1995 Under 21A Championship Final (Saturday, May 13th, 1995)

‘Fitzgerald’s goal seals it for Clarecastle’ by Seamus Hayes, The Clare Champion (Friday, May 19th, 1995)

Clarecastle 3-9 Wolfe Tones 3-6

at Cusack Park

The Under 21A Hurling Championship was first played for in 1964 and after 32 years of the competition, Clarecastle finally got their names on the roll of honour on Saturday evening when they overcame Wolfe Tones at Cusack Park.
This was a hard fought contest in which there was little between the sides – they were level on three occasions – and few on either side would have argued had the teams finished on level terms.
The winning goal came in the 60th minute and was scored by corner-forward Dermot Fitzgerald. Everything pointed to a draw with the sides level at 3-6 to 2-9 as play entered the final minute. Then Fitzgerald, playing in the same position that his father (also Dermot) pilled for the Magpies for many years, stepped in and crashed the ball to the net from close range. There was no way back for Wolfe Tones who were also beaten in last year’s final.
This was Clarecastle’s sixth final appearance and when one realises that two months ago there was a view that they would not have a team in this competition, it’s easy to understand the tremendous celebrations that followed Saturday’s victory. Hopes of success were high in the period from 1988 to ’91 inclusive but at the start of this campaign, few would have tipped the Magpies to take the honours.
Clarecastle captain James Healy put his side in front in the first minute when he scored from a free and they increased their lead with a long score from play from John Pyne in the seventh minute. Wolfe Tones replied within a minute to take the lead when Ian Watson goaled after a good move.
From the puck-out, Clarecastle went into the attack and many believed that Rory Crowe’s shot had ended up in the net but the ball had gone into the side-netting. The Magpies levelled when Dermot Fitzgerald pointed in the tenth minute.
Wolfe Tones who were without regulars Fergus McDonagh (wing back) and Aidan McKenna (midfielder) both of whom had their legs in plaster, went in front again when Damien McGrath pointed from a free in the 12th minute and a minute later Denis Whyte had their second goal after good work from Damien Garrihy. Within a minute Clarecastle struck for a goal when Rory Crowe flicked the ball past Ray Carley after a great long range drive by James Healy. Damien McGrath pointed from a Wolfe Tones penalty to leave the score at 2-2 to 1-3 at the end of the first quarter.
Clarecastle dominated for the remainder of the half and Wolfe Tones were under a lot of pressure. James Healy pointed from a free before David Russell made a great catch before turning to crash home his team’s second goal. This score put them back in front and points followed from a Healy free and John Pyne to leave the half-time score at 2-6 to 2-2.
For the second half, Wolfe Tones were forced to resume without the injured Ian Watson and his place was taken by John Cullen who signalled his arrival with a point in the third minute. The next ten minutes were scoreless as both sides fought for the apprehend. Then points from McGrath and Frank Lohan (both frees) left just the minimum between the sides entering the final quarter.
Wolfe Tones were in front a minute later when a shot from Aaron Skerritt deflected off Clarecastle full back Eoin Brennan’s leg to the net and it looked to be the decisive score as the Shannon side had the aid of the fresh wind in the second half. Clarecastle had their first score of the second half in the 47th minute when James Healy pointed from a 50 metre free and the same player scored from a similar position two minutes later to level.
The Magpies went back in front with nine minutes to go when Niall Tuohy pointed but John Cullen quickly levelled for Wolfe Tones after after good play by Damian Garrihy. Wolfe Tones had a great chance to regain the lead when McGrath raced through but he elected to pass when he was well positioned to score a point. The attempted pass was intercepted by John Plunkett and Clarecastle cleared the danger.
For the last five minutes, Clarecastle defended well and just when it looked as if the game was going to a replay, Fitzgerald scored the goal which brought the title to Clarecastle for the first time in the history of the competition.
Eric Flynn, Eoin Vaughan and John Plunkett were outstanding in the winner’s defence. James Healy and Kevin Morrissey got through a lot of work at midfield while up front Niall Tuohy, John Pyne and Dermot Fitzgerald caused lots of problems for their opponents.
For Wolfe Tones, Stephen Moran, Aaron Skerritt, Pat Hughes, Damian Garrihy, Damian McGrath and substitute John Cullen did well.

Clarecastle: Niall Reynolds; John Plunkett, Eoin Brennan, Patrick Hayes; Eoin Vaughan, Eric Flynn, Derek Healy; James Healy (0-5f) (Captain), Kevin Morrissey; Danny Scanlon, Niall Tuohy (0-1), John Pyne (0-2); Dermot Fitzgerald (1-1), David Russell (1-0), Rory Crowe (1-0)
Subs: Ger Browne for Hayes, Brendan Murphy for Crowe,
Ruairi Concannon, Ollie Plunkett, Kieran Walsh, Joe Carey, Donal Carey, Brendan Scanlon, Finbar Sheridan, Tommy Guilfoyle, Alan Keogh, Adrian McMahon, Joe Quinn

Wolfe Tones: Ray Carley; Andrew Finlay, Stephen Moran, Martin Mulvihill; Pat Hughes, Frank Lohan (0-1f), Michael O’Neill; Aaron Skerritt (1-0), Fergal O’Shea; Brian O’Neill, Damian Garrihy, Damian McGrath (0-2, 1 Pen, 1f); Denis Whyte (1-0), Pat Power, Ian Watson (1-0)
Sub: John Cullen for Watson (inj)

Referee: Brian O’Connell (Éire Óg)