Mulcahy switch inspires Kilmallock second-half blitz
THE omens looked good for Crusheen when their juniors opened the weekend by completing an historic county double following on their recent first Clare senior success.
However, hopes of a third fairytale ending were crushed by a Kilmallock blitzkreig in the second half of yesterday's senior provincial quarter-final in Ennis.
The Banner champions more than held their own in the opening exchanges of this thrilling Clare-Limerick derby and probably should have been leading by more than two points (0-7 to 0-5) at half-time.
But within six minutes of the restart they found themselves in the middle of their own personal Halloween nightmare after being suddenly hit by 2-4 without reply.
After being pitched eight points into arrears they battled bravely to cut the deficit to two points in the dying stages, but never really looked to have the fire-power to recover after Kilmallock's two-goal blitz.
First, county star Andrew O'Shaughnessy pounced on a ball that goalkeeper Donal Tuohy fumbled after a long delivery from Bryan O'Sullivan and then, just 21 seconds later, Jake Mulcahy sent in a high ball off the right wing which Shane O'Donnell flicked to the net.
There was a definite whiff of 'square ball' about the second one, but Crusheen boss Michael Browne did not query it afterwards, admitting that the better side had won. Kilmallock's goals came straight after four unanswered points -- two from Graeme Mulcahy, and one each from his brother Jake and Paudie O'Dwyer -- had belatedly kick-started their challenge.
Such a phenomenally quick turnaround from the Limerick bluebloods meant their famous Clare manager Tony Considine was immediately quizzed afterwards about how heavily he'd wielded the verbal hairdryer at the break.
"A few very raw things were said at half-time alright!" Considine admitted. "They were just giving Crusheen far too much respect and standing off them, but the players knew it themselves. The two goals may have been soft but you'll take any you get, and once we got them that was it," he summarised.
But he wasn't entirely happy with the way his side subsequently went 18 minutes without a score and needed a vital late insurance point from Paudie O'Brien to stay safe as Crusheen, led bravely by Fergus Kennedy, Joe Meaney and Cathal Dillon, refused to give up.
Losing centre-back Cian Dillon to a hand injury in the first half was a blow for Crusheen and the shallowness of their bench was indicated when he came back in only to be replaced a second-time by the same substitute, Paddy Meaney.
Crusheen's stand-out midfielder Paddy Vaughan also started with an injury and couldn't last the full game, though you'd hardly have known he was struggling from his brilliant 0-7 contribution, that included two brilliant side-line cuts.
But the real turning point of the match was the switch of Kilmallock's U-21 star Graeme Mulcahy out to wing-forward, where he showed the sort of flashes that made him one of the few to shine for Limerick's so-called 'B team' when they were beaten by Cork's seniors last summer.
It took Kilmallock 14 minutes to open their scoring as the local champions raced into a four-point lead. But Mulcahy, who started at corner-forward, stormed past his man along the end-line after 15 minutes to serve up the best goal chance of the first half, only for Shane O'Donnell to fluff it.
O'Donnell had started at full-forward, but once O'Shaughnessy was moved into this position and Mulcahy came out to the wing, Kilmallock started to motor.
Mulcahy's brother Jake, still a minor, also contributed to their big second-half revival, laying on some great ball and scoring one fantastic point from an impossible-looking angle.
Cathal McAllister's free-flowing refereeing contributed to the climax where the only quibble could have been that one minute of injury-time seemed a bit short.
As Considine noted, Kilmallock showed a worrying tendency to sit back after scoring the goals and they'll know that, despite home advantage, they can't afford a repeat when they face Tipperary's back-to-back champions Thurles Sarsfields in the Munster semi-final.
Scorers -- Kilmallock: A O'Shaughnessy 1-3 (0-3f), S O'Donnell 1-0, P O'Dwyer, G Mulcahy, J Mulcahy 0-2 each, E Ryan, P O'Brien 0-1 each. Crusheen: P Vaughan 0-7 (4f, 2s-l), G O'Donnell, J Meaney (1f) 0-3 each, G O'Grady 0-1.
Kilmallock -- B Hennessy; L Hurley, P O'Loughlin, K O'Mahony; L Walsh, G O'Mahony (Capt), B O'Sullivan; E Ryan, P O'Brien; P O'Dwyer, A O'Shaughnessy, G O'Sullivan; G Mulcahy, S O'Donnell, J Mulcahy. Subs: P Connery for O'Donnell (51), K O'Donnell for J Mulcahy (58).
Crusheen -- D Tuohy; J Brigdale, Cronan Dillon, A Brigdale; Cathal Dillon, Cian Dillon, C O'Doherty; T Meaney, P Vaughan; G O'Donnell, J Meaney, D Forde; C O'Donnell, G O'Grady (Capt), F Kennedy. Subs: P Meaney for Cian Dillon (inj, 11), Cian Dillon for P Meaney (20), P Meaney for T Meaney (39), P O'Grady for Vaughan (55).
Ref -- C McAllister (Cork).