*Joey Rouine tackles Killian O’Connor. Photograph: Burren Eye Photography
HOW ENNISTYMON went from contesting the Clare SFC final in 2022 to lining out in a relegation play-off in 2023 has been one of the big talking points throughout this year’s campaign.
Éire Óg defeated the North Clare side 0-9 0-6 at the end of October in last year’s decider. While Ennistymon’s style of play saw them amass a band of critics, not even the most dissenting of these would have predicted they would be fighting for survival instead of vying to lift the Jack Daly.
Mark Shanahan pulled no punches when looking back on the year. “We’re here because we deserved to be, we accept that completely, the reality for everyone in Clare is with twelve teams in the competition if you under-perform you lose and that is a sign of a very competitive tournament, you won’t win if you dip because it is that tight, we were here on merit but our backs were to the wall and we had to show character and desire but we showed it in abundance”.
What caused the poor performances will require a more introspective analysis, he admitted. “It’s something we’re going to have to do a deep dive on, there’s numerous things rather than one simple thing which led us to here, I’d imagine it’s a reality check for all of us, you say you might learn when you’re winning games but you won’t do that deep dive which you do when you lose, it was a reality check for everyone involved, massive learnings and we will learn”.
He was quick to admit that Ennistymon only edged out of their group last year in additional time when defeating Doonbeg in Miltown Malbay. “We know last year we only edged it out of the group, there’s nothing there, it’s fine margins and I think the overall thing is that is a strong competitions when the margins are that fine. We’ve big learnings but relief today”.
Despite not scoring for the final fourteen minutes, they still recorded a 1-8 0-9 win over Corofin to seal their status. Speaking to The Clare Echo in the aftermath of this, Mark indicated how it felt, “Relief is the big emotion, we upped our game in a big way today, I was seriously happy with our workrate because it was back to where it needed to be and more, the control was there, these games with the amount that is at stake and the tension it might not be free flowing but there was a lot to like about us today. It’s not where we want to be, it is relief but disappointment that we’ve no more football”.
Two turning points helped to decide the game, first a Noel Sexton save from Cillian McGroary on fifty three minutes. “He’s been around the block a fair bit, he is a great aul soldier for us, it wasn’t his first time coming up trumps for us,” Shanahan said of the custodian.
Prior to this, David Fitzgerald netted the all-important goal with Éanna Rouine providing the assist, in the process he double-hopped the ball but this wasn’t caught by the match officials. “I genuinely didn’t see it, all I know is it was super play from Éanna Rouine and super from Fitzy, I think we edged it today, I didn’t see it from where I was I’m not pulling an Arsene Wenger on it, I didn’t see it but it was great play, we countered very quick”.
Shanahan continued, “There was a lot riding on it, we could tell in the lead up to it that the heads were right, they were very controlled with a lot at stake, they showed a good ability to play under pressure and the workrate was phenomenal”.
As a management team, he said that he, Brendan ‘Beano’ Rouine, John McInerney, Brian Conway and coach Ger Quinlan didn’t let nerves become too much a factor for the relegation game. “Don’t get me wrong there was a lot at stake but we’re around the block a few times, we know the drill”.