*Liam Markham is tackled by Sean Phelan. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
Cratloe maintained their perfect start to the senior championship when fending off a meek Broadford for the second consecutive season in Cusack Park in Ennis.
Venue: Cusack Park, Ennis
Much like the 2021 group stage narrative, Cratloe led from the front and always seemed a step ahead of their neighbours. Indeed, Broadford only led once and that was when Diarmuid O’Brien opened the scoring after only 40 seconds.
A brace of Rian Considine frees were solaced by a Niall O’Farrell point but from there, Cratloe would up the ante and never look back over their shoulders as four unanswered points created some daylight that wouldn’t be breached for the remainder.
However, Cratloe’s composure on the ball, greater decision-making and ultimately greater scoring spread proved much too elusive for Broadford to match. Seven different Cratloe players scored two points or more to contrast to only two for Broadford as Niall O’Farrell’s accuracy from frees kept the scoreboard moving.
In only his first season, O’Farrell is already Broadford’s best scoring threat while they also welcomed back Cian Cremins from a long term injury to impactful effect with a brace of points after being sprung from the bench.
Instead, it was Cratloe who possessed all the aces with outstanding duo Podge Collins (1-4) and Diarmuid Ryan (0-3) aided by Rian Considine, Cathal McInerney, Conor McGrath, Shane Neville, Liam Markham and Shane Gleeson.
Only four points separated the sides this time last year but Broadford only had ten survivors from that starting side including a hamstring injury to key defender Cathal Chaplin.
Diarmuid O’Brien commenced matters on a high while a brace of Rian Considine frees were solaced by a Niall O’Farrell point. However, from there, Cratloe would up the ante and never look back over their shoulders thereafter as four unanswered points created some daylight that wouldn’t be breached for the remainder.
Braces from Podge Collins and Rian Considine ensured a 0-6 to 0-2 advantage by the 14th minute while Shane Gleeson also saw a shot flash wide of the right points.
To their credit, Broadford did score three of the last four before the water break, two from O’Farrell frees, at 0-7 to 0-5 but that would be as close as they would come to the leaders. Diarmuid Ryan’s overlapping runs picked off two brilliant scores as both sides passed up glorious goal opportunities before half-time.
In injury-time Rian Considine centred to Jack Donnelly who just couldn’t bring the ball down in time to strike while the ball quickly switched to the other end as Diarmuid Moloney teed up Stiofan McMahon, only for his pull to be tipped away by goalkeeper Gearoid Ryan at 0-13 to 0-8.
Broadford needed a backlash but it was Cratloe who pushed on for the new half to put the result beyond doubt by the 38th minute after outscoring their stunned opponents by 1-5 to 0-1.
McGrath (2), Shane Gleeson, Rian Considine and Shane Neville picked off points while Considine picked out Podge Collins to clinically finish to the bottom right corner of the net in the 35th minute on their way to a 12 point cushion at 1-18 to 0-9.
To their credit, Broadford did respond positively with six of the next eight points by the turn of the final quarter but aside from an excellent timely block by Conor McGrath on Niall O’Farrell, the 2019 intermediate champions never looked like mounting a full recovery.
After a ten minute scoreless slumber, Cratloe were inevitably awoken by Podge Collins and Diarmuid Ryan while Rian Considine put the final nail in Broadford’s coffin with a goal at the death to put one major foot in the quarter-finals with two games to spare.
Broadford meanwhile have two matches to save their season, with a juicy East Clare derby against O’Callaghan’s Mills up next in a fortnight’s time.
Scorers for Cratloe: Rian Considine (1-6, 6f); Podge Collins (1-4); Cathal McInerney, Diarmuid Ryan (0-3 each); Shane Gleeson, Conor McGrath, Shane Neville (0-2 each); Martin Oige Murphy (0-1)
Scorers for Broadford: Niall O’Farrell (0-9, 7f); Cian Cremins (0-2); Diarmuid O’Brien, Paurig Taylor, Sean Phelan, Paddy Donnellan, Stiofan McMahon (0-1 each)
1: Gearoid Ryan
4: Damien Browne
3: Liam Markham
2: David Collins
5: Shane Neville
6: Diarmuid Ryan
7: Sean Collins
8: Daithi Collins
10: Conor McGrath
12: Cathal McInerney
13: Shane Gleeson
21: Jack Donnelly
15: Rian Considine
11: Padraic Collins
14: Mikey Hawes
26: Jack McInerney for Donnelly (HT)
29: Martin Oige Murphy for Daithi Collins (53)
1: Cian O’Brien
3: Eoin Donnellan
2: Mark Moloney
4: David Boland
6: Paurig Taylor
8: Darren Chaplin
9: Paddy Donnellan
5: Craig Chaplin
17: Jack O’Brien
11: Diarmuid O’Brien
13: Diarmuid Moloney
12: Niall O’Farrell
15: Stiofan McMahon
14: Sean Phelan
18: Oisin Kavanagh
20: Cian Cremins for Kavanagh (HT)
23: Padraig Hickey for O’Brien (40)
18: Kavanagh for Cr. Chaplin (57)
Referee: Joe Mullins (Clonlara)