*Cathal ‘Tots’ O’Connell was the hero at the death for Clonlara. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
Five minutes from the end of normal time in this senior hurling championship tie at O’Garney Park on Saturday afternoon Whitegate led by seven points and Clonlara’s championship hopes were hanging in the balance.
Venue: O’Garney Park, Sixmilebridge
An Ian Galvin goal gave them hope but Whitegate responded with points from Ronan Hayes and Michael Hynes to lead by six as the game went into injury time and a shock result was very much on the cards.
On a number of occasions in recent years in particular Clonlara have been accused of lacking in hunger for victory. That charge certainly cannot be levelled at them on this occasion as they put in a storming finish and the diminutive Cathal ‘Tots’ O’Connell emerged as the hero with goals in the 34th and 35th minutes to seal victory by the minimum margin.
The result sparked off scenes of celebration usually left for title winning occasions amongst Clonlara mentors, players and supporters while, a short distance down the sideline, there was utter devastation in the Whitegate camp.
Points were swapped twice in the opening minutes before the winners edged two clear only to be hauled back by Whitegate when Paul Burke got the game’s opening goal after an Ian Fahy delivery.
The lead lasted less than a minute as, from the puckout, Clonlara attacked and Cian Moriarty found the net. Clonlara led 1-5 to 1-3 to at the first waterbreak and when play resumed they struck for the first two points of the second quarter.
Tempers rose a little when a few players and mentors disputed a line ball decision and when order was restored Whitegate hit five unanswered points to lead by one as the game went into ‘added time’ at the end of the half.
Aidan Moriarty landed the final score of the half for Clonlara and the sides went to the half time break locked together at 1-10 each.
Whitegate had a dream start to the second half when Michael Hynes’ delivery from midfield deceived all and went to the net. The outstanding midfielder added a brace of points from frees and Whitegate led by five with five minutes of the new half played.
With the game moving towards the end of the third quarter Whitegate held a one goal lead, 2-13 to 1-13 when a defensive error by Clonlara was punished as Ronan Hayes flicked the ball to the net to put his side two goals clear.
This led to controversy with Clonlara followers arguing that Whitegate had sixteen players on the field when the goal was scored as Thomas Holland had just been sent on to replace Thomas Hogan who didn’t leave the field until after the score. In fairness neither player didn’t seem to have any involvement in the play which led to the goal.
With order restored another Hynes free had Whitegte seven clear, 3-14 to 1-13, at the second waterbreak.
Hynes stretched his side’s lead to eight when play resumed before a brace from Clonlara kept them in the hunt.
Four minutes from time Ian Galvin’s goal left his side trailing by four, 2-15 to 3-16 but points from Ronan Hayes and Michael Hynes widened the gap to six as the tie went into injury time and a Whitegate win looked certain especially when Andrew Fahey made a point blank save from Cillian Fennessy at the expense of a ‘65 which Cathal O’Connell converted.
Three minutes into added time a Cathal O’Connell effort deflected off the leg of Brendan Bugler on the way to the net and a minute later O’Connell struck for what proved to be the winning goal.
Should Clonlara go on to figure in the concluding stages of the competition, they will point to this tie as a key match in their campaign
Scorers; Clonlara: Cathal O’Connell (2-6, 0-4 frees); John Conlon (0-4) Cian Moriarty, Ian Galvin (1-1) each; Aidan Moriarty (0-2) Colm Galvin, Kieran Galvin, (0-1) each
Scorers Whitegate: Michael Hynes (1-11, 0-10 frees); Ronan Hayes (1-2), Paul Burke (1-1); Ciaran Keenan (0-2), Conor McDermott, Thomas Hogan (0-1) each
1: Cillian O’Brien
2: Colm O’Meara
3: Paul McNamara
4: Jathan McMahon
5: Aidan Moriarty
6: Paraic O’Loughlin
7: Dylan McMahon
9: Ian Galvin
20: David Fitzgerald
21: Cian Moriarty
11: Kieran Galvin
9: Colm Galvin
12: John Conlon
10: Micheál O’Loughlin
15: Cathal O’Connell
14: Conor Bourke for M. O’Loughlin (35)
29: Garth Kennedy for Fitzgerald (44)
27: Cillianb Fennessy for K. Galvin (51)
1: Andrew Fahey
2: Tomas Quirke
3: Eoin Quirke
4: Dylan White
5: Brendan Bugler
6: Colm Madden
7: Ian Fahy
8: Colm Burke
9: Michael Hynes
10: Thomas Hogan
11: Conor McDermott
12: Ciaran Keenan
13: Paul Burke
14: Ronan Hayes
15: Paddy Burke
21: Thomas Holland for Paddy Burke (46)
17: Danny Hynes for Hogan (54)
20: Ciaran Quinn for Keenan (59)
Referee: Johnny Healy (Smith O’Briens)