By Mark Jones
St Joseph’s (Clare) 4-9, Ballygunner (Waterford) 3-8
St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield’s win in last weekend’s Munster club hurling final at Semple Stadium meant two things. First, St Joseph’s are now just two games away from retaining their All-Ireland title, and, second, the victory confirmed Clare’s grip on club hurling in the province.
Four teams from Clare have taken the last five Munster titles and Ballygunner have lost to every one of them. The Waterford players’ frustration was palpable as they saw another opportunity slip away. "It’s going to be very hard to come back from this," said center-back Fergal Hartley.
Although once again, Ballygunner gave it their best shot, there was no argument in the end about St Joseph’s superiority. If their three star turns — Jamesie O’Connor, Seanie McMahon and Ollie Baker — once again made important conbributions, it was the consistency of their lesser lights that sealed the issue.
The Hoey brothers, Ger and David, were in top form and Ciaran O’Neill bagged an impressive 2-1 with only the upright denying him a third goal. To add to that mix, McMahon shackled Ballygunner’s dangerman Paul Flynn in the second half and Baker ruled the roost at midfield.
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Although there were only four points between the sides, St Joseph’s were in control for the most part and Ballygunner’s third goal, scored by Flynn, came with just one minute remaining.
"I think this is the best club team we’ve ever faced," admitted Hartley. "Clare teams seem to get stronger and stronger." With two All-Ireland titles in a row now in their sights, St Joseph’s march on.
Birr (Offaly) 1-16, Castletown (Laois) 0-11
Brian Whelahan gave another of his hurling masterclasses as Birr swept to the Leinster club title in imperious style at Nowlan Park. This was Birr’s fourth provincial success of the 1990s and despite a brave effort from Castletown, the Offaly side always had enough in reserve.
Whelahan bagged four points from all corners of the ground and while it wasn’t quite a one man show, the center-back simly oozed quality. His brother Simon weighed in with five points, while Gary Hanniffy’s physical presence was a major factor at midfield.
Castletown begun promisingly with Paul Cuddy and Patrick Phelan showing up well and despite a Declan Pilkington goal, Birr trailed by 1-4 to 0-8 at the break. However, the winners dominated the second-half with some excellent ground hurling.
Also, Athenry of Galway took the Connacht club title as expected. However, they were pushed all the way by Mayo underdogs Tooreen who were only defeated on a scoreline of 1-14 to 1-6.
Crossmolina (Mayo) 1-7, Roscommon Gaels 0-5
Crossmolina collected a first-ever Connacht club football title when they were comfortable winners in last Saturday’s replayed final. From the moment, Enda Lavelle drove home a penalty in the 12th minute, Crossmolina were on course for victory.
Roscommon’s vaunted attack worked hard to close the gap, but Barry Heffernan, Pat McAndrew, Colm Reilly and captain Thomas Nallen were outstanding in defense. Gaels had late points from Michael McHale and Alan Nolan, but Crossmolina finished the stronger to extend their margin to five.