It had to take three attempts and a whopping 210 minutes before Clarecastle finally shook off the stubborn challenge of neighbours Éire Óg in what was a titanic battle for the Under 16A hurling honours of 2001.

‘Magpies snatch last gasp equaliser’ from The Clare Champion, Friday October 19th, 2001

Under 16A Hurling Championship Final (14th October, 2001)
Clarecastle 2-12 Éire Óg 5-03

at Cusack Park, Ennis

Underdogs Éire Óg certainly carried the fight to Clarecastle in this thrilling and tremendously exciting under 16A Hurling Final at Cusack Park on Sunday before Jamie O’Connor turned out to be captain fantastic for the Magpies when his dramatic injury time goal set up a replay that is already being eagerly looked forward to.
Éire Óg got off to a whirlwind start and had a hat-trick of goals from Colin Heaslip and a well taken point by Fergal Brennan, all inside five minutes of the throw-in that saw them forge an early and commanding advantage.
Heaslip opened his goal scoring account with a helping hand from Clarecastle keeper Colin O’Flynn who made a rare error. No sooner had the shouting died down when Heaslip showed his opportunistic instincts by stroking home his second. Then followed the third, a deft overhead flick, by far the best goal of the three.
When Fergal Brennan hit a point from the tightest of angles, it seemed as if Éire Óg could do no wrong and Clarecastle for their part, no right.
Shell-shocked they may have been but gradually Clarecastle gathered their composure and played their way back into the contest thanks to some excellent hurling from Andrew Page at centre-back and midfielders Jamie O’Connor and Anthony Griffey.
Brian Travers opened their account. Tyrone Kearse added another before Sean Talty finished a good attacking movement to the net to drag the Magpies back into contention.
However they we dealt another blow when John O’Loughlin banged home another goal for Éire Óg at the end of the opening quarter. Despite creating further chances Éire Óg failed to add to their tally by the interval, whereas Clarecastle added five points from Andrew Page, Tyrone Kearse (2), Anthony Griffey and Brian Travers to leave the score 4-01 to 1-07.
As with the first, Éire Óg started the second half impressively with early points from James Gallagher and Ronan Keane. While Tyrone Kearse pegged one back, the Townies pushed the lead out to seven points when good work by Fergal Brennan finished with a Brian Hehir goal.
That goal arrived ten minutes into the half but Éire Óg failed to score for the remainder of the match, while Clarecastle, who never led at any stage of the game, took control as the set about whittling down the lead.
Tyrone Kearse led the way with four points, two from frees and two from play, and Éire Óg looked to have weathered the storm when keeper Joe Treacy brought off an excellent save late on.
But there was still time for one final twist. In injury time the task of pulling the game out of the fire fell to Clarecastle’s captain, Jamie O’Connor and his shot from the 20 metre line found the top right hand corner of the Éire Óg net to send the game to a replay.
On the day, Éire Óg’s inability to put the game beyond Clarecastle’s reach proved costly and this was emphasised by their failure to register a score in the final twenty minutes.
Clarecastle’s never say die attitude battle consistently over both halves and as a result have gained the psychological edge facing into the replay.

Clarecastle Colin O’Flynn; Emmet Considine, Barry Guinnane, Gary Casey; Fiachra Moloney, Andrew Page (0-1) , Evan Talty; Jamie O’Connor (1-0), Anthony Griffey (0-1); Tyrone Kearse (0-8), Dean Power, Jonathon Clancy; Brian Travers (0-2), Niall Dunne, Sean Talty (1-0)
Sub David Kearney

Éire Óg Joe Treacy; Gavin McDonagh, Eamon O’Reilly, Damien Coleman; John Quinn, Conor Considine, Gary O’Donnell; Ronan Keane (0-1), James Gallagher (0-1); Eric Kelly, Keith Dormer, Fergal Brennan (0-1); Colin Heaslip (3-0), John O’Loughlin (1-0), Brian Hehir (1-0)
Subs Sean O’Meara for Heaslip, David Ryan for Brennan

Referee Flann O’Reilly (Cratloe)

‘Clarecastle And Éire Óg Serve Up A Thriller’ from The Clare Champion, Friday October 26th, 2001

Under 16A Hurling Championship Final Replay (October 21st, 2001)
Clarecastle 1-9 Éire Óg 1-9 (after extra time)

Passion was definitely the name of the game in Sixmilebridge on Sunday as an epic unfolded between Clarecastle and Éire Óg in the Under 16A Hurling final replay.
It was controlled passion for the most part on the field of play. There was some uncontrolled passion, however, off the field; such was the hostile atmosphere in O’Garney Park for this game.
Things getting out of control had all to do with the amount of people on the sideline. Clarecastle numbers on the sideline nearly reached double figures while Éire Óg weren’t far behind them.
One of the Clarecastle sideline men pushed linesman Fergie McDonagh while two Magpie supporters jostled referee Flann O’Reilly as he left the field at the end of the game.
Everyone else applauded two lion-hearted teams as they left the field after producing a marvellous spectacle over the course of 90 minutes. They were level at the end of normal time and 30 minutes of extra time could not separate them.
Clarecastle anger was all down to the fact that they were screaming injustice at referee Flan O’Reilly. They were aggrieved at being reduced to 13 players after Niall Dunne and Andrew Page were sent off.
Dunne was marched mid-way through the first half while Page was shown the red card early in the second half. This double blow threw the Magpies into a desperate fight for survival, something they had scarcely expected during the early exchanges.
These exchanges saw Clarecastle take total control of proceedings. Jonathon Clancy opened the score with a point after five minutes. Ten minutes later Tyrone Kearse hammered home a goal from a 20 metre free. Two more points from Kearse brought their first half tally to 1-4.
Éire Óg failed to raise a flag in the first half and were left to rue a missed penalty after 23 minutes. The penalty was awarded after a foul on full-forward John O’Loughlin, but Joe Treacy’s effort was well saved.
Things did get better in the second half, but Clarecastle were reduced to 13 men. Centre-back Conor Considine brought Eire Og back into contention, thanks to his accuracy from placed balls. He knocked over three 65’s as Éire Óg piled on the pressure.
Clarecastle packed their defence in an effort to keep the Townies at bay but the fightback was on in earnest. John Quinn scored Éire Óg’s first point from play in the 52nd minute while four minutes later Conor Considine reduced the gap to two points.
The goal Éire Óg were looking for came in the last minute from a John O’Loughlin delivery. However all was not lost for Clarecastle when they scored an equaliser from a Tyrone Kearse free with virtually the last puck of the game to leave the sides deadlocked at 1-5 apiece.
From there, the game went into extra-time, 30 minutes that produced the best hurling of the day. Clarecastle were restored to their full compliment of 15 and started better. Points from Sean Talty, Brian Travers and Tyrone Kearse edged them into a three point lead.
Brian Hehir pointed for Éire Óg when he could well have goaled only for Kearse to restore Clarecastle’s three point lead at the end of the first period of extra-time.
The second half belonged to Éire Óg as they had three unanswered points to force a draw. Colin Heaslip started this latest fight back with a point from play five minutes in before two Ronan Keane frees brought an end to the scoring.
Clarecastle were incensed when Sean Talty’s last minute goal was disallowed for a square ball infringement.
So ended this marathon final that has to go to a third game.

Clarecastle Colin O’Flynn; Emmet Considine, Barry Guinnane, Evan Talty; Fiachra Moloney, Andrew Page, Gary Casey; Jamie O’Connor, Anthony Griffey; Tyrone Kearse (1-5), Dean Power, Jonathan Clancy (0–2); Brian Travers (0-1), Niall Dunne, Sean Talty (0-1)
Subs Niall Ward and David Kearney in extra-time

Éire Óg Joe Treacy; Gavin McDonagh, Eamon O’Reilly, Damien Colman; John Quinn, Conor Considine (0-4), Gary O’Connell; Ronan Keane, James Gallagher; Fergal Brennan, Keith Dormer, Eric Kelly; Colin Heaslip, John O’Loughlin, Brian Hehir,
Subs Sean O’Meara for Dormer, M Brigdale for Brennan, Dormer for Brigdale

Referee Flann O’Reilly (Cratloe)

‘Magnificent Magpies triumph in third instalment’ from The Clare Champion, Friday November 9th, 2001)

Under 16A Hurling Championship Final Second Replay
Clarecastle 2-9 Éire Óg 2-5

at O’Garney Park, Sixmilebridge

Cars were doubled parked outside O’Garney Park for this Under 16 final, something that wasn’t seen a many a senior championship game this year. This second replay was the talk of Clarecastle and Ennis for two weeks before the game. And, it wasn’t just the Magpies or Townies that ensured this bumper attendance, there were many neutrals in the ‘Bridge as well.
It had all to do with some potent ingredients – great hurling, great comebacks, the games on the sideline and that little whiff of controversy. There was no controversy at the third time of asking, just great hurling from both sides, especially when it mattered most from Clarecastle in another heart stopping second half.
When referee Flann O’Reilly sounded his long whistle, bringing to an end over 210 minutes of action over the three days, the Clarecastle contingent celebrated raucously. Players and mentor converged in the middle of the pitch and had a scrum down in celebration. Outside the wire, cries of ‘Up the Magpies’ penetrated the air.
This was clearly a victory that meant a lot to the Magpies, and why not? When they conceded three goals in the opening five minutes of the first game, they were staring defeat in the face. However they battled back magnificently to force a draw. These battling qualities were then shown by both sides in the second day.
Éire Óg battled back from a 1-4 to no score deficit to force a draw. Clarecastle did some battling of their own, holding on at the death despite being reduced to 13 men for most of the second half. Then both sides showed more fighting qualities in the 30 minutes of extra time that failed to separate the sides. They were applauded of the field afterwards.
It was more of the same in this latest instalment, another epic that ebbed and flowed like the first two encounters. But finally there were winners and losers as the Magpies edge home by four points.
And it was a well deserved victory thanks to a magnificent second half display that effectively suffocated the Éire Óg challenge. The sides were deadlock at half time at 1-4 apiece. In the early exchanges, Éire Óg had the better of the play, with Conor Considine clearing all before him, but they failed to reflect this superiority on the scoreboard.

Instead it was Clarecastle that forged ahead. Sean Talty whipped the sliotar to the net after 20 minutes to give the Magpies a 1-3 to 0-1 lead. Éire Óg were in trouble but a Colin Heaslip goal after 24 minutes brought them back into the game.
The Townies must have been confident going into the second half, with the slight wind at their backs. But it was Clarecastle who grabbed the initiative, thanks to a rock solid defence marshalled by the outstanding Barry Guinnane at full-back and an attack that was inspired by their trump talisman Tyrone Kearse.
A great goal by centre-forward Dean Power helped Clarecastle into a five point lead with ten minutes remaining on the clock. At last, it seemed as if some real daylight was coming between these two gallant sides.
However Éire Óg battled back and a James Gallagher goal after 55 minutes brought the gap down to two points. Tyrone Kearse edged Clarecastle three points clear with time almost up and it was clear that only a goal would save Éire Óg. They threw everything into attack but the goal never came. Instead, there was a point down the other end to give Clarecastle that four point cushion.
So ended this epic three-match encounter that captured the imagination of the public. For the Clarecastle boys, managed by Dave Page and coached by Fergie Tuohy, the honours, glory and revenge for their defeat in the Feile na nGael two years ago. For Éire Óg just some glory in defeat, having more that played their part over the three days.

Clarecastle Colin O’Flynn; Emmet Considine, Barry Guinnane, Gary Casey; Fiachra Moloney, Andrew Page, Evan Talty; Jamie O’Connor, Anthony Griffey; Tyrone Kearse (0-5), Dean Power (1-1), Jonathon Clancy (0-1); Brian Travers, Niall Dunne (0-1), Sean Talty (1-1)

Éire Óg Joe Treacy; Gavin McDonagh, Eamon O’Reilly, John Quinn; Gary O’Connell, Conor Considine, Damian Coleman; James Gallagher (1-0), Eric Kelly; Sean O Meara, Ronan Keane (0-2), Fergal Brennan (0-2); Colin Heaslip (1-1), John O’Loughlin, Brian Hehir
Subs Timmy Smyth for Quinn, Keith Dormer for Brennan, Quinn for Hehir, K. Ryan for O’Loughlin

Referee Flann O’Reilly (Cratloe)