By Noel Dundon
All Ireland Club Intermediate
Clara 0-19 Silvermines 1-14
Tipperary and Munster champions Silvermines bowed out of the chase for All-Ireland glory in the Intermediate Club championship at mud strewn Portlaoise on Sunday afternoon last in a pulsating battle which went to extra time and then proceeded right down to the wire.
An amazing battle of wit and will unfolded on a most horrific day for hurling with the wind howling, the rain lashing and the sod darkening from lush green to dark brown mud. In truth this was more a pitch battle than a game of hurling and boys did both sides show precisely how much they wanted it.
At the end of the day, Silvermines came out of the wrong side of a very tightly contest, but had the game gone on another few moments, who knows – with the way proceedings ebbed and flowed all through, it was quite likely that the ‘Mines would have emerged in front again.
Before ever the teams arrived on the field in O’Moore Park, it was quite obvious that conditions were going to be very difficult for the players to master. The goalmouth areas were waterlogged and the surface water was breaking through the green sward throughout the pitch – this game would be about strength and resilience as much as silken skills.
Silvermines were in unchartered territory after a memorable season which saw them win the Tipperary intermediate championship, promoted to the senior grade, win the Munster intermediate championship, and now represent their county and province in the All-Ireland series. They had achieved quite a lot as it was, but there was a determination in the camp to press on and have a right go to reach the final. They had prepared well and were very focused coming into the game – after all, it’s not every day you get these opportunities.
Clara had plenty of senior experience having been only relegated, rather unluckily, in 2011 to play the 2012 season in the intermediate grade in Kilkenny. And, they bounced back up to senior straight away – an indication of the kind of spirit and determination in the club.
That determination was tested to the limit in the first half with the exchanges being tough, full of physicality and brutal in the conditions. Clara started very well though and they had a 0-3 lead on the board within five minutes as they seemed to adapt to the play far better early on. The scores came from the stick of corner forward Keith Hogan who bagged two of those from frees.
But, the Mines’ responded and once they began to find their feet they hurled up a storm. Jason Forde had the opener for them in the 10th minute from a free and when Danny Keogh fired a great goal off the sod after being put through by David Keogh, the Mines were in front.
Clara came back again to claim the initiative with Lester Ryan and Keith Hogan (2) scores, but they were finding it increasingly harder to get onto ball with the Tipp lads battling for every morcel of possession. The number of throw-in’s in the half indicated the nature of proceedings with bodies covering the ball on many occasions to prevent others from claiming it.
Silvermines were running at Clara and it was paying off for them. Orrie Quirke and David Boland had fine scores and a Jason Forde brace from frees right before the end of the half, helped them to a 1-5 to 0-7 lead – Liam Ryan getting the seventh for Clara.
So, an interval lead was very welcome for Silvermines and they had much to build on. They hadn’t played quite as they would have wished and if they could press on, the game was very much alive for them.
The pitch had cut up badly in the first half, and conditions would surely deteriorate further for the second -braun and brains rather than skill and subtlety would win this battle royale. It certainly was.
Nothing could separate the sides in the second half either with Conor Phelan leveling the game upon resumption only to see Jason Forde giving the Mines the initiative again.
Cathal Sherlock was called into action in the 5th minute with super reaction save on an overhead from Austin Murphy to deny Clara a goal. It was a fine save and the nip and tuck nature continued with Orrie Quirke and Forde again trading points with Ciaran Prendergast and Keith Hogan. Austin Murphy had the sides level again before David Keogh and Liam Ryan swopped scores, as did David Boland and Keith Hogan once more.
Clara should have goalled in the 23rd when sub Christopher Bolger grabbed a high ball and raced down on goal only to see his three efforts beaten away by the sheer presence of Mines bodies as they threw themselves in front of the sliothar. It was sterling stuff and the heroics prevented a certain goal.
Keith Hogan levelled the game again and though Jason Forde had two from frees in the closing minutes, Austin Murphy and a long range free from Hogan under pressure from midfield, forced the inevitable extra time.
Nobody wanted the game to end and both sides would probably have taken a replay considering the efforts of the day and the conditions. But, they had to face the onslaught again in order for daylight to materialise between them.
By the end of the first period of extra time Clara had a one point lead with scores for them from Keith Hogan and Liam Ryan, with Willie Keogh getting a late score for Silvermines to leave it 1-13 to 0-17 at the break.
And, in the second period it was a similar story with Clara grabbing two points through Christopher Bolger and Keith Hogan, to Silvermines one through Jason Forde. The ‘Mines lads knew as the final moments approached that they had to goal and try as they did to breach the Clara rearguard again, it wasn’t to happen with that now famous Cats resilience standing up to the storm.
And so it was Clara’s day, and what a day for them. They had 0-10 from corner forward Keith Ryan including the all important leveller at the end of normal time. And, their strength in the extra time also became evident as the exertions of the game took it’s toll on their opponents. Liam Ryan, Austin Murphy and Conor Phelan were very effective for Clara while Shane Prendergast, John Phelan and David Langton were also in top form.
For Silvermines, defeat was a very diffiuclt pill to swallow. But, they can take much consolation from the performance – they left absolutley nothing on the field. And, their tremendous support appreicated their efforts. Though defeated they were treated to a standing ovation after the final whistle had sounded – it’s not too often you see that for the defeated side.
To a man, Silvermines gave it everything, but the performances of Orrie Quirke, Ronan Sherlock, Jason Forde, Maurice Leamy and Donal Keogh were very noteworthy. Keeper Cathal Sherlock made that brilliant save in the second half while Cathal Gleeson, David Boland, Willie Keogh and Damien Boland were also prominent.
Teams and Scorers:
Clara: K Nolan, T Ryan, J Phelan, S O’Shea, N Prendergast, S Prendergast, D Langton, J Langton, Lester Ryan 0-1, C Phelan 0-1, A Murphy 0-1, Liam Ryan 0-3, B O’Shea, J Nolan, K Hogan 0-10. Subs: C Prendergast for B O’Shea; C Bolger 0-1 for J Nolan; K Phelan for A Murphy; J Nolan for C Prendergast; D Nolan for S O’Shea; C O’Shea for K Phelan;
Silvermines: C Sherlock, M Leamy, B Timmons, D Boland, D Keogh, R Sherlock, N Quirke, C Gleeson, O Quirke 0-2, W Keogh 0-1, D Boland 0-2, S Quirke, D Keogh 1-0, J Forde 0-8, D Keogh 0-1. Subs: P Fogarty for D Keogh; G Toohey for S Quirke; D Keogh for P Fogarty; P Sherlock for D Keogh.
Referee: O Elliot (Antrim).
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