Clough-Ballacolla 1-24 Camross 0-16
Willie Dunphy started to choke up when trying to describe what winning a Laois SHC three-in-a-row means to Clough-Ballacolla.
The Laois star fired 1-5 in a man-of-the-match display against Camross in O’Moore Park yesterday but fallen comrades quickly came to his mind.
“We’re a small parish, but we don’t know any different other than hurling. We’re feeding off the younger supporters and they’re feeding off us. They’re living a dream at the moment and the older supporters, they’re on a rollercoaster,” Dunphy said.
“To put it into perspective, we lost a few people at the start of the year and these kind of things just drive us on and we’re all thinking of them today. That’s what it’s all about, and that’s what community is all about. Thankfully, we’ve a great parish.”
Every team dreams of delivering their best on the big occasion and Clough-Ballacolla certainly saved that for last but memories of their Leinster final annihilation against Ballyhale Shamrocks last December were never far from the surface.
Rather than letting that 27-point reversal define the group, they let it fuel them and they are keen to drive on in Leinster once again with a date away against the Dublin SHC champions the starting point in six weeks’ time as they eye another famous provincial run.
“Without a doubt,” manager Declan Laffan said when asked if they were bitten by the Leinster bug. “When you win a Leinster championship match and you get to a Leinster final and you perform the way we did, you want to get back and try and rectify it.
“I’m not saying you’re going to go and win it, but you don’t want to bow out with a defeat like that. I’ve no doubt that we will go hammer and tongs. I’m not saying it’s going to win us anything, but we’ll give it everything we’ve got.”
This final was heading in one direction from an early juncture as the defending champions hit the ground running with Dunphy and skipper Stephen ‘Picky’ Maher sprinkling their magic dust at every opportunity.
For David Cuddy’s Camross side, goal chances would always need to be maximised if an upset was to be caused but two Ciarán Collier efforts were both thwarted by ’keeper Cathal Dunne inside 15 minutes and it seemed to take the wind out of their sails for much of the remainder.
They were over-reliant on placed balls from former Laois star Zane Keenan, whereas Clough had eight different scorers from play and they surged into a 0-6 to 0-3 lead at the end of the first quarter, with Maher and Dunphy accounting for all of their tally.
Keenan was unerring from frees and had Camross back to within one point by the 23rd minute, but with the action getting fairly feisty as referee Patrick Phelan let it flow, it was Clough who fired 1-5 without reply to find clear daylight.
Dunphy exquisitely batted to the net before the break, while Maher and Stephen Bergin also fired over some beauties and they had one hand on the Bob O’Keeffe when nine points to the good at half-time, 1-13 to 0-7.
Camross came out fighting with Gearóid Burke and Tomás Keyes taking it to Clough as they closed the gap to seven, 1-15 to 0-11, but the evergreen Willie Hyland, impact substitute Jordan Walshe – as well as Dunphy and the lively Bergin – helped to reel off the next five points.
It was game over with the Clough defence, excellently marshalled by the ever-reliable Darren Maher and Ronan Broderick, holding firm.
Next up is Leinster with redemption definitely in the back of their minds.
SCORERS – Clough-Ballacolla: S Maher 0-10 (5f, 0-2 ’65); W Dunphy 1-5 (0-1 s/l); S Bergin 0-3; J Walshe 0-2; K Mulhall, C Dunne, W Hyland, R Broderick 0-1 each. Camross: Z Keenan 0-8f; G Burke 0-3; T Keyes, D Mortimer 0-2 each; D Gilmartin 0-1.
CLOUGH-BALLACOLLA – Cathal Dunne; D Conway, D Maher, E Doyle; L Cleere, R Broderick, T Delaney; K Mulhall, A Corby; R Phelan, W Hyland, S Bergin; Cillian Dunne, S Maher, W Dunphy. Subs: J Walshe for Mulhall (40), J Dwyer for Cillian Dunne (53), P Brennan for Hyland (57), M Hennessy for Bergin and B Corby for Cleere (both 60).
CAMROSS – T Doran; D Duggan, A Collier, J Phelan; E Dowling, E Gaughan, L Burke; O Phelan, D Palmer; T Keyes, Z Keenan, G Burke; D Delaney, C Collier, M Dowling. Subs: D Mortimer for Delaney (39), L Delaney for O Phelan (44), D Gilmartin for G Burke (54), R Tyrrell for J Phelan (55), M Collier for L Burke (59).
REF – P Phelan (Castletown)