Drom beat finds right rhythm
Callanan leads by example in historic triumph
WHEN history beckoned, Drom & Inch were ready to answer the call.
After losing three Tipperary county finals in 2005, 2007 and 2009, they must have been wondering if the gods took some perverse pleasure in mocking them, but their determination never wavered and was finally rewarded in Semple Stadium yesterday when they took the title for the first time.
Their supporters in the crowd of 7,038 mingled with the players on the pitch for a long time after the game, savouring the fruits of a victory that was constructed deep in Drom's refusal to buckle when it appeared that Clonoulty Rossmore seemed set to capture the Dan Breen Cup for the first time since 1997.
Clonoulty powered into a five-point lead (2-10 to 1-8) two minutes into the second half after John O'Neill fired in their second goal, leaving Drom facing a real test of character. Their response was emphatic.
Burrowing deep into their reserves of resilience and pride, they outhurled Clonoulty from there on, outscoring them by 0-11 to 0-4. Clonoulty's only score from open play in that period came from Sean Maher, with the other three points the products of Timmy Hammersley's accuracy from frees.
In contrast, Drom were hugely enterprising, scoring some brilliant points from open play, while Seamus Callanan punished Clonoulty's defensive indiscretions with accurate free-taking. Team captain Callanan emerged as a central figure in Drom's second-half surge, scoring 0-6 (three each from open play and frees), which was in marked contrast to the first half where he found it all but impossible to make any progress against a Clonoulty defence where John Devane, John O'Keeffe and James Heffernan were covering most of the angles with impressive authority.
Callanan had a clear goal chance in the 24th minute but goalkeeper Declan O'Dwyer made a superb save. Callanan was thwarted twice in the opening two minutes of the second half -- having his shots for goal blocked on both occasions -- and it really was beginning to look as if it would be another disappointing county final for his team.
However, all changed as Drom launched a spirited fightback. They drew level in the 49th minute when impressive midfielder Johnny Ryan pointed and took the lead for the first time two minutes later when Callanan scored his first point from play.
The momentum was flowing very much their way at that stage and they pulled three points clear in the 55th minute, before Hammersley ended a 14-minute spell without a Clonoulty score when he pointed a free. However, Callanan restored the three-point advantage in the 58th minute and while a Hammersley free a minute later left Drom facing an anxious two minutes of stoppage time, their defence held out.
Clonoulty won plenty of possession in those tense closing minutes, but were allowed very little room to manoeuvre by a tight-marking Drom defence where centre-back Eamonn Buckley was outstanding all through. Full-back Micheal Butler also majored in strict security, while in attack David Butler, Pat Lupton and David Collins scored an impressive 1-9 between them from open play.
Sean Maher and John O'Neill scored 1-2 each for Clonoulty who made a blistering start, racing into a 1-4 to 0-1 lead when Sean Maher finished a smart move with a goal in the 14th minute. Worrying times for Drom, but their response was quick and feisty as they scored 1-1 in two minutes.
They had failed to score a goal in any of their three county final appearances, but the drought ended in the 14th minute when Lupton fired to the net from close range. The goal eased Drom into a more settled routine and while Clonoulty twice opened three-point leads, they were reined in on both occasions and finished the half a point ahead, 1-9 to 1-8.
All six Clonoulty forwards, plus midfielder Tom Butler, scored in the first half and when Hammersley and O'Neill added 1-1 in the opening two minutes of the second half, it looked as if it might be a decisive break.
However, Drom never flinched and once they found the rhythm which had underpinned the wins over Mullinahone and Toomevara in the semi-final and quarter-final, they raised their game to a level that Clonoulty couldn't reach.
"Heart and determination got us over the line. Even when things weren't going our way, the lads kept battling. We felt that if we could get ahead in the second half, we would be good enough to see it out," said Drom manager Teddy Kennedy.
First, of course, they had to recover from six- and five-point deficits in either half, challenges that proved within their range on a day that will be cherished in the club for ever more.
"Words can't describe the feeling at the moment, it's unbelievable," said Seamus Callanan.
He referenced the early exchanges of the second half as a time when Drom really had to stand up for themselves.
"I missed a goal chance at one end and John O'Neill went up and stuck the ball in the net at the other end. That could have killed a team, but there's huge spirit in this squad -- it's driven by management and others around us. There is great support from everyone in the parish and we weren't going to let them down today, no matter what."
Drom's determination to take their place on the Tipperary roll of honour was finally rewarded and they now look forward to their first Munster campaign, beginning with a clash against Waterford champions Ballygunner.
Scorers -- Drom & Inch: P Lupton 1-2, S Callanan 0-6 (3f), D Butler 0-4, D Collins 0-3, J Ryan (1f), S Butler 0-2 each. Clonoulty Rossmore: T Hammersley 0-6 (4f, 1'65), J O'Neill (0-1 s-l), S Maher 1-2 each, T Butler, C Ryan, J Moloney, C Quirke 0-1 each.
Drom & Inch -- D Young; Martin Butler, Micheal Butler, M Costello; P Stapleton, E Buckley, James Ryan; Johnny Ryan, J Woodlock; S Butler, S Callanan, D Collins; P Lupton, D Ryan, D Butler. Subs: K Butler for D Ryan (28), L Ryan for Martin Butler (38), M Ryan for J Ryan (62).
Clonoulty Rossmore -- D O'Dwyer; Joey O'Keeffe, J Heffernan, K Horan; Padraig Heffernan, J Devane, John O'Keeffe; S O'Connor, T Butler; S Maher, C Ryan, J Moloney; J O'Neill, T Hammersley, C Quirke. Subs: M Sadlier for Horan (h-t), F O'Keeffe for Moloney (46), A Kearney for O'Connor (47), M Coen for Ryan (54), M Heffernan for Quirke (58).
Ref -- P Gibson (Burgess).