Cooney in command
There was no room for sentiment in the Galway hurling final at Athenry yesterday when seasoned campaigners Sarsfields overpowered Clarinbridge, who were trying to win their first county senior championship title. Sarsfields, with the peerless Joe Cooney showing many of his old touches at midfield, were crowned champions for the sixth time, and in this decade they have captured four county titles and back-to-back All-Ireland championships.
Clarinbridge, a youthful team who have emerged from successful minor and under-21 campaigns, hadn't the experience or craft to trouble the hot favourites, who played with single-minded determination and application from the first whistle to the last.
But despite dominating the first half to lead by 1-4 to 0-3 at the interval, Sarsfields were rocked seconds after the restart when Darragh Coen sent a Clarinbridge free from 35 metres to the roof of the net, and then got a point from a free on the right wing to make it all square and bring a low-key contest to life.
It was a stiff test of character for Sarsfields at that stage, but they responded decisively, with Joe McGrath, their goalscorer in the first half, landing a great point that lifted his team to new heights of excellence.
Veteran midfielder Noel Morrissey then sent over a magnificent point which drew a huge cheer, and from there to the final whistle there was no doubt about the outcome.
Sarsfields captain Padraig Kelly was superb at right half back, showing skill and flair of a high order in both defensive and attacking play, and Clarinbridge were not able to get back into meaningful contention.
Sarsfields: T Kenny; G McGrath, B Cooney, D Keane; Padraig Kelly, M Ward, W Earls; N Morrissey (0-1), J Cooney; P Forde (0-1), M McGrath (0-1), A Donohue (0-7, five from frees); Peter Kelly, J McGrath (1-1), P Cooney. Sub: M Stratford for M McGrath.
Clarinbridge: L Donoghue; M Spellman, A Quinn, R Mullins; M Carr, M Donoghue, L Madden; B Carr, G Spellman; J Cannon, P Kennedy, D Coen (1-4, 1-3 from, frees); A Kearns (0-1), T Spellman, K Donoghue (0-1). Subs: V Kennedy for G Spellman, D Donoghue for T Spellman.
Referee: T Carr (Kiltormer).