*Patrick Donnellan. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
O’Callaghans Mills have qualified for their first Clare SHC final since 1993 after finishing with an unanswered 1-04 to dump Ballyea out of the championship.
O’Callaghans Mills 2-17
Venue: Cusack Park, Ennis
A year after surviving dropping to the intermediate ranks by overcoming Tulla in the relegation final, O’Callaghans Mills have advanced to the Clare SHC decider where they will take on near neighbours Sixmilebridge.
Both sides had their respective periods of dominance but it was the powerful self-belief and strong finish from the East Clare men that saw them see past Ballyea on a three point margin.
An excellent start fell the way of the Mills as they racked up 1-01 without reply inside the first three minutes. Bryan Donnellan admirably won a turnover which resulted in a line ball, the delivery was excellently controlled by Colin Crehan into the direction of midfielder Conor Henry who slotted the sliotar past Oisin Hennessy.
It would take Ballyea until the twenty fourth minute to get back on level terms and they powered in front to lead by three points having scored six points in succession. Placed balls from Jacob Loughnane and two from Colin Crehan had the Fireballs level at the sounding of the half-time whistle.
Aidan O’Gorman with a long-range effort and Gary Cooney’s sole point of the outing aside, it was Ballyea that controlled the third quarter. Their scorers in chief Tony Kelly and Niall Deasy kept their account ticking over while a quick Oisin Hennessy puck out would begin a move that finished with Kelly firing the sliotar low and hard past Killian Nugent on thirty seven minutes.
Deasy and Kelly added a point each and their advantage could have been greater had Nugent not pulled off an impressive save to stop Kelly from collecting a second goal.
With the tie entering the final ten minutes, the Mills upped the ante and they couldn’t have picked a better stage to do so. Ballyea amassed just two points at this critical juncture while Donach O’Donnell’s side notched 1-06.
Bryan Donnellan played a pivotal role in the first goal and he was involved in the move that resulted in their second green flag. A dropping ball of his was batted out by goalkeeper Oisin Hennessy and subsequently turned over by Colin Crehan, he passed to Jacob Loughnane but Peter Casey blocked his effort, the scrambling ball was then flicked to the back of the net by Crehan to put the Mills 2-16 1-17 ahead on sixty four minutes. They sealed the deal with the experienced Patrick Donnellan adding a white flag to send them on their way to the first senior final of the millennium.
Work rate has been a key trait of Ballyea’s ability to win two senior championships in recent seasons. In this encounter, it was not at the same level they had set previously while the over-reliance on Kelly and Deasy to hit scores was also telling. The absence of Gary Brennan was a blow to their chances as they produced their first display of the campaign. Paul Flanagan stood out for Kevin Sheehan’s men while Tony Kelly and Cillian Brennan did well in patches.
Although they were guilty of not alone allowing Ballyea back into the contest but of falling behind to them, the Mills lived to tell the tale. They have the scars from their 2018 semi-final defeat to the same opponents, their experienced men stood up when the need was greatest to allow them overturn that result. At times, their forwards opted not to take on Ballyea defenders and when they return to Cusack Park in two weeks, they must rectify this against the Bridge. Bryan Donnellan, Aidan Fawl, Colin Crehan and Patrick Donnellan were best for the Mills.
Scorers O’Callaghans Mills: Jacob Loughnane (0-08 7f), Colin Crehan (1-04 2f), Conor Henry (1-00), Bryan Donnellan (0-01), Aidan O’Gorman (0-01), Gary Cooney (0-01), Mike McGrath (0-01), Patrick Donnellan (0-01).
Scorers Ballyea: Tony Kelly (1-08), Niall Deasy (0-07 1f), Pearse Lillis (0-01), Cillian Brennan (0-01).
1: Killian Nugent
2: Mike Cotter
3: Conor Cooney
4: Gerry Cooney
5: Patrick Donnellan
6: Aidan O’Gorman
7: Niall Donovan
9: Conor Henry
8: Ciarán Cooney
12: Jacob Loughnane
11: Bryan Donnellan
10: Aidan Fawl
13: Gary Cooney
18: Mike McGrath
15: Colin Crehan
22: Cormac Murphy for McGrath (43)
17: Sean O’Gorman for Donovan (50)
1: Oisin Hennessy
2: Brian Carrig
4: Peter Casey
3: Paul Flanagan
7: Brandon O’Connell
6: Jack Browne
5: Aonghus Keane
8: Pearse Lillis
9: James Murphy
14: Niall Deasy
11: Tony Kelly
12: Cillian Brennan
13: Morgan Garry
15: Eoghan Donnellan
18: Martin O’Leary
20: Aaron Griffin for Donnellan (43)
22: Tadhg Lynch for O’Leary (54)
19: Ryan Griffin for Garry (57).
Referee: Wayne King (St Josephs Doora/Barefield)