*Aron Shanagher. Photograph: Sport Action Photography
The emphatic final margin may have been rather flattering but there’s no doubt that Wolfe Tones fully merited their confidence-boosting start to this year’s championship on Saturday evening.
Wolfe Tones 4-19
Venue: O’Garney Park, Sixmilebridge
A pair of sucker-punch goals through Dylan Frawley and Rory Hayes proved the only difference in a hugely competitive opening period that yielded 11 scores for each side.
However, with Aron Shanagher’s influence growing with every passing minute, his aerial dominance on the turnover was only surpassed by his eye for scores as a last gasp brace of majors saw the county senior finish with 2-9 to his name.
By then, the life had been sucked out of a fledgling Magpie side that without the county experience of captain Bobby Duggan, Patrick Kelly and Stephen Ward (from the start), instead had to dip into their conveyor belt of underage talent.
Indeed, having contested three of the last four Minor A deciders, 13 of those players lined out alongside Stephen O’Halloran and Jonathan Clancy.
It included senior debuts for current minor trio Cian Broderick, Cian Galvin and Conor Halpin, a mass blooding expedition that ultimately proved too much too soon for Clarecastle to remain competitive for the entire hour.
In contrast, Wolfe Tones still possessed four of their 2006 Canon Hamilton winning side in Jamie Roughan, Barry Loughnane and the O’Connell brothers Daithi and Gary, all of whom led the line expertly. Rory Hayes, Jack and Aaron Cunningham were also impressive performers but it was Shanagher that was the hottest fire that Clarecastle had to handle.
16 wides only further emphasised the Magpies’ inexperience as the Tones’ radar was much more honed to punishing effect.
That said, nothing from the first half indicated any major discrepancy between the sides as despite Dylan Frawley’s early opportunist goal after hesitancy in Clarecastle’s last line, the teams would still be on level terms on four occasions by the 29th minute.
A trademark Rory Hayes surge through the centre altered the narrative decisively however in the final minute of normal time as despite being initially hooked by Cian Galvin, the midfielder managed to snatch possession at the second attempt and fire home from close range.
Buoyed by that shot in the arm, the Tones moved 2-09 to 0-11 clear by the break and only soared further in stature on the restart as Shanagher (3) helped his side to an eight point advantage by the three quarter mark at 2-14 to 0-12.
The introduction of Stephen Ward and yet another debutant Josh Brack did give Clarecastle more of a threat after the water break but any inroads quickly evaporated when Shanagher, now posted at full-forward, added two more goals before the finish to flesh out an already inevitable result.
Scorers for Wolfe Tones: Aron Shanagher (2-9, 6f); Rory Hayes (1-2); Jack Cunningham (0-4); Dylan Frawley (1-0); Aaron Cunningham (0-2); Stephen Donnellan, Dean Devanney (0-1 each)
Scorers for Clarecastle: Darragh Healy (0-5f); Lee Brack (0-3, 1f, 1’65); Eoghan Wallace, Niall Galvin (0-2 each); Colin Brigdale, Killian McDermott, Stephen Ward, David Tuohy (0-1 each)
1: Pa Freeman
21: Conor Carrig
3: Jamie Roughan
4: Darragh Lohan
17: Barry Loughnane
7: Gary O’Connell
8: Daithi O’Connell
5: Rory Hayes
9: Kevin McCafferty
10: Dylan Frawley
12: Jack Cunningham
11: Aron Shanagher
13: Stephen Donnellan
14: Aaron Cunningham
15: Sean Costelloe
20: Dean Devanney for Costelloe (HT)
22: Cian O’Rourke for Frawley (41)
18: Liam Murphy for Donnellan (57)
19: Gary Cusack for G. O’Connell (59)
1: Cian Broderick
19: Mark Russell
6: Stephen O’Halloran
4: Cillian Casey
2: Darragh Healy
5: Cian Galvin
26: David Tuohy
9: Eoghan Wallace
13: Marc McAuliffe
12: Lee Brack
10: Niall Galvin
8: Killian McDermott
17: Conor Halpin
20: Colin Brigdale
7: Jonathan Clancy
15: Stephen Ward for McAuliffe (43)
23: Josh Brack for Halpin (52)
Referee: Johnny Healy (Smith O’Brien’s)