*Wolfe Tones celebrate their U15 success. Photograph: Burren Eye Photography
The longest final saga of 2021 at any grade was finally decided in Cusack Park on Monday evening when Clooney-Quin raided for an injury-time goal to secure the Under 15 Division 2 Football Championship honours over a gallant Cooraclare by 1-12 to 0-10.
Being Clooney-Quin’s fourth Under 15 decider in the space of only three weeks, it’s a testament to the talent and character of this group that they were able to bounce back from a disappointing defeat in last week’s Under 15B Hurling equivalent at the same venue to finish the season on the ultimate high.
Monday’s replay wasn’t as free-flowing as the drawn version but the stop-start format didn’t diminish the evenly-matched nature of the sides that ensured that there would be only a kick of the ball between them for the majority until Conor McCarthy’s clinching goal at the death.
Crucially however, despite six glorious goal chances for Cooraclare including back-to-back penalties at the turn of the final quarter, it was a defiant Clooney-Quin that somehow managed to keep their noses in front for the entire hour.
A powerful start certainly laid the foundations for victory as braces for Dylan White and the lively Jerry O’Connor could have been bolstered by goals at 0-7 to 0-2 by the 23rd minute. However, relentless midfielder Aidan Beirne’s shot to just clear the crossbar while goalkeeper Harry O’Gorman tipped a PJ McCarthy attempt over the bar.
Cooraclare settled just in time though, kicking the last four points, three from sharpshooter Shane O’Connell, to lessen the damage to just the minimum by the break.
It was all hands to the pump for the leaders on the restart as a resurgent Cooraclare went in search of a goal, only to find goalkeeper Euan McGowan in breathtaking form.
In a direct duel with Kevin Marrinan, McGowan best save came with his leg in the 35th minute before making a double stop from penalties after being adjudged to have moved off his line too early for the first save.
Defying logic, Clooney-Quin actually went in at the final water break with a two point cushion thanks to a late point from Conor McCarthy at 0-9 to 0-7, with captain Fionn O’Gara helping his goalkeeper on the resumption to prevent further Cooraclare shots from Simon Culligan and Marrinan.
With only a point between the sides by the hour mark, substitute Cormac Hale pointed with his first touch before Conor McCarthy expertly blocked down a clearance to kick to the net as Clooney-Quin finally shook off their obstinate opponents.
Clooney-Quin’s first Under 15 football title was matched by Wolfe Tones who make their Under 15C hurling breakthrough in Cusack Park last Thursday evening when producing a 15 point turnaround against Crusheen/Tubber at 4-13 to 1-11.
Unquestionably, full-forward Sean Murphy was the star of the show with a rich bounty of 3-8 from play as the Shannon side dominated the middle half of the final to stun the North Clare amalgamation by 4-10 to 0-04 and power 15 points clear.
All that after a James Costello-led Crusheen/Tubber had dominated the opening quarter but didn’t take full advantage of their opportunities and consequently only led by 0-5 to 0-1.
Wolfe Tones would have no such complaints as the water woke them from their early slumber with goals from Murphy (2) and Georgie Pyke and an impressive display from Niall Fitzgerald securing a 3-5 to 0-7 interval advantage.
The completion of Murphy’s hat-trick in the 49th minute would effectively put the result beyond any doubt at 4-11 to 0-08. So while Crusheen/Tubber did rally, five late goal chances would only yield a Osgar Dunford major with the last puck of the game as Wolfe Tones soared to success.