Cratloe welcomingly cemented a senior hurling quarter-final spot with a game to spare after maintaining their composure to hold off a relentless Broadford in Shannon on Saturday afternoon.
Following the recent heartbreaking passing of Niall O’Brien and Johnny Boyce on either side, an understandably poignant atmosphere enveloped this must-win tie. However, while a Broadford battle was expected and duly delivered, crucially Cratloe managed to keep their noses in front and duly led from Conor McGrath’s sixth minute goal to the final whistle.
Both sides were wasteful in front of the posts, with the 2018 and ’19 finalists hitting 16 wides over the hour while Shane Gleeson somehow saw what seemed a clinching goal brilliantly saved by goalkeeper Cian O’Brien in first half injury-time. Broadford didn’t create any many chances as Cratloe but will rue three glorious missed goal opportunities before finally making the breakthrough immediately after the final water break through Paddy Donnellan.
Diarmuid O’Brien was twice denied by last ditch blocks from namesakes David and Daithi Collins, while chief threat Stiofan McMahon started and finished the third quarter with powerful shots, the first of which was matched by an excellent full length save from Gearoid Ryan before the latter just cleared the crossbar.
Overall, Cratloe superior spread of scorers and threats prevailed over a Broadford side that rued the absence of Shane Taylor and Cian Cremins through injury. Conor McGrath’s early strike was decisive after Diarmuid Ryan’s defensive free broke kindly for the former All-Star to flick to the net on their way to a 1-3 to 0-1 advantage by the tenth minute.
It allowed Cratloe the breathing space to build on their lead by the break at 1-7 to 0-5, with county senior Diarmuid Ryan impressively to the fore alongside an important brace for Podge Collins.
One felt that Broadford needed to take every opportunity that came their way but a failure to raise a green flag in the third quarter still didn’t deter the 2019 intermediate winners who required a victory to remain in the championship race.
They were eventually rewarded when Stiofan McMahon centred to the overlapping Paddy Donnellan to finish emphatically past Ryan within seconds of the resumption at 1-10 to 1-07, with an additional brace of Cathal Chaplin frees slashing the deficit to just one entering the final ten minutes.
However, an experienced Cratloe never panicked so while Broadford incrementally faltered up front, Diarmuid Ryan responded with the score of the match while substitute Jack McInerney also grabbed two pivotal late points as the winners finished with four of the last five points.
Broadford now face a final round showdown against Crusheen to avoid the relegation play-offs while it’s a case of one down and one to go for Cratloe as they bid to emulate their quarter-final feat in the senior football equivalent next Sunday in a winner-takes-all showdown with Ennistymon ahead of their hurling group decider against Ballyea.
Scorers for Cratloe: Rian Considine (0-4, 3f); Conor McGrath (1-1); Podge Collins, Diarmuid Ryan, Sean Collins, Jack McInerney (0-2 each); Cathal McInerney (0-1)
Scorers for Broadford: Cathal Chaplin (0-7f); Paddy Donnellan (1-1); Stiofan McMahon (0-2)
1: Gearoid Ryan
20: Sean Collins
3: Liam Markham
4: David Collins
5: Diarmuid Ryan
6: Damien Browne
7: Aaron Costigan
8: Enda Boyce
9: Daithi Collins
10: Shane Gleeson
11: Conor McGrath
12: Shane Neville
13: Podge Collins
15: Cathal McInerney
18: Rian Considine
19: Luke Healy for Gleeson (40)
14: Michael Hawes for Boyce (48)
22: Jack McInerney for Neville (52)
1: Cian O’Brien
2: Cian Mulqueen
3: Eoin Donnellan
4: Darragh Whelan
7: Paurig Taylor
6: Darren Chaplin
5: Danny Reddan
8: Diarmuid Moloney
9: Paddy Donnellan
10: Cathal Chaplin
11: Diarmuid O’Brien
12: Paul Moloney
14: Mark Moloney
15: Stiofan McMahon
13: Craig Chaplin
17: Davy Boland for P. Moloney (HT)
20: Oisin Kavanagh for Craig Chaplin (40)
13: Chaplin for M. Moloney (61, inj)
Referee: Niall Malone (Éire Óg)