at Killeedy, Limerick
WELCOME to winter hurling.
It was wet and, with the wind, the rain swept down the field; it was also very heavy, with the hurling being heavy going as well, on an afternoon when Inagh-Kilnamona’s dream of scaling the heights of Munster at Junior B level came unstuck.
In truth, they could have little to grumble about at the end of 60 minutes that left those on and the field tried and tested but, at the same time, the Clare side will see this two-point defeat to the Limerick champions as a real opportunity lost.
All because in pursuit of victory down the stretch, when they strained every sinew and battled so bravely into the elements, they just left it too late, allowing a mightily relieved Cappamore side limp over line to bring this Munster crown to the home of the All-Ireland champions.
At the three-quarter stage, it looked as if Cappamore would canter home. With wind advantage, they’d been imperious in the first 15 minutes of the half in building decisively on their interval lead of 0-5 to 0-4 by doubling their total.
They had the hurling, the physicality and, above all, the accuracy against an Inagh-Kilnamona side that was simply too profligate when opportunities knocked in the first half, when playing with the elements sweeping down the field.
When Inagh-Kilnamona roused themselves in the final 10 minutes, as veteran Dermot Gannon kickstarted their belated charge with a pointed free, they did manage to bring the contest to the wire. Ultimately, however, it wasn’t enough as Cappamore scraped home.
The Limerick side would have been kicking themselves had they been hit for a goal at the death, as this was a game they had largely dominated and one in which they were never headed.
They’d put a real marker down in the opening quarter, taking to the difficult conditions much the better as they opened up a 0-4 to 0-1 lead, with Liam Creamer, Mark Treacy, Jack Walsh and Jamie McCarthy all on the mark from play, with a lone reply coming from a Dermot Gannon free.
With that, it looked as if the Clare champions would be in for a long afternoon, but not for the first time they battled away, with another point by Gannon in the 18th minute finally getting them going, before Cian Shannon and Thomas Barry found the target by the 25th minute, as they really warmed to their task that left just a point between them at the break.
Inagh-Kilnamona’s cause was further bolstered just two minutes before the break, when Paul Keating made a brilliant save to deny Liam Creamer from a penalty that was awarded after Eamonn Moloney was upended just outside the small square.
It gave them great heart facing into the elements on the turnover but Cappamore turned the screw in the early stages, thanks to points from Conor O’Brien, Kevin Ryan and Donal O’Mahoney inside five minutes to open up a double scores advantage.
With 25 minutes remaining, it was as good as game over, especially when Liam Creamer and Jack Walsh brought Cappamore to double figures by the 40th minute.
They were winning all the physical battles, while their wide count was just five to Inagh-Kilnanmona’s 10 and looked like coasting home until the Clare champions decided to throw caution to the wind.
Cian Shannon had been desperately unlucky not to hit the net six minutes in when his low drive had the keeper beaten, only to drift agonisingly wide of the left-hand post, but the spirit within the Inagh-Kilnanmona camp never flagged.
With that, a hat-trick of Dermot Gannon frees between the 50th and 55th minutes brought it back to a three-point game and a great escape was on the cards.
John Rynne was thrown in to the edge of the square and proved to be an effective targetman in the closing minutes, as Inagh-Kilnamona laid siege on a Cappamore defence that grew increasingly nervous.
Alas, after Damian Shaughnessy reduced the gap to two points entering injury time, the goal that would have propelled Inagh-Kilnamona over the line never came.