*Martin O’Leary tries to shake off Barry Toner’s challenge. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
A last gasp Sean Crowley fisted point finally sealed a dramatic victory for Kilmihil in an inch-tight opener with Clondegad in Cusack Park on Sunday afternoon.
Venue: Cusack Park, Ennis
Despite only having ten survivors from the 18 players used in last year’s quarter-final with Kilmurry Ibrickane, Kilmihil certainly weren’t lacking determination or character either as a goal either side of half-time put them firmly into the driving seat for victory.
Essentially, Kilmihil proved the more economical side as despite only having eight shots at the posts over the hour, crucially they reaped 2-5 from their efforts while in contrast, Clondegad’s profligacy of 12 wides, split evenly in each half, along with two glorious goal chances. were ultimately spurned.
Clondegad, backed by the conditions, started the brightest, and should have opened the scoring with a goal after only three minutes when Cillian Brennan’s superb driving run was pulled back for Eoin Glynn who somehow missed the target at the edge of the square.
Regardless, with Kilmihil in defensive mode, it invited Clondegad onto them, with wing-backs Tadhg Lynch (2) and Francie Neylon prospering to ease their side 0-4 to 0-1 clear by the ninth minute.
A rare attack almost yielded a goal for David Ryan but that chance did provide a newfound belief for Kilmihil that grew with every passing minute as a brace of Ciaran Downes placed balls were bolstered by a superb opportunist goal for Martin O’Leary who raced through from 45 metres to billow the net in the 30th minute.
That jolt catapulted a more clinical Kilmihil in front for the first time at 1-3 to 0-4 as Clondegad slumped to six first half wides while also seeing a point blank effort from Eoghan Donnellan brilliantly repelled by goalkeeper Timmy Ryan.
So while Francie Neylon did raid for his second point of the afternoon deep into injury-time, Kilmihil would still take a minimum advantage into the break with the wind to come.
Far from resting on their laurels, Kilmihil would sting Clondegad again directly from the throw-in. Ciaran Downes was the beneficiary from Barry Kelly’s restart before lofting a teasing delivery towards the square where the towering David Ryan was on hand to flick to the net at 2-3 to 0-5.
Requiring a reaction, 2017 finalists Clondegad, had to use all their experience to wrestle back control. But while they would duly dominate possession and kick-outs for the remainder of the third quarter, four more wides ensured that the recovery process was slower than they would have preferred.
Points from Eoghan Donnellan (2) and Gary Brennan did lessen the deficit to just one by the 45th minute but a further goal opportunity for Donnellan was excellently smothered by goalkeeper Ryan.
That slender margin would remain despite Kilmihil being reduced to 14 men in the 55th minute after a second yellow card for Jack Keating. So when Eoghan Donnellan eventually regained parity with his third point on the hour mark, extra-time appeared a certainty.
Sean Crowley cleared hadn’t read that script though as in the 64th minute, he welcomed a pass from O’Leary to cut in from the right wing and fist over for what would prove a famous victory.
Scorers for Kilmihil: Martin O’Leary (1-1); Ciaran Downes (0-3f); David Ryan (1-0); Sean Crowley (0-1)
Scorers for Clondegad: Eoghan Donnellan (0-3); Tadhg Lynch, Francie Neylon, Gary Brennan (0-2 each); Eoin Glynn (0-1)
1: Timmy Ryan
4: Mikey Keating
3: Johnny O’Sullivan
2: Fionn Feberraro
5: Shane Downes
6: Alan Normoyle
13: Allyn Dalton
7: Jack Keating
8: Niall Pender
17: David Coughlan
11: Ciaran Downes
12: Philip Ryan
14: Martin O’Leary
25: David Ryan
10: Sean Crowley
15: Gavin Downes for Pender (HT)
19: Gary McMahon for Dalton (58)
1: Declan O’Loughlin
2: Cormac Ryan
3: Conor Gavin
24: Niall Lynch
7: Tadhg Lynch
6: Cillian Brennan
5: Francie Neylon
8: James Murphy
9: Gary Brennan
10: Cormac Reidy
12: Morgan Garry
21: Eoin Glynn
13: Barry Toner
15: Eoghan Donnellan
14: Ryan Jennings
20: Brandon O’Connell for N. Lynch (33, inj)
11: Joe Neylon for Jennings (45)
Referee: Barry Kelly (St Joseph’s Miltown)