| 13.1°C Dublin

Ryan leads from front to restore Blues' old order

Newmarket-on-Fergus ended a 31-year barren spell to become Banner champions in Ennis.

It was their 23rd triumph in all, but it appeared more like their first, if the scenes after the final whistle were to be believed.

Playing in their first decider since 2008, the Blues displayed a blend of courage, skill and commitment against a Cratloe side who never really got to grips against a powerful and tidy Newmarket defence.

Due to the inclement weather, top-class hurling was not an option, yet Newmarket played to their strengths, snuffing out the twin threat of Cratloe forwards Conor McGrath and Cathal McInerney, while the newly-crowned champions played with tremendous conviction throughout the field.

Newmarket got off to the brightest of starts when corner-forward Shane O'Brien pounced on a breaking ball from a James McInerney free out of defence to rattle the Cratloe net.

With the wind at their backs, the winners kept their opponents on the back foot and the champions of 2009 could only muster two scores from play in the opening half-hour. They trailed by 2-6 to 0-6 at the break and, but for a brief spell before half-time, were always playing catch-up.

O'Brien grabbed a second goal in the 21st minute after full-forward Anthony Kilmartin exposed Cratloe's defensive weakness with a smart hand-pass and the unmarked attacker took his chance with aplomb.

It was imperative that Cratloe up their game and convert chances early in the second half if they were to have any hope of pulling this tie out of the fire. But two points by Man of the Match Colin Ryan inside the opening six minutes confirmed Newmarket's dominance.

Amid torrential downpours and difficult underfoot conditions, the winners put in a masterful display, none more so that the aforementioned Ryan. Playing with 15 on his back and lining out at centre-forward, he covered an amount of territory over the hour and topped off an immense display with Newmarket's third goal in the 55th minute.

A disappointing Cratloe did have a goal chance or two after half-time. Cathal McInerney was through only for a superb block by centre-back Enda Barrett and late in the half Sean Collins forced an impressive reflex save from Newmarket goalie Darren Duggan. Other Newmarket players to impress included Eoin O'Brien at right-corner back.

James McInerney at full-back had a fine hour, curbing the danger of McGrath, while team captain and centre-back Enda Barrett was solid throughout. His brother David Barrett in the half-forward line along with Ryan and two-goal hero Shane O'Brien were the best of attackers, yet it has to be observed that this was a wonderful team performance from a hungry yet disciplined and talented outfit.

Scorers -- Newmarket: C Ryan 1-8 (7f), S O'Brien 2-0, D Barrett 0-2. Cratloe: C McGrath 0-5 (4f), C McInerney, S Collins, L Markham ('65), D Browne 0-1 each.

Newmarket -- D Duggan; E O'Brien, J McInerney, S O'Connor;

N O'Connor, E Barrett, A Barrett; E Hayes, M O'Hanlon;

M McInerney, C Ryan, D Barrett; S O'Brien, A Kilmartin, S O'Brien Snr. Subs: J Liddy for Kilmartin (43), R Goode for Hayes (58), N Enright for D Barrett (59).

Cratloe -- S Hayes; J O'Gorman, B Duggan, E Boyce;

M Hawes, C Ryan, L Markham; M Murphy, S Chaplin; P Collins,

D Ryan, S Collins; C McInerney, C McGrath, G Ryan. Subs: D Browne for Duggan (22), A Browne for D Ryan (h-t), S O'Leary for G Ryan (38), S Gleeson for Chaplin (45).

Ref -- A Heagney (Corofin)

Irish Independent