By John Foley
A SLICKER Clonmore team made better use of their possession and did enough damage on the scoreboard to qualify for this year’s intermediate football championship semi-final with this eight-point win over Grange at Netwatch Cullen Park on Friday night. However it was only in the final quarter that the winning side stamped their authority on the game.
Substitute Darren McGrath’s goal on 46 minutes pushed Clonmore 1-11 to 0-7 ahead and from there to the end there was little doubt about the result. But up to that point Grange were still very much in the game, despite struggling to really impose themselves in key central positions. They were over-reliant on the free-taking of John Murphy but the county player kept his team ticking over on the scoreboard even when the passing and movement into their forwards left a lot to be desired.
Clonmore, in contrast, were better able to find their players in space and moved with more purpose in attack while their defence worked hard throughout. Both sides hit five wides in the first half but Clonmore’s were largely from more scoreable positions. A little more composure in front of the posts next weekend could see them through to a county final.
The sides shared four points in the opening quarter with Anthony Byrne getting Clonmore off the mark before John Murphy did likewise from a free for Grange. Niall Humphries for Clonmore and Paddy Hickey for Grange traded scores next before the Wicklow border men took the initiative. Enda McGrath scored a lovely point after a neat one-two with Con Murphy who was getting on a lot of ball at centre-forward.
Darren McGrath, who had come on for the injured Alan Humphries, slotted a lovely point before Shane McGrath made it 0-5 to 0-2 with 24 minutes gone. But in between these scores there were also some poor wides. Cillian and Fionn Murphy at the centre of the Grange defence were working hard to keep their opponents at bay with the former putting in a great block on a Con Murphy shot at goal.
Grange were hanging in there with senior county panellists Henry Hegarty and Paul O’Halloran doing their best to get the ball moving forward from midfield. Paddy Hickey lofted a nice score before Gavin Byrne and John Murphy traded frees before the break to make it 0-6 to 0-4 at half-time in favour of Clonmore. It could have been worse for Grange but Seamus Hegarty made an excellent save from Niall Humphries just before the whistle.
Grange could have gone ahead at the start of the second half when John Murphy stormed through the middle of the Clonmore defence but with a chance of a goal, his shot rose over the crossbar for a point.
In general, Shane Murphy at centre back for Clonmore was doing well on the Grange danger man with a couple of good interceptions and blocks cutting out scoring opportunities at source. It was Clonmore who were quickly able to impose themselves on the game and after Niall Humphries and Shane McGrath had extended their lead to three points, Enda McGrath rattled the Grange post with a fine effort. You got the impression Clonmore could open up a sizeable gap but Grange were dogged. A pair of John Murphy frees matched similar efforts from Gavin Byrne for Clonmore and when Con Murphy scored from a 45 it left the score 0-11 to 0-7 with 15 minutes to go.
But over the course of a few short minutes, Grange’s interest in this year’s championship was snuffed out. Darren McGrath was released in behind the Grange defence and the Clonmore man rattled the back of the net with a fine effort. An excellent Gavin Byrne free out of the hands and another point from raiding wing back David McCarney left it 1-13 to 0-7 with eight minutes left on the clock.
Grange had a couple more attacks of note with Jordan Kane making a fine save from a Niall Byrne fisted effort at the expense of a point. Then moments later Kieran Pender missed an open goal after a good passing move through the Clonmore defence.
Clonmore could breath easy from there on in. Substitute Colin McGrath got in on the act with a nice point off the outside of his boot as they closed out a convincing win in the end.
It’s a quick turnaround ahead of next weekend’s semi-final but they have the momentum. Naomh Eoin will have to be on their toes.
Clonmore: Jordan Kane; John Kelly, Sean Doyle, Andrew Byrne; David McCarney (0-1), Shane Murphy, Paddy Gahan; Gavin Byrne (0-4, frees), Alan Humphries; Paul Hogan, Con Murphy (0-2, 0-1 45), Enda McGrath (0-1); Anthony Byrne (0-1), Shane McGrath (0-2), Niall Humphries (0-2). Subs: Darren McGrath (1-2) for A Humphries (17 mins), Willie Byrne for P Gahan (black card, 36 mins), Colin McGrath (0-1) for P Hogan (46 mins)
Grange: Seamus Hegarty; Paddy Byrne, Cillian Murphy, John Doyle; Michael Murphy, Fionn Murphy, Ned Pender; Henry Hegarty, Paul O’Halloran; Paddy Hickey (0-2), John Murphy (0-6, 0-4 frees), Gavin Lawlor; Niall Byrne (0-2), Cathal Bailey, Kieran Pender. Subs: Paddy McCall for G Lawlor, 34 mins), Steven Doyle for P Hickey (48 mins)
Referee: Paud O’Dwyer (Palatine)