Loughmore's dual juggernaut halted as Clare champions edge out extra-time battle

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Loughmore's dual juggernaut halted as Clare champions edge out extra-time battle
© Laszlo Geczo INPHO

Loughmore-Castleiney (Tipperary) 0-12

Eoin Brennan reports at Cusack Park

CLARE CHAMPIONS ÉIRE Óg finally halted the Loughmore-Castleiney dual juggernaut after a two goal extra-time blitz effectively confirmed their place in the Munster senior club football championship semi-final in Cusack Park in Ennis this afternoon.

Unable to shake off the resilient Tipperary champions in both halves of the first hour, the Ennis side had to dig deep themselves before prevailing in dramatic circumstances after goals through full-back Aron Fitzgerald and top-scorer Mark McInerney in a three minute spell carved out a five point match winning cushion.

Unsurprisingly, Loughmore-Castleiney refused to accept their perceived fate, first through a brace of Evan Sweeney points that were cancelled out by fellow replacements Eimhin Courtney and Ikem Ugwueru before home goalkeeper Nathan Murray had to make a wondersave to somehow deny John McGrath a consolation goal at the death.

It would have been the first goal that Éire Óg conceded throughout their seven match championship run to date though, a crucial factor in not only bridging a 15 year gap to their last Clare title but now a first provincial victory since 2000 to boot.

Leading for the majority, the Ennis side could never fully shake off their ultra-obstinate opponents despite soaring four clear midway through the opening period and three ahead once more entering the final ten minutes.

Captain Gavin Cooney led the way with an early hat-trick of points as the hosts kicked five unanswered points to move 0-6 to 0-2 in front by the 19th minute.

However, despite seeing midfielder Eamon Connolly sinbinned midway through the half, a determined Loughmore-Castleiney finally got into their stride as points from cousins Noel and Liam McGrath lessened the arrears to just two by the 23rd minute before Aidan McGrath added another in injury-time to only trail by 0-6 to 0-5 at the break.

Some erratic shooting on the restart ensured that the double Tipperary champions couldn’t make a full recovery as instead Éire Óg got back on track through Gavin Cooney and Mark McInerney by the final water break at 0-8 to 0-6.

An excellent back-to-front move completed by wing-back Einne O’Connor made it a three point match by the 50th minute. However a red card for home midfielder Darren O’Neill presented a glimmer of hope that the Mid-Tipp side exploited to the full as a brace of Liam Treacy frees were copper-fastened by a rousing John McGrath leveller on the hour mark to force extra-time at 0-9 to 0-9.

After 18 weeks on the road, Loughmore-Castleiney continued to defy the odds when John McGrath nudged his side in front for the first time in an hour with a 40 metre free on the restart.

However, Éire Óg response would be both swift and decisive as first Ciaran Russell picked out fellow defender Aaron Fitzgerald for a cool finish to the bottom left corner before substitute Dara Walsh teed up Mark McInerney for a second goal to ultimate decide this fascinating contest.

Despite a first defeat since the Mid-Tipp hurling final in July, Loughmore-Castleiney do have the opportunity to redress the balance if they can rally for their trip to Waterford next Sunday against Ballygunner in the Munster Senior Hurling equivalent.

However, this was to undoubtedly be Éire Óg’s day as the Ennis club look to chase down a first ever Munster Final appearance when taking on Cork champions St Finbarr’s in a fortnight’s time.

Scorers for Éire Óg: Mark McInerney 1-2 (1f); Gavin Cooney 0-4 (2f); Aaron Fitzgerald 1-0; Philip Talty, Darren O’Neill, Einne O’Connor, Eimhin Courtney, Ikem Ugwueru 0-1 each

Scorers for Loughmore-Castleiney: John McGrath (1f), Evan Sweeney (1f) 0-3 each; Liam Treacy 0-2 (2f); Eamon Connolly (m), Noel McGrath, Liam McGrath, Aidan McGrath 0-1 each

Éire Óg

1. Nathan Murray

4.Ronan Lanigan

3. Aaron Fitzgerald

2. Manus Doherty

7. Ciaran Russell

6. Conall Ó hAiniféin

5. Einne O’Connor

8. Darren O’Neill

9. David McNamara

12. Niall McMahon

20. David Reidy

10. Aidan McGrath

15. Mark McInerney

14. Gavin Cooney

13. Philip Talty

Subs:

11. Ikem Ugwueru for McMahon (40)

19. Dara Walsh for Talty (47)

18. Tadhg Connellan for McGrath (54)

17. Eimhin Courtney for Cooney (61)

21. Jarlath Collins for Cooney (75)

24. Gavin D’Auria for Reidy (77, inj)

13. Talty for Ó hAiniféin (81)

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Loughmore-Castleiney

1. Shane Hennessy

2. Lorcan Egan

3. Joey Hennessy

4. Willie Eviston

5. John Ryan

6. Ed Meagher

18. Brian McGrath

9. Eamon Connolly

11. John McGrath

15. Conor McGrath

8. Liam Treacy

14. Aidan McGrath

13. Conor Ryan

12. Noel McGrath

10. Liam McGrath

Subs:

17. Evan Sweeney for Conor McGrath (39)

19. Ciaran McGrath for Connolly (44)

20. John Meagher for E. Meagher (47)

22. Tomás McGrath for C. Ryan (47)

26. Ed Connolly for A. McGrath (65)

6. E. Meagher for Egan (70)

9. Eamonn Connolly for Treacy (70),

Referee: David Murnane (Cork)

Loughmore's dual juggernaut halted as Clare champions edge out extra-time battle
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