*Ennistymon players celebrate. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
ENNISTYMON have claimed the Cusack Cup title for the first time in their history in what is a timely lift in their final competitive game before the start of the 2023 Clare SFC.
St Breckan’s 0-08
Venue: Páirc Finne, Corofin
What significance the success has on this Ennistymon will become clearer as the season progresses. For their entire squad it will be their first medal of note at senior level and one that should certainly give them a boost as the focus switches to championship preparation.
That Ennistymon had only seven survivors from last year’s fifteen which lined out in the county final defeat to Éire Óg is a clear sign of the amount of absentees they had but as was evident with the forty two players listed on their panel, there is plenty of depth within Mark Shanahan’s panel. Indeed of the nineteen players to feature over the hour, only nine had the experience of game-time last October when they lost by three points to the men from Ennis.
Certainly absenteeism was also high within the St Breckan’s ranks. From their team which bowed at the quarter-final stages last year to Ennistymon, they retained nine from the starting team. Ex Clare goalkeeper Tristan O’Callaghan has since emigrated to Australia while Dale Masterson is sidelined with injury, Jack Sheedy and Padraig Kelly are currently in America, all of whom have been key influences for their team.
Playing with the aid of the breeze in the opening half, St Breckan’s needed to make it count on the scoreboard but by the half-time whistle, they led by a single point, a margin which was far too small but the biggest warning sign was that they had failed to score from play and were reliant on placed balls and marks to send the umpires reaching for a flag.
Cathal Guerin and Jamie Stack had the first two scores for Breckan’s but Ennistymon got off the mark on the tenth minute through former Clare U20 captain, Eoin Rouine. A well-taken 45 from Colm O’Brien was followed by another free from Stack to see them ahead by three points but they would fail to score for the entire second quarter.
Two converted frees from Keelan Guyler on twenty seven and thirty minutes lowered the deficit to the minimum to leave Ennistymon very content at the break.
Tensions between the neighbours was evident from the get-go but it flared up a notch at the sounding of Barry Kelly’s half-time whistle with a minor scuffle breaking out in front of the stand which resulted in yellow cards for Cillian Rouine and St Breckan’s duo Joe McGann and Cathal Guerin.
What will be considered silly yellow cards to receive proved costly. McGann got his marching orders after picking up a black card on thirty seven minutes for a pull-down on Eoin Rouine. A second yellow was awarded to Cillian Rouine on the sixty second minute. While Rouine’s dismissal had no bearing on the game, a repeat scenario may have a bigger impact later in the year but McGann’s dismissal certainly hurt the men from Doolin, Kilshanny and Lisdoonvarna.
Substitute Shane Fitzpatrick almost scored with his first attempt on the restart when St Breckan’s looked like they were going to bring gusto to proceedings, instead his effort tailed to the wrong side of the goal and the energy levels did not hit the desired heights.
Guyler equalised on thirty five minutes and Paudie Considine nudged them immediately after McGann’s sending off. Oisin O’Loughlin pulled off a brilliant save to deny Ryan Barry a goal but the resulting passage of play saw a Guyler cooly split the posts.
Jamie Stack ended a scoring drought of twenty nine minutes for Declan O’Keeffe’s men when he converted a free on forty four minutes but again Considine immediately cancelled it out when adding his first effort from play.
With two quick passages of play, Breckan’s were back on level terms, Maccon Byrne showed his attacking strength to fist the ball over the bar and then a well-worked team move ended with an ever better strike from the industrious Rowan Danaher.
This mini-revival gave hope to supporters that the game was going to come to life and informed both camps that the best response would decide the outcome. Ennistymon stepped up trumps in this regard and had three of the last four scores to settle the result.
Keelan Guyler kicked a fine score on forty nine minutes in response to Breckan’s two points on the trot, Paudie Considine then nailed a pressurised free to give them an advantage of two points, it was lowered to the minimum with another Stack free before Guyler landed the final score of the evening to ensure Ennistymon took the bragging rights in the North Clare derby and also the Cusack Cup title.
Absent players will undoubtedly strength St Breckan’s when it comes to championship but to lose their title of Cusack Cup champions to their rivals will leave a few scars. Discipline and focus was lacking in their efforts but going the entire second quarter and almost the full third quarter was detrimental plus the absence of a scoring threat from play. They will still be one of the teams to watch in the race for the Jack Daly, how far they go will be decided by how they bounce back from this setback. Colm O’Brien and Raphael Considine did well in an overall poor display from the challengers.
In tune with their duties and responsibilities, Ennistymon stuck to the task at hand and were deserving winners when the league final as a whole is analysed. They broke out of defence at speed to allow passages to build, such passages may go backwards more than is required but on the overall scheme of things the men from Ennistymon and Lahinch are moving in the right direction. To have succeeded without a fair share of first-choice players is a big plus for them. Adam Ralph, Cillian Rouine, Liam Devitt, John Murphy, Keelan Guyler and Joey Rouine impressed for the winners.
As a game itself it will not be remembered in months ahead never mind years to come but make no mistake it is a case of Ennistymon reaching a crucial juncture, one in which either serves as an occasion which instilled greater belief in themselves to push on at senior level or one in which they failed to back up when it mattered.
After the game, Clare GAA Chairman Kieran Keating presented the FutureTicketing Cusack Cup to victorious captain, Cillian Rouine.
Scorers Ennistymon: K Guyler (0-06 4f), P Considine (0-03 2f), E Rouine (0-01)
Scorers St Breckan’s: J Stack (0-03 3f), C Guerin (0-01 1’M), C O’Brien (0-01 1’45), M Byrne (0-01), R Danaher (0-01)
1: Noel Sexton
2: John Murphy
3: Adam Ralph
4: Joey Rouine
5: Liam Cotter
6: Cillian Rouine
17: Brian McNamara
8: Josh Vaughan
9: Liam Devitt
18: Eoin Rouine
10: Ryan Barry
7: Ciaran McMahon
14: Keelan Guyler
13: Paudie Considine
12: Éanna Rouine
19: Josh Guyler for Cotter (53)
24: David McNamara for Vaughan (61)
1: Oisin O’Loughlin
4: Paddy Doherty
3: Raphael Considine
2: Conor Burke
5: Colm O’Brien
8: Mark O’Donnell
7: Padraig O’Dwyer
6: Alan Sweeney
9: Denis O’Callaghan
10: Maccon Byrne
11: Jamie Stack
12: Rowan Danaher
13: Eoin Guerin
22: Cathal Guerin
15: Joe McGann
26: Liam Tierney for O’Donnell (HT)
14: Shane Fitzpatrick for E Guerin (HT)
25: Cian Jimmy Burke for C Guerin (50)
17: Conor Shannon for O’Callaghan (53)
Referee: Barry Kelly (St Joseph’s Miltown)