*Alan Sweeney. Photograph: Burren Eye Photography
ST BRECKAN’S have advanced to the Clare SFC final for the third time in their history after overcoming St Joseph’s Miltown following extra time.
St Breckan’s 1-12
St Joseph’s Miltown 0-14
(after extra time)
Venue: Cusack Park, Ennis
Extra time was required to decide a winner and seal the much coveted place in the Clare SFC final, despite falling behind for the first time during this spell, the men from North Clare stood firm and regained the advantage via Joe McGann on seventy four minutes to record a memorable win in their history.
Leaders needed to stand tall and at various junctures they had them in abundance, Alan Sweeney made vital turnovers in defence, both Cian Burke and Colm O’Brien made powerful runs forward while up front the dangerous duo of Joe McGann and Jamie Stack kicked vital scores but also weaved in and out of the opposing defence to collect important frees.
While St Breckan’s dominated possession for the opening half, they didn’t have a score from play and indeed it looked like their opponents who were off their standards were going to pull back on level terms by the sounding of the half-time whistle. The chance to equalise saw Cormac Murray turned over and St Breckan’s worked the ball up field and wouldn’t see danger in their half for the remainder of the half.
More importantly on the scoring stakes, the North Clare men struck for goal. Alan Sweeney with quick hands found the on-rushing Shane Fitzpatrick and as he was about to pull the trigger, he was pulled down which forced referee John O’Connell to award a penalty. At this juncture, Joe McGann stood up, calm as ever he planted the ball to the top right hard corner of Seán O’Brien’s net which gave them a four point cushion at the interval.
That cushion was three points following the first eleven minutes with Stack and McGann converting frees. Conor Cleary opened Miltown’s account with their first shot, a free on thirteen minutes before Cormac Murray kicked one of the scores of the evening, an effort off his left boot.
Two frees from Padraig Kelly extended the gap for St Breckan’s before Miltown rallied with well-taken and well-worked scores from Darragh McDonagh and Murray. McGann’s penalty would see the half-time score read 1-5 0-4.
McGann and Murray swapped scores on the restart before Stack extended the distance to five points.
Then came the Miltown fightback, Eoin Cleary’s introduction at half-time immediately boosting their attacking threat. Between him and his twin Conor they added the scores to bring the sides on level terms, four frees from Eoin and one from Conor making it a draw with fifty four minutes on the clock.
Stack nudged St Breckan’s back in front before Conor Cleary landed the equaliser to force extra time. A chance to seal the deal in normal time fell to Padraig Kelly but his shot tailed to the left of the goal.
Starting with aplomb in extra time, Cormac Murray kicked two scores inside the opening three minutes to see Miltown take the lead for the very first time. Jamie Stack and Padraig Kelly responded to level matters before Eoin Cleary and Joe McGann split the posts.
There would be just one score in the second period of extra time, that arriving on seventy four minutes via the ever-impressive Joe McGann.
Having managed to win a free with additional time, Miltown had a chance and up stepped Eoin Cleary but his effort went to the wrong side of the goal and to the right. The resulting kickout from Mark O’Donnell was broken in the direction of Colm O’Brien and with that, John O’Connell sounded the final whistle.
Gordon Kelly, the Cleary twins Conor and Eoin, Cormac Murray and Cian Flanagan stood out for Martin Guerin’s Miltown. In defence they struggled to extinguish the threats of McGann and Stack and their transition from defence to attack was ultimately at a pace just off the level needed to make the biggest day in the Clare football calendar. However, when the campaign is assessed overall the West Clare side will know they’ve taken a step in the right direction following disappointing recent seasons.
Managing the hype of a first senior final for this panel of players will be the test for Declan O’Keeffe and the St Breckan’s management. 1996 was the last time they dined out on the big day and are now sixty minutes from claiming the Jack Daly. They could have been caught on this occasion but the lift and character-building manner of their win will give them enormous strength.
Scorers St Breckan’s: J McGann (1-4 1Pen 1f), J Stack (0-5 3f), P Kelly (0-3 3f)
Scorers St Joseph’s Miltown: C Murray (0-5 1M), E Cleary (0-5 3f 1M), C Cleary (0-3 2f), D McDonagh (0-1)
1: Mark O’Donnell
2: Conor Burke
4: Paddy Doherty
3: Raphael Considine
5: Colm O’Brien
12: Alan Sweeney
7: Jack Sheedy
8: Padraig Kelly
18: Liam Tierney
6: Cian Burke
11: Joe McGann
10: Maccon Byrne
15: Rowan Danagher
13: Jamie Stack
14: Shane Fitzpatrick
22: Cathal Guerin for Fitzpatrick (53)
19: Padraig O’Dwyer for Considine (57)
20: Eoin Guerin for Danaher (FT)
Rowan Danaher for Byrne (70)
Shane Fitzpatrick for Tierney (77)
17: Conor Shannon for C Guerin (79)
St Joseph’s Miltown:
1: Seán O’Brien
2: Eoin O’Brien
3: Seanie Malone
4: Gordon Kelly
5: Gearoid Burke
12: Conor Cleary
7: Cian Flanagan
13: Brian Curtin
8: Oisin Looney
9: Darragh McDonagh
19: Jamesie O’Connor
10: Kieran Malone
11: Cian O’Mahoney
14: Cormac Murray
15: Sean Neylon
17: Gearoid Curtin for Burke (30)
20: Eoin Cleary for O’Connor (HT)
30: Aidan McGuane for Neylon (45)
28: Paul Frawley for O’Mahoney (52)
6: Enda O’Gorman for E O’Brien (59)
Cian O’Mahoney for Frawley (FT)
Paul Frawley for K Malone (70)
Eoin O’Brien for B Curtin (72) (inj)
Referee: John O’Connell (Cooraclare)