Clonoulty Rossmore beat favourites Nenagh Eire Og in Tipperary senior hurling championship final

Clonoulty Rossmore beat favourites Nenagh Eire Og in Tipperary senior hurling championship final

Timmy Hammersley was outstanding in Clonoulty-Rossmore's brilliant win over Nenagh Eire Og


Outsiders Clonoulty-Rossmore upset a fancied Nenagh Eire Og to triumph in the Tipperary Water county senior hurling final at Semple Stadium today, 0-23 to 2-13, a victory marked by outstanding performances by team captain John O’Keeffe and Man of the Match winner, Timmy Hammersley.

Not too many gave Clonoulty-Rossmore a vote of confidence after Nenagh Eire Og had toppled champions for the past four years Thurles Sarsfields in the semi-final but Clonoulty-Rossmore played to their  own strengths while at the same time negativing the threat posed by the Nenagh strikers. Clonoulty’s defence was magnificent and won their fourth title for them, as they “choked” the Nenagh scoring machine to an extent few anticipated.

Four points separated the sides at the finish, and with four minutes to play they were level, statistics which do not adequately reflect Clonoulty’s performance which is better evaluated by their return of twenty three scores to Nenagh’s fifteen.

The fact is that Clonoulty looked the better side most of  the way but a Nenagh goal in each half kept them in the hunt when they might otherwise have drifted out of contention.

Nenagh were not as sharp or determined as in the semi-final. Their play did not have the urgency or aggression to match the combative  approach of their rivals. Nowhere was this more graphically illustrated than in the situations when Nenagh forwards found themselves in one-to-one situations with their markers but unable to escape the shackles the West backs placed on them.

This as Clonoulty’s fourth time winning the title, their last in 1997, but they were defeated in the 2010 and ‘11 deciders. There was a determination about them no to be “bridesmaids” yet again and for many of this squad the win was their reward of some years of outstanding and dedicated service to the club.

The winning game plan was simplicity itself. All over the field Clonoulty-Rossmore players worked their socks off to ensure Nenagh did not enjoy unchallenged possession thus undermining their ability to send quality ball to their attack. Deprived of such a service, Nenagh’s attack struggled  right through the game.

It wont be remembered as a classic final but it was very entertaining with the outcome in the balance until late on. That will not trouble  the Clonoulty-Rossmore contingent who delighted in the success to add to those of 1888,1989 and 1997. They had lost by two points earlier in the round-robin campaign to Nenagh, something which possibly helped them in this re-match.

Clonoulty had their homework done as reflected in their ”match-ups” to minimise the Nenagh threat and it was paying dividends as they raced into a 0-6 to 0-4 lead by the 18th minute. Nenagh chief score-getters Michael Heffernan and Jake Morris were closed down whereas as the other end, Clonoulty scores were coming from a variety of sources.

In the 19th minute Nenagh got a huge boost when Philip Hickey banged home  their first goal after Clonoulty goalie Declan O Dwyer did well to prevent Andrew Coffey scoring following good work by Killian Gleeson. This looked like the spark to ignite the Nenagh fire and they followed with three Jake Morris points from frees but Clonoulty were not showing signs of panic and with points from  a Dillon Quirke sideline( his second of the half), Cathal Bourke and two Timmy Hammersley frees they were level at 0-10 to 1-7 as half-time approached.

In those added minutes for stoppages, Clonoulty had further points from Hammersley and Michael Ryan to Jake Morris’ converted free for Nenagh leaving the West lads 0-12 to 1-8 to the good at the break. Nenagh had enjoyed the advantage of the freeze in that period but it did not appear to be significant enough to make a real difference and so it was all to play for facing the resumption.

Ten minutes into the second half, the sides were level, Michael Heffernan, Killian Gleeson and Paddy Murphy pointing for Nenagh to which Timmy Hammersley twice replied for Clonoulty. Then came a Clonoulty surge with three points in two minutes from Hammersley(2) and Paudie White as the West lads headed for the finishing line.

Nenagh were having none of it however as Brian Heffernan whipped over a point in the 50th minute and two minute later, John O Keeffe’s attempted clearance was blocked down by Jake Morris, the ball falling kindly to Paddy Murphy who blasted home to put Nenagh ahead, 2-12 to 0-17.

Now the character of both teams was being tested and both showed commendable spirit. Timmy Hammersley levelled for Clonoulty; Jake Morris restored Nenagh’s lead only for Hammersley to again square the game with four minutes left.

But those closing minutes, and the three added on, belonged to Clonoulty who saw Timmy Hammersley crown his own imperious performance with three pointed frees to which Cathal Bourke added another in the 61st minute to go four clear. Desperation stakes for Nenagh now and Jake Morris went for goal with late free which was beaten out for a sixty five. That was Nenagh’s last chance and with referee Kevin Jordan’s final whistle, Clonouty supporters swarmed on to the field to kick start celebrations which are continuing through this week.

Timmy Hammersley was named the county board’s Man of the Match afterwards, a fitting honour for man who has given great service to the club, and whose contribution to this win was immense, but team captain John O Keeffe must have been very close to that accolade on the back of a superlative display at centre halfback, particularly in the first half when Clonoulty faced the breeze. The former county man tidied up everything in fantastic defensive display with brother Joey cancelling the threat posed by Nenagh sharpshooter Michael Heffernan. James Ryan(Con) too stood out with Enda Heffernan, Cathal Bourke, Michael Ryan(W) and Enda Heffernan all having big games.

Nenagh have won the title only once before, in 1995, and this was their sixth defeat in the final since then, most recently in 2013 and ‘15. The favourites tag may not have rested easily with them as they did not perform to their proven ability, seldom producing the quality play they are renowned for when at their best. Perhaps the win over Sarsfields dulled their appreciation of what is required to lift the trophy and so their wait for a long overdue success goes on.

The shackling of key forwards Michael Heffernan and Jake Morris robbed them of scoring power though Paddy Murphy worked very hard for them and Andrew Coffey also did his bit with Philip Hickey too having his moments. Further back Conor Ryan and Conor McCarthy were dogged in their resistance with Barry Heffernan also catching the eye.

Scorers for Clonoulty – T Hammersley (0-12, 10fs), C Bourke(0-3), P White, D Quirke(0-2 each), M Ryan, Jn O Keeffe, T Butler, F O Keeffe (0-1 each);

Nenagh scorers – J Morris(0-6,5fs), P Hickey, P Murphy(1-1 each), M Heffernan, K Gleeson, T Heffernan, A Coffey, B Heffernan(0-1 each);

Clonoulty-Rossmore – Declan O Dwyer; Joey O Keeffe, Ciaran Quirke, James Ryan(Con); Sean O Connor, John O Keeffe, Enda Heffernan; Conor Hammersley, Michael Ryan(W); Cathal Bourke, Dillon Quirke, Paudie White; Fiachra O Keeffe, Timmy Hammersley,Tom Butler; Subs – Ronan Heffernan for F O Keeffe(48mins), James Hammersley for Joey O Keeffe(54 mins), Thomas Butler for White( 55 mins);

Nenagh Eire Og – Shane Hennessy; Conor Ryan, Noel Maloney, Conor McCarthy; Daire Quinn, Hugh Maloney, Barry Heffernan; Pearse Morris, Killian Gleeson; Philip Hickey, Michael Heffernan, Tommy Heffernan; Jake Morris, Paddy Murphy, Andrew Coffey; Subs – James Mackey for P Morris(39mins), Adam Gratton for N Maloney(48mins);

Ref- Kevin Jordan, Thurles Gaels.