Cunniffe stars in historic Carrick win
Carrick Hurling 2-11 Ballygar 2-9
Two second-half goals laid the foundations for a historic victory by Leitrim club Carrick Hurling over Ballygar of Galway in the Connacht junior hurling final at Ballyhaunis on Saturday.
Clement Cunniffe, who was to play a pivotal role in Carrick's victory, opened the scoring with a free before Ballygar went on to dominate the opening quarter. Carrick hit back with points to level matters, and Ballygar suffered a blow with the 20th-minute dismissal of corner-forward Conal Greally.
They did recover, adding two points, but a Cunniffe pointed free in added time left the Galway men with a slender 0-6 to 0-5 lead at the interval.
Ballygar extended that lead in the opening minutes of the second half and when Diarmuid O'Brien goaled in the 42nd minute, it looked ominous for the Leitrim men.
However, an opportunist goal by Cathal McCrann immediately on the puck-out followed by another Cunniffe pointed free put Carrick within a point of their rivals.
A pointed free in the 52nd minute relieved the pressure on Ballygar, but once again Cunniffe rose to the occasion and his sublime goal from 35 metres out on the right was to prove decisive.
Another Cunniffe point from play two minutes later was followed by a pointed free by goalkeeper Declan Molloy, 30 metres from his goal line, with further points from play in the closing minutes, as the Ballygar challenge faded.
A consolation goal by Eric Walsh deep in added time added a gloss to a comprehensive and first ever club provincial title by a Leitrim hurling team. Carrick Hurling will meet the Ulster champions in the All-Ireland semi-final.