*Fergus Madden and Éanna McMahon. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
CRUSHEEN are back in the Clare SHC final for the first time since 2014 after storming past the challenge of Scariff.
Venue: Cusack Park, Ennis
Now as they most recent winners of the championship following their 2011 success when they won back to back titles for the first time in their history, Crusheen find themselves sixty minutes away from winning a third ever title.
Once again they produced a commanding first half display, seeing them build a strong platform. Their quarter-final victory over Newmarket-on-Fergus saw them raid for three first half goals to lead by 3-5 0-2 at the interval, this time round they had a 0-15 0-8 advantage when the half-time whistle sounded.
Ironically Crusheen’s route to the knockout stages was virtue of scoring difference and a controversial new ruling introduced at Congress. On the field, they have shown to be fully deservingly of their place in this phase of the competition and have dominated both of their opponents to set themselves up for a first county final appearance in almost a decade.
Michael Browne the man who was manager for their back to back success in 2010 and 2011 returned as manager this season with a set-up made up of warriors from that glorious period in their history including Paddy Vaughan, Gearoid O’Donnell, Cronan Dillon and Alan Tuohy. The spirit and fight that was ever-present in that side has come back to the fore in their last two outings.
With the addition of ex Galway hurler, Aidan Harte as coach they have a system where they crowd their defensive area and middle third with bodies and punish teams on counter attacks.
In a pulsating start, there was ten scores in the first six minutes, Scariff took the lead and the sides were level twice by the second minute but Crusheen once they got in front, never looked back and while the contest remained competitive until the end, they had the upperhand.
A tally of four points in a row between the tenth and thirteenth minute saw Crusheen build up a six point lead and created a commanding position. Scariff continued to keep their account ticking but by the half-time whistle, they trailed by seven points.
Scariff’s fightback was expected to intensify on the restart which it duly did. They had their first of four second half goal chances inside forty seconds, Donal Tuohy blocking Patrick Ryan’s shot with his legs and the next attack they hit a point via Mark Rodgers.
Their belief began to vanish when Crusheen struck for the game’s only goal via Fergus Kennedy on thirty four minutes. The move began with Tuohy hitting Ross Hayes with a short puckout but it was made when Breffni Horner took on Daniel Treacy and delivered a cross-field pass to Kennedy who beat William Kavanagh.
Both sides added nine points each from here and the margin remain eight points by the sounding of Niall Malone’s full-time whistle.
Leaders were to be found in every sector of the field for Crusheen. Once again, Gerry O’Grady rolled back the years, the ex Clare captain made vital turnovers and assists while they won the key battles all over the pitch with Cilléin Mullins, Conor O’Donnell, Cian Dillon, Ross Hayes, Diarmuid Mullins, Breffni Horner and Oisin O’Donnell to the fore.
For Scariff it was their first game since their second outing in the championship to Ballyea where they failed to get a goal. Their reliance on Rodgers to provide the magic hurt them with few others stepping up to set the way on this occasion, apart from Keelan Hartigan, Diarmaid Nash and Patrick Crotty. Disappointment will be the pre-dominant feeling for the East Clare side managed by Mark McKenna but on a whole the year for the 2020 intermediate champions has been a very progressive one.
Scorers Crusheen: B Horner (0-6 4f), O O’Donnell (0-4), C O’Donnell (0-3), C Mullins (0-3), F Kennedy (1-0), R Hayes (0-3 3f), L Ketelaar (0-2), J Fitzgibbon (0-1), T Dean (0-1), G O’Grady (0-1)
Scorers Scariff: M Rodgers (0-8 5f 1’65), P Ryan (0-3), K Hartigan (0-3), P Crotty (0-2), F Madden (0-2), L Crotty (0-1)
1: Donal Tuohy
2: Éanna McMahon
3: Cian Dillon
4: Luke Hayes
7: Tadhg Dean
6: Ross Hayes
5: Diarmuid Mullins
8: Eoghan McMahon
9: Jamie Fitzgibbon
10: Gerry O’Grady
11: Conor O’Donnell
12: Cilléin Mullins
13: Oisin O’Donnell
14: Fergus Kennedy
15: Breffni Horner
20: Ian O’Brien for Fitzgibbon (HT) (inj)
18: Luke Ketelaar for Eoghan McMahon (HT)
21: Gavin O’Brien for Kennedy (49)
22: Murrough McMahon for C O’Donnell (61)
17: Mark Perrill for O’Grady (62)
1: William Kavanagh
4: Daniel Treacy
3: Michael Scanlan
2: Seamus McCaul
5: Scott Cairns
6: Diarmaid Nash
7: Shane Kavanagh
8: Conor Downes
9: Keelan Hartigan
12: Liam Crotty
11: Patrick Crotty
10: Michael Barrett
15: Fergus Madden
14: Mark Rodgers
13: Patrick Ryan
19: Jack Ryan for Downes (38)
21: Seán Collins for Cairns (41)
20: Eanna O’Brien for Barrett (48)
17: Seán Minogue for L Crott (58)
Referee: Niall Malone (Éire Óg)