Eoin Hayes’s goal, three minutes into the second half, saw the Clare District League retain the Oscar Traynor Trophy after a narrow win over Inishowen League in Buncrana this afternoon.
Inishowen League 0 Clare District League 1
Diarmuid O’Brien’s Inishowen battled right to the death, but couldn’t find a way past a sturdy Clare defence that was brilliantly marshalled by Stephen Kelly and Daragh Corry and Clare ace Hayes proved the matchwinner.
The only goal arrived when Hayes was slipped through by David McCarthy and he fired across Inishowen ‘keeper Kevin McLaughlin into the far corner.
McCarthy netted four times in last year’s 5-2 final win over Leinster Senior League while Hayes, along with defender Kelly, is in the Ireland squad for the Regions Cup squad later in the year in Turkey.
The deadly Hayes scored in four of the five previous rounds and this was his seventh strike in the Oscar Traynor campaign
Clare – who included in their number former Clare All-Ireland winning hurler Barry Ryan, who scored 0-70 in the 2013 All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship – might have doubled their advantage when, after Hayes and McCarthy combined again, but Paddy O’Malley’s shot was blocked by John Gerard McLaughlin, while Hayes had another attempt that deflected narrowly wide.
Greencastle’s Matthew Henry injected new life into the Inishowen challenge and the home side could have been level on the hour when a wonder one-handed save by ex-League of Ireland ‘keeper Barry Ryan kept out a brilliant shot by Inishowen captain Brendan McLaughlin, whose clever first-time shot looked destined for the top corner.
Seven minutes from time, Henry created an opening for McLaughlin, whose shot from 10 yards lacked power and Ryan gathered with ease, but Inishowen were closer still when Henry fired off the inside of the post after a one-two with Terence Doherty and McLaughlin was over from the follow up.
It was the first time all afternoon that Ryan was beaten, but the post came to Clare’s rescue – after Joe Collins, a Clare sub, was thwarted by Kevin McLaughlin at the other end.
Inishowen were appearing in their third Oscar Traynor final. Having lost lost to AUL in July 2013, they defeated Limerick at Maginn Park in 2015, when goals by Stephen Fildara and Kieran McDaid made history.
Inishowen have been very consistent and have been in five semi-finals in recent years, but defending champions Clare have been every bit as deadly in this competition and it was a final played on an as-usual excellent Maginn Park.
Inishowen made one change from their dramatic penalty shoot-out win over Limerick in the semi-final as Shane Canning came in to start for the first time since sustaining a knee injury in March.
Canning hadn’t played since March 28 when he limped out of Glengad United’s Charlie O’Donnell Cup defeat to Illies Celtic, but was thrust into the starting XI here, with Matthew Henry the man to make way.
It had been a cagey opening before Inishowen’s Terence Doherty drew the first save of the day, forcing Ryan into a save low to his right. Doherty, Inishowen’s lone frontman, was forced into a shot from the right-hand side with a lack of numbers in support, but it was a decent attempt by the Glengad striker.
Earlier in the game, a tidy Inishowen move saw Doherty release his namesake, Anthony, down the right, but his cross for Brendan McLaughlin was cut out.
Clare had the better of the opening plays without really threatening McLaughlin’s goal and the visitors had two claims for penalties waved away by Paul Duddy, the referee, after Doherty was denied by Ryan, first when Paddy O’Malley went to ground and then when an O’Malley free kick was diverted around the back by Nigel McMonagle. The ball cannoned off McMonagle’s chest but the appeals were strong, though the referee’s call was correct; while the same certainty wasn’t as evident for the first, the protests from Clare weren’t all that convincing.
Clare were turning the screw in phases and their attacking duo of Eoin Hayes and David McCarthy always looked threatening.
It took a Michael Byrne back heel to cut out a Hayes cross in the early moments while Hayes opened the possibilities for McCarthy only for Matthew Byrne to step in with a superb tackle.
Before the break, Daragh Corry headed over from an O’Malley corner but Clare wasted little time in grabbing the lead in the 48th minute – and it was to prove the only goal of a tense contest that was in the final right to the final shrill of the whistle.
Inishowen League: Kevin McLaughlin; Michael Barr, Michael Byrne, John Gerard McLaughlin, Matthew Byrne; Anthony Doherty (Shaun Doherty 87), Shane Canning (Matthew Henry 64), Dillon Ruddy, Nigel McMonagle (Fearghal Harkin 87); Brendan McLaughlin; Terence Doherty.
Clare District League: Barry Ryan; Conor Mullen, Stephen Kelly, Daragh Corry, Eoin O’Brien; Colin Smyth (Ian Collins half-time), Niall Whelan, Colin Ryan (Joe Collins 83), Paddy O’Malley (Eoin Whelan 65); Eoin Hayes, David McCarthy (Tommy McKeown 80).
Referee: Paul Duddy (Donegal).