Last week we looked at Clooney Gaels Antrim Junior Hurling championship success in 2006 where they defeated St. Mary’s Rasharkin in the final in Ballymena.
We went on to highlight their journey to an Ulster final in the same year with a facile win over Mullahoran of Cavan in the quarter-final and a semi-final win over Lisbellaw before defeating Shamrocks of Strabane in a tight Ulster final.
Today we look at that final:
Ulster Junior hurling club final
Clooney Gaels 0-14 Strabane (Tyrone) 1-8
Antrim champions, Clooney Gaels lifted their first ever Ulster title at Swatragh on Sunday the 12th of November but it was no smooth ride by any matter of means as a spirited Styrabane side made a spirited late challenge to try and snatch a victory of their own.
Clooney’s Gerard Graham was a key player with a masterful display of free taking as he notched up eight points throughout, six of which came from free conversions.
Graham was first to register a score as he coolly converted a ’65’ just one minute in, much to the delight of the large travelling Clooney support. It was tit for tat sacoring in the early stages as Paddy Shields and Barcley converted frees, giving the Styrabane men a slender lead and Strabane looked like extending that lead when Mark Devine sent a pile driver towards the Ahoghill goals but Declan Scullion pulled off a superb save to deny Devine.
This would be the last time that Strabane would hold the lead as Clooney came back strongly with seven unanswered points, the best of them coming from Dominic Neeson who rifled over from seventy yards, a score that would have been the envy of any senior championship side.
The Antrim champions were now in full flow and were dominating mid-field where Gerard Kelly and Dominic Neeson were making their presence felt. The Gaels were well on top at this stage and held a comfortable lead but, credit to Strabane who came back with four unanswered points in the run up to half time.
The second period of play saw both sides lock horns in a bid for p;ossession with Strabane coming back with two frees to come within two points of the Antrim champions but this would be the Tyrone side’s last score for sdome time. The Ahoghill men responded with Gerard Graham firing over three points and Donal Graham added another to extend their lead to six points.
In the dying minutes Strabane went in search of that elusive goal and it came from Paddy Shields who blasted a 20 yard free to the top left hand corner of the Clooney net but his effort came too late as refereeTiernach Walsh brought an end to proceedings shortly after.
So the Clooney Gaels have written another chapter in the history books and this performance will be cherished for years to come. Declan Scullion in goals kept a clean sheet and made an excellent save in the early stages and he weas well aided by full-back Brian Kelly who put in a solid performance.Youngsters Francis Neeson and Pearse Close deserve special mention and Neil O’Connell, Bernard Graham and John Friel turned defence into attack at every given opportunity. The mid-field pairing of John Kelly and Dominic Neeson were instrumental in this Clooney win and their experience was a telling factor on the day. Clooney’s forwards worked well as a unit and Sean O’Connell worked tirelessly throughout taking some strong challenges in the process while Gerard Graham turned in a man of the match performance with a personal tally of (0-8, 6f) showing a deadly eye from free taking.
Clooney Gaels: Declan Scullion, Francis Neeson, B rian Kelly, Pearse Close, Neil O’Connell, Bernard Graham, John Friel, Dominic Neeson (0-1), Joe Downey, John Kelly (0-1), Sean O’Connell, Gerard Graham, Donal Graham, Aidan Graham, Gerard Kelly.
Subs: PJ O’Connell for Joe Downey, Sean McMahon for Gerard Kelly. Subs not used: Ryan Doherty, Declan Graham, Malachy Friel, Jerard Keenan, Barney Graffin, Martin Graham, Kieran Convery, Diarmaid Graham, Dessie McGuigan, Fergal Gavigan