorers: Darach Honan (0-3, 2f); Paul Nihill (frees); Nicky O’Connell (1 free); Donal Madden (1 free); John Conlon, Cathal O’Connell (0-2 each); Domhnaill O’Donovan, Tommy Lynch (0-1 each).
Referee: Ger Hoey, Killanena.