*Oisin O’Donnell and Ross Hayes. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
“ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE” for Crusheen as they prepare for a first Clare SHC semi-final in four years.
Of the final four, Crusheen are the most recent champions following their 2011 county final win over Sixmilebridge which saw them win back to back titles for the very first time.
From their starting fifteen on that occasion, Donal Tuohy, Cian Dillon, Jamie Fitzgibbon, Gerry O’Grady and Fergus Kennedy remain with Cathal Dillon now among the substitutes. Paddy Vaughan and Cronan Dillon have since to roles on the management with Michael Browne their manager on that occasion back in the same capacity.
Indeed they defeated Sixmilebridge 0-10 0-4 on that wet October outing in 2011. While it was scoring difference this year that saw them pip The Bridge for the last of the quarter-final spots.
Plenty of comments were made about Crusheen making the knockout stages with just one win to their names but they certainly issued a statement when bulldozing over a previously unbeaten Newmarket-on-Fergus earning a fully merited 3-7 1-7 victory, the biggest winning margin of the four quarter-finals.
Having lost 0-22 1-10 in their final group game against Clonlara, Crusheen were determined to issue a response when they faced off with The Blues on their return to Cusack Park according to Browne. “In our heads, going into the game, we were very focused on what had happened a month previously at the same venue. As a team, we felt that we let ourselves down big time and that we hadn’t performed to anything like our potential. So regardless of the result, we wanted to show that Crusheen are a good hurling team, that we are able to compete and that what happened a month previously was not a true reflection of our ability or commitment to the game”.
He added, “We went out, performed and that happened to be good enough to win but the focus was really on performance for us”.
That marker was laid pretty early with Breffi Horner goaling inside twenty five seconds as a mix-up between Sean O’Connor and Paudie Guilfoyle paved the way for a glorious start in the quarter-final. “The goals were a great boost but sometimes when you’re ahead like that at half-time, there’s always a danger that you lose focus a bit and that you relax to a certain extent. We did want the lads about the danger of that but within the first minute, Newmarket got that early goal and it gave them a great starting point. We knew that Newmarket were going to battle and I think we only scored two points in that second half. However, I think that we did defend reasonably well most of the time and eventually ended up slightly ahead”.
Speaking to The Clare Echo, the former Clare selector noted, “It’s down to the last four now and anything is possible really. Eventually it will come down to the team that wants it the most, that are the hungriest and are prepared to work harder than the opposition”.
“Our focus will be on performance once more and doing our best and doing ourselves justice. And if that’s good enough fine and if it isn’t, we’ll pat the other team on the back and wish them well in the final,” he concluded.