Strong second-half defensive show foils Cloughbawn
CLONGEEN LAID it all on the line in O’Kennedy Park on Saturday, digging deep and recovering from a four-point interval deficit to land the Joyces Expert Intermediate ‘A’ football championship crown for the first time with a narrow win over four-time bridesmaids Cloughbawn.
It was a supreme defensive effort that made all the difference for the victors, with their tight marking and never-ending workrate restricting their rivals to just two pointed frees after the break.
And while Cloughbawn deservedly led at the interval by 1-4 to 0-3 after a cracking Connal Flood goal, they were eventually overhauled even though they were still in front by 1-5 to 0-7 at the last water break.
Clongeen’s return to Intermediate for the first time since 2017 arrived two years after a final defeat to Rathgarogue-Cushinstown at the same New Ross venue, and it was made all the more special as it was achieved minus the considerable services of injured former Wexford attacker Paul Curtis.
Finals tend to be unpredictable affairs, and I’m sure nobody would have reckoned beforehand that the two rival leading marksmen – Clongeen’s Daryl Murphy and Cloughbawn captain Bob Whitty – would both be held scoreless from play.
Murphy was kept in check by the tenacity of young Shane Kehoe, a recent county Minor who was also one of Cloughbawn’s most potent ball-carriers, while Shane Cahill was a stand-out performer in defence for Clongeen after spells marking Whitty as well as Connal Flood.
Whitty got the Enniscorthy District men off the mark after just 41 seconds from a free earned by Flood, before Jamesie Rochford equalised in the third minute.
Paudie Cahill had drifted outfield to leave Rochford and Adam Ryan manning the inside attacking line, and the former was a prominent figure for Clongeen in the middle third along with long-serving midfielder Páraic Cullen.
Eanna Doyle restored Cloughbawn’s lead with a neat left-footed kick in the seventh minute, while former Wexford regular Colm Kehoe drove one over from 45 metres to make it 0-3 to 0-1.
And when Shane Cahill drove a wide under pressure for Clongeen in the eleventh minute, the kick-out by Paul Foley led to the sole goal of the game.
It was caught on the left by midfielder Cillian Doyle, and he released Connal Flood for a surging run and clinical finish across goal and into the far corner of the net.
While Páraic Cullen did pull back a point from a Seamie Kiely off-load, Bob Whitty punished a push on his younger brother Paddy to leave Cloughbawn in front at the water break by 1-4 to 0-2.
Remarkably, the second quarter didn’t produce a score until the last kick of the half, with Adam Ryan firing over a Clongeen free after a foul on Daryl Murphy.
Prior to that, Cloughbawn hit two wides and dropped a kick short, while Clongeen did the exact same as the level of effort displayed by both sides wasn’t matched by their finishing.
Trailing by 1-4 to 0-3 at half-time, Clongeen drew first blood on the restart. Captain Jamie ‘Tiny’ Keating loves to venture forward from corner-back, and he swung his left boot at the ball for a trademark point in the 35th minute.
It took a fine block by David Doyle-Murphy to deny Emmet Kent a possible equalising goal, while a toe-poke by Bob Whitty at the other end was saved after a long free by Colm Kehoe broke into his path.
Shane Cahill pointed in the 42nd minute after fine work by Adam Ryan, Kent and lively half-time substitute Adam O’Sullivan, who was clearly out to make an impact on his return from holidays.
Bob Whitty stalled their momentum somewhat with Cloughbawn’s sole point of the third quarter, again from a free after brother Paddy was fouled, but only the minimum divided them by the last water break.
Páraic Cullen was a central figure as Clongeen continued their comeback, slotting over a free earned by Jamie Keating before teeing up Adam O’Sullivan for a point from a crossfield pass (1-5 to 0-7).
A mighty mark by Michael Dundon from the kick-out by Paul Foley to start the last quarter led to the equalising point from Jamesie Rochford, with O’Sullivan involved in the move in between.
Losing Emmet Kent to injury at the end of the third quarter was a big blow to Clongeen’s hopes, but they were boosted in the 51st minute when Cloughbawn were reduced to 14 men.
Colin Doyle was initially black-carded after a tussle with Adam Ryan that referee Shane Quinn was alerted to by linesman David Jenkins, and the full-back’s reaction to that decision resulted in a straight red card.
As if that wasn’t serious enough for Cloughbawn, centre-back Gavin Murphy was quickly sin-binned for a challenge on Ryan on the opposite side of the field, tight to the stand sideline.
Reduced from 15 to 13 players in a flash, the eventual losers were unfortunate to see a 44-metre free from netminder Paul Foley go wide via the right-hand post.
Páidí Cullen then delivered a high kick into the arms of goalkeeper Ricky Rochford, before Clongeen seized the initiative with a pair of priceless late points.
Connal Flood felt hard done by when he was penalised for over-carrying under heavy pressure close to the Clongeen dug-out. Shane Kilkenny drove in a long free that Adam Ryan won before being fouled, and he dusted himself down before giving his team a 0-9 to 1-5 lead in the 59th minute.
And Kilkenny was once more the provider, after good work beforehand by Michael Dundon, when Ryan drove over from play to leave Clongeen a major step closer to glory.
A Cloughbawn side minus county hurler Harry Kehoe tried their best to rally in the almost six minutes of added time, with a long run by Shane Kehoe leading to a foul on Johnny Cullen and the second of Bob Whitty’s two pointed frees after the interval (0-10 to 1-6).
Gavin Murphy returned to boost their numbers to 14, but the action ended with the last two of Clongeen’s eleven wides before their celebrations started in earnest after the final blast of Shane Quinn’s whistle.
Interestingly, the referee had the unusual distinction of taking charge of the concluding game in a championship he played in himself in the earlier rounds with Réalt na Mara.
Clongeen will now proudly take their place in an Intermediate grade heavily stacked with fellow New Ross District clubs in 2022, as Fethard, Horeswood, Rathgarogue-Cushinstown, Taghmon-Camross and Bannow-Ballymitty will also be involved.
Spare a thought for Cloughbawn, who won the Junior ‘A’ title in 2004 and were then promoted from Junior in 2011 without winning that crown.
The runners-up as well as the victors were included in the new Intermediate ‘A’ grade in 2012, and now they have lost four finals since 2013, three by one-point margins.
It would be enough to test any team’s resolve, but there’s sufficient character within their ranks to bounce back and have another serious attempt at this elusive crown in 2022.
Clongeen: Ricky Rochford; Donal Whelan, Shane Kilkenny, Jamie Keating (capt., 0-1); Michael Dundon, Shane Cahill (0-1), Marty Reville; Páraic Cullen (0-2, 1 free), Robert Farrell; Seamie Kiely, Emmet Kent, Daryl Murphy; Adam Ryan (0-3, 2 frees), Jamesie Rochford (0-2), Paudie Cahill. Subs. – Adam O’Sullivan (0-1) for Reville (HT), Ger Foxe for Kent, inj. (47), Leon Stafford for J. Rochford (58), Tom Donovan for Ryan (60+3), also Stephen Bennett, Stephen Dundon, Robbie Rochford, Joe Toomey, Cian Murphy, Cathal Murphy Jnr., Anton Stafford, Cathal Murphy Snr., Nigel Fort, Enda Murphy, Patrick Whelan, Paul Curtis.
Cloughbawn: Paul Foley; Ryan Murphy, Colin Doyle, David Doyle-Murphy; Shane Kehoe, Gavin Murphy, James Dempsey; Colm Kehoe (0-1), Cillian Doyle; Eanna Doyle (0-1), Bob Whitty (capt., 0-4 frees), Connal Flood (1-0); Kyle Murphy, Paddy Whitty, Páidí Cullen. Subs. – Barry Kehoe for Dempsey, inj. (30+3), Thomas Foley for P. Whitty (47), Johnny Cullen for R. Murphy (48), also Lee Keeley, Garreth Murphy, Aaron Byrne, Harry Kehoe, Aaron McManus, Nathan McDonald, Ciarán Murphy, Stephen Casserly. Sin-bin: Gavin Murphy (54).
Referee: Shane Quinn (Réalt na Mara).