U14 footballers won the County Final today defetaing Cooraclare in Kilmihil by 2-12 to 1-5. This trophy is now nestling in Clubhouse alongside U14 Hurling Championship, U14 Feile Hurling and Football titles and U14 Xtra Football title
Goals win games. So the old adage goes. Wolfe Tones U16’s have taken this adage, polished it up a little for 2010, so that now it reads ‘Goals win championships’. The 4 goals they scored in last nights 6 point win over Miltown put them at a grand total of 36 for & 11 against (4 clean sheets) in their 9 matches. It is that simple statistic that probably encapsulates more than other why this morning William Flynn was eating his Cornflakes from the cup while the Doc looked on approvingly. In truth, for once this season the Tones probably needed all 4 of their precious goals but more of that anon
At the start of the season there were certain niggly fears for the prospects of this team. Yes they were good. Of that there was no question. County Feile champions, All Ireland Feile runners up & county semi finalists from their 14’s days. Seven of them were strong enough to start last years 16 final. So there was no problem with the pedigree. The problem was whether or not we had enough players with the pedigree. Like everything these days we operated on a shoestring budget, except our budget was players. And 15 minutes before our first round game our budget was slashed further when only 12 players were available. Some desperate fire fighting ensued (who’d be a manager) & we started on time with a full complement. Better still we got the two points as well, beating Doora Barefield 3-6 to 0-4. We started with the Bridge man in goals as planned, except it wasn’t the right Bridge man. Mark Hehir turned up for the game, with a chest infection to lend his support. We asked him to stand in goals for the first half. He ended up there in 7 of our 9 games, conceding only 4 goals. The most fortunate chest infection that any of our players suffered for a while! Damien Casey kicked a point from a free that day also. Little did we know that he would turn into a one man scoring machine, ending up with a total of 5-34 in the championship.
Wins followed over Kilrush, Eire Og & Cooraclare before Miltown came to town. Both teams were on full points & realistically it was obvious that both would make the semi final. Tones came out on top winning 2-7 to 0-5. Both teams were to win the remainder of their games, thus ensuring they’d be on opposite sides of the draw for the semi finals. After a nervy opening against Cooraclare where Tones found themselves 1-3 to 0-0 down after 8 minutes (plus had picked up 2 yellow cards in that time), the side settled down well to reel in the deficit by half time. Similar to many games during the season, the Tones finished strongly & ended up 5-10 to 1-8 victors. It must be noted that this team had a particularly high number of full 16’s. Our first xv regularly featured 12 full 16’s & that extra year of growth added immensely to our strength & I believe to our ability to finish strongly while other teams weakened. When word came through that it was Miltown in the final, thoughts went back to that gloomy evening of our 8 point win. We well remembered the apathy of their blondie #11, the physicality of their centre back & the lack of movement from their management on the line. The conspiracy theorists ( aka lunatic fringe) amongst us didn’t like it. We were for once right to be concerned.
You can’t beat experience & we had buckets of it on the sideline with Mick Riordan & Ger Carrig who have been busy winning (& losing county finals) for 30 years. The rest of us had a few days out ourselves so we knew how to prepare for the big day. To reverse the usual trend we had our post match dinner 5 hours before the game. The golf club was the venue. Daniel Brennan looked like a school kid on detention while the rest of his friends are playing outside in the sun as he gazed out onto the fairways. We had turned the early season panel size problem (we finished with a panel of 20) to our advantage at this stage the team almost picked itself. Indeed 10 of our starting xv started every game for us. The long trip to Cooraclare passed quickly & quietly. We all did our private little rituals (what happens in the dressing room stays in the dressing room!) before heading onto the field for the more public warm up. A quick glance at the stand showed a very fine crowd with a lot of troopers having trekked from Shannon. This was without really being acknowledged much appreciated especially that so many senior players were there. We won the toss & played with the wind. Linesman Gerry Corry helpfully remarked that the wind tends to die down later in the evening. And all of a sudden, a minute early, Michael Fitzgerald threw in the ball & the game was on.
Did I say we were playing with the wind? Well it was making no difference. Miltown were running everything from their central diamond. The blondie #11 from the group game was now the blondie #13. He had also changed in to a master puppeteer and was pulling strings everywhere. 0-3 points came Milltown’s way & our slow start against Cooraclare was being replicated on Cooraclare's own rock hard pitch. The unforgiving surface was to prove too much for David Murphy’s shoulder & after 10 minutes David’s final was over (ironically similar though less serious injury that forced him off the All Ireland Feile final at much the same stage). Stephen Tuohy came on & Jack Kelly moved out to fill Murphs boots on the forty. All Tones needed was a score to settle us down & when it came it was to spark 6 minutes of madness tat scoring wise was the winning of the game. First of all, The Flying Flynn solos through twenty yards before planting the ball in the top corner. Then Dylan Birchall's through ball deceived the keeper. Daniel Brennan kicked his first point in a month & then Tuts marked his cameo role with a neat side step to the top of the net. As I said 6 minutes of madness, Tones 3-1 Milltown 0-3. Jack Kelly kicked a point, Casey added another & we lead by 9 at half time. So game over so?
Not on your life. It started slowly. We were defending well. Sean Reidy burst out with the ball a few times. Andrew Shanaher defied his man time after time. But Miltown were kicking a point here & there. We were defending so much from midfield back that we couldn’t get primary possession to our lethal forwards. Then Miltown started to up their scoring rate. Points were being kicked, kickouts won & kicked back over the bar. With 10 minutes to go the score now stood at 3-3 to 0-10. We were in trouble, if Miltown got a goal at this stage all the momentum was with them. I think all the supporters knew it too. Somewhere in the midst of all this tension the chance came, but Mark Hehir stood tall, & got a finger to the ball. Just the one, but it was enough to turn the ball onto the cross bar. As I said already the strength of our team led us to finish games strongly. Milltown had attacked us so much with their direct running that when we got the inevitable breakaway they were caught. Jason McNally was fouled as he waltzed away from a tackle and bore down on goals. Incredibly Michael Fitzgerald’s whistle blew to give us the free in. Howls of disgust came from the Miltown sideline & from behind us in the stand. This was compounded as Casey’s free tailed away wide. But in a strange way that wide was as good as a score as it broke Milltown’s momentum. They were now facing their own goal. Minutes later on another attack Jack Kelly swung the ball over the bar. Barely another minute passed when Jack Carrig's effort from much the same place dropped short & deceived the keeper. Game over, & it was two minutes later. Obvious delight for players & proud mothers squeezing their embarrassed sons. Lots of firm handshakes for the mentors, a few backslaps. More rituals in the dressing room, then home with the cup for only the fourth time in the clubs history. And for at least one night we can dream about what we hope to achieve safe in the knowledge that today we backed it up with a cup.
Cunningham leads Tones back to Feile glory after 17 year gap
Feile na nGael final
By Michael O Connor.
A small revolution or return of hurling names is underway in Shannon if the team line up is evidence and most definitely the hurling style as they ripped up Cusack park with pace and hurling prowess to claim the 2011 feile na nGael title denying Clarecastle in some style in ideal conditions.
Prematch debate suggested a win for Wolfe Tones side against Clarecastle who scrapped home against 2009 under 12A champions Sixmilebridge. The opening five minutes resulted in one attack for Clarecastle in the opening salvo that was repelled with ease. Wolfe Tones had dominance but three wides. Clarecastle took heart from this and when Darren Crowe pointed the opening score from a free in the 6th minute one could feel that Clarecastle were not going to drop without a fight.
Paul Dolan had the ball in the Shannon net seconds later but had taken 10 steps. Whilst Wolfe Tones were the more physically developed side Clarecastle had real determination to be strong contenders. Aaron Shanagher finally had the favourites on the scoreboard from play in the 8th minute. The second score took five minutes to materialise and it fell to Shannon full forward Jack Cunningham under pressure from tight Clarecastle markers. Clarecastle Dean O Hara had a half chance for a goal straight from the puck out but his effort tailed wide.
A 16th minute free by Cunningham stretched the Tones lead to two but once again Clarecastle looked capable of creating chances. The battle between Hayden Starr and Paul Dolan was won in the first half by the Wolfe Tones centre back and eventually Wolfe Tones began through the dominance of Dean Devanney to pepper the Clarecastle rearguard with more regularity. Aaron Shanagher and Darragh McMahon added points with ease to stretch the Shannon lead to four points before the crucial score of the first half was blasted to the net by Jack Cunningham after 23 minutes. Jack Murphy struck for a Magpie point with five minutes to go in the opening half as the remaining minutes of the half were dominated by Wolfe Tones with Aaron Cunningham rounding off the scoring to leave the 1994 champions (1-6) to (0-2) clear.
Clarecastle engineered a variety of positional changes for the second half to breathe new life into the title race. They very nearly had a goal in the opening seconds as Adam Cassidy’s well struck shot was brilliantly saved by Cian Collopy. The puck out saw Wolfe Tones turn the save into a score as Cunningham once again showed too much for Clarecastle to handle. Adam Cassidy scored a hard earned Clarecastle point after Cunningham, Kevin Justice with a huge free and Brian O Connor with a score each left the Tones (1'-10) to (0-3) ahead. Paul Dolan with what appeared even with twenty minutes plus to play like a concession score from a free. Jake Kearney had to be alert to deny Cunningham from an acute angle. The 24 mentors and waterboys on the sideline over the course of the game ensured that the ear of Rory Hickey was always tested. Brian O Connor ground pulled for Shannons second goal in the 50th minute to open a 13 that finished as 16 at the end point as the Wolfe Tones support who have been starved for years could now taste success. Fittingly it was the first occasion since the Feile na nGael cup was donated by the Keane family in memory of Brendan Keane in 1997 who done so much for Shannon and was linked to the glory feile years in the 1980s that it was presented to a Shannon man. Best for the winners were Kevin Justice, Dean Devanney Daniel Claire, Darragh McMahon, Sean Costello, Aaron Shanagher, Evan O Gorman and Jack Cunningham. Clarecastle after a promising opening quarter were unable to cope with Shannon’s pace and strength at midfield and in the central attacking positions. Their best included Jake Kearney, Fiachra Cooney, Paul Dolan in the second half, Darren Crowe and Adam Cassidy.
WOLFE TONES: Cian Collopy, Michael Hayes, Daniel Clair, Sean Costello, Robbie Meaney Kevin Justice (0-2), Ross O Connor, Darragh McMahon (0-1), Dean Devanney, Cian Pettigrew (0-1), Aaron Shanagher (0-3), Evan O Gorman, Shane Nihill, Jack Cunningham (1-6), Brian O Connor (1-1). Subs: Jamie Divilly for Nihill, Philip Leahy for O Connor, Eoghan Gough for Hayes.
CLARECASTLE: Jake Kearney, Fiachra Cooney, Kevin Mulcaire, Kevin Hartigan, Darragh Crimmins, Hayden Starr, Josh Kelly, Adam Cassidy (0-1), Darren Crowe (0-1), Rory Crimmins, Paul Dolan (0-2), Jack Murphy (0-1), Dean O Hara, Jack Hayes, Mark McAuliffe. Subs: Mark O Loughlin for O Hara, Cian Donnelly for Murphy, Conor Ryan for Hayes, Matthew Fahy (1-0) for Cassidy,
REFEREE: Rory Hickey (Eire-og).
After the game Mrs Imelda Keane presented the Brendan Keane Feile na nGael memorial cup to Kevin Justice who represents one of the hurling dynasties within the Wolfe tones club.