*Ennistymon players celebrate. Photograph: Burren Eye Photography
ENNISTYMON have won back to back U21A football titles and did so by winning on a penalty shootout against North Clare rivals St Breckans.
St Breckans 2-7
Ennistymon win 3-2 on penalties
Venue: Shanahan McNamara Memorial Park, Doonbeg
Captain Conor Gallagher was the hero in the shootout with the Ennistymon goalkeeper saving three penalties. This coupled with converted efforts from Diarmuid Fahy, Brian McNamara and Éanna Rouine saw them on their way to capturing a third U21A crown.
Having powered 0-10 1-1 ahead early in the second half, Ennistymon were in firm control but a spirited second half showing from St Breckans saw them force their way back into proceedings.
Indeed it was Ennistymon who had to rescue extra time, Ciaran McMahon not for the first time in his career landing an invaluable score for his side.
Spectators were treated to an exciting contest but its value was diminished somewhat by the absence of outstanding players for both sides. Jamie Stack (ankle) who is St Breckan’s talisman had to wear a protective boot for the game which kept him out of action while Brendy Rouine (groin) continued his long spell on the sidelines which deprived both teams of their respective best players. A hamstring injury kept Sean Rynne out of action for the winners.
Diarmuid Fahy and Denis O’Callaghan swapped scores at either end inside in the first five minutes before Ennistymon hit four points on the trot via Josh Guyler, Shane Woods and two from Éanna Rouine to lead by four with sixteen minutes played.
A lifeline arrived for St Breckans in the guise of a wondergoal by centre-forward Shane Fitzpatrick. He struck a beauty to the roof of the Ennistymon net leaving goalkeeper Conor Gallagher mesmerised and the side from Lisdoonvarna, Doolin and Kilshanny back in the game.
Producing a strong response saw Ennistymon rebuild a decent advantage, this time a five point gap with Rouine, Guyler, Woods and Paudie Considine on target. It left them with a 0-9 1-1 lead as the half-time whistle sounded.
Former Clare U20 captain Eoin Rouine extended their advantage on the restart but St Breckans began to find their breath aided by white flags from Lorcan Doolin and two from Denis O’Callaghan.
At half-time, the St Breckans management moved goalkeeper Oisin O’Loughlin from between the posts to full forward and it proved to be a commendable decision. Against the breeze, he lost two kickouts alone from simply taking too long to kick the ball but there were no such time issues when he moved to attack. Conor O’Neill entered the fray as custodian, a man who lined out in goals for the senior’s first outing of the championship against Kilmurry Ibrickane in August.
O’Loughlin levelled matters on fifty three minutes. Eoin Guerin who was beginning to have a far more productive role for St Breckans fed the ball to Padraig O’Dwyer and he swiftly passed to O’Loughlin who raided for goal.
Two converted frees from O’Loughlin followed to see St Breckans lead for the first time. Their margin of two points came undone when Diarmuid Fahy and McMahon pointed at the other end to force extra time.
Éanna Rouine and Oisin O’Loughlin both split the posts inside the first three minutes of extra time and they would transpire to be the only scores in either half meaning for the first time penalties would determine the winners of the U21A football championship.
When it came to penalties, Diarmuid Fahy, Brian McNamara and Éanna Rouine all scored for Ennistymon while O’Loughlin who had resumed his spot between the posts denied Ciaran McMahon and Josh Vaughan.
Captain Gallagher produced saves to stop Eoin Guerin, Joseph Flanagan and Paddy Doherty while Shane Fitzpatrick and Denis O’Callaghan executed their efforts.
This ensured that Gallagher would be accepting the John Marrinan Cup from Clare GAA Chairman Kieran Keating who reminded players to be sensible when it came to making their way home following nights of celebration.
Brendan Rouine’s Ennistymon were the better balanced side but they very nearly left Doonbeg without any silverware. Their powerful first half was a clear example of their ability and although their second half was off this standard, they held their nerve especially in the most nervy of situations to claim the spoils. It means the club now have the Minor A and U21A titles in their possession along with the Cusack Cup.
For the winners, Shane Woods was a standout performer with notable contributions from Éanna Rouine, Ciaran McMahon, Conor Gallagher and Eoin Roune while seeing Diarmuid Fahy overcome a nightmare spell of injuries is a real plus.
Penalties can be about luck and it was certainly drying for up for St Breckans. They were without Stack for the entire game while senior panellists Denis O’Callaghan and Cian Jimmy Burke had to make way with injuries, a serious ankle injury for Burke. A black card for Shane Fitzpatrick in extra time could have been avoided and it left them with fourteen men at a stage when they were the stronger of the two sides.
Unfortunately for them it means they end the year as beaten finalists at senior (league and championship) and U21 level. Without question they have plenty of talent in their ranks but their trend of coming up short in finals must be a concern. On this outing their prominent players in spells included Denis O’Callaghan, Oisin O’Loughlin, Shane Fitzpatrick and Padraig O’Dwyer.
Scorers Ennistymon: Eánna Rouine (0-4 1f), S Woods (0-2), D Fahy (0-2 1f), J Guyler (0-2), C McMahon (0-1), Eoin Rouine (0-1), P Considine (0-1).
Scorers St Breckans: O O’Loughlin (1-2 2f), S Fitzpatrick (1-0), D O’Callaghan (0-3 2f), E Guerin (0-1 1f), L Doolin (0-1 1f).
1: Conor Gallagher
7: James Cullinan
3: Ciaran McMahon
2: Dara Rouine
5: Liam Cotter
6: Josh Guyler
4: Brian McNamara
9: Josh Vaughan
8: Eoin Rouine
12: Darren McNamara
17: Sean Conneally
10: Shane Woods
13: Paudie Considine
14: Diarmuid Fahy
15: Éanna Rouine
24: Joseph Casey for D Rouine (53)
18: Mark Kelleher for Considine (56)
25: Conor Rynne for Conneally (61)
Considine for D McNamara (77)
1: Oisin O’Loughlin
4: Ronan Fitzpatrick
3: Paddy Doherty
2: Joseph Flanagan
5: Thomas O’Dwyer
6: Eoin Guerin
12: Noah McNamara
7: Padraig O’Dwyer
8: Denis O’Callaghan
22: Seamus McNamara
11: Shane Fitzpatrick
10: Cian Jimmy Burke
9: Eoin Fitzpatrick
14: Lorcan Doolin
15: Aidan O’Loughlin
16: Conor O’Neill for S McNamara (HT)
28: Cathal Morgan for O’Loughlin (48)
Seamus McNamara for N McNamara (56)
18: Mac Dara Garrihy for O’Callaghan (68) (inj)
17: Dan Garrihy for Burke (68) (inj)
O’Callaghan for O’Dwyer (71)
Referee: Barry Kelly (St Joseph’s Miltown)