Munster Club Final – The Gaelic Grounds, Limerick – Sunday 23rd November 2014 2:30 p.m.
Kilmallock 1-32 Cratloe 3-18
In 1978, Munster beat the All-Blacks in Thomond Park in front of 12,000 fans in an epic game that has been adopted into folklore. If you were to believe everyone that claims to have been there on the day the attendance would be nearer 70,000.
The official attendance at the Munster Club Final 2014 was 6,365 but this attendance will be dwarfed in future years by those claiming to have witnessed this game first hand just like the great Munster v All Blacks game of 1978. This game will also become a part of hurling folklore and in years to come people will say “ yes I was there that day, it was some game. “
This was the greatest game in the 50 year history of the Club Championship according to Robert Frost, Chairman of the Munster Council and nobody could disagree with him.
Kilmallock were first out of the blocks with a point inside ten seconds from Graeme Mulcahy but then Cratloe hit a purple patch and hit the next six scores unanswered. One of these scores was a Considine goal that helped the Clare side to a 1-3 to 0-1 lead after ten minutes. Cratloe, who scored many goals on the way to the final had the Kilmallock defence under pressure for the opening quarter and their belief in their ability to get goals was worrying for the Balbec supporters.
Little by little the six backs settled to the task in hand, at midfield we laid down a marker of things to come and with points from Graeme Mulcahy, Jake Mulcahy, Bryan O’Sullivan and Eoin Ryan Kilmallock went in at half-time deservedly leading by three points – 0-12 to 1-6.
At the start of the second half Cratloe continued their quest for goals and it took a last second intervention from Liam Walsh to dispossess Conor McGrath when he looked bound to rattle the net. The Clare champions kept chipping away and closed the gap to just a single point after 50 minutes – 0-15 to 1-11. Then the game changed remarkably. Cathal McInerney got on the end of a high ball and helped it into the back of the Kilmallock net with the deftest of touches. The green flag was raised but the referees attention was drawn to an incident out around the middle of the field where a Cratloe player was receiving attention. Having consulted with his Linesmen and Umpires, Fergal Horgan flashed a red card to Gavin O’Mahony – a hammer blow to Kilmallock and surely an uphill struggle now. But, reduced to fourteen men, the boys in green and white stepped up their efforts and points from Paudie O’Brien and Bryan O’Sullivan put us back in front. The lead changed hands numerous times in the closing minutes as both teams pushed for the winning post. It looked like Kilmallock had just done enough when Jake Mulcahy goaled in the 55th minute after a strong run and pass from Robbie Hanley, who was just in the game for the injured Kieran Kenneally. Sean Collins gained possession from the quick puck-out and pointed to leave just one point between the teams again. Jake Mulcahy picked up the breaking ball in midfield and struck over to add to his tally and give his side a two point advantage. But back came Cratloe with a goal of their own from the poacher, Conor McGrath, in the 58th minute to leave the score 1-18 to 3-13. With only two minutes left on the clock Kilmallock went in search of an equaliser and it came from the on-fire Jake Mulcahy.
Kevin O’Donnell and Mark O’Loughlin snuffed out another McGrath foray on goal and when the sliotar made its way to Aaron Costello his pinpoint pass to Graeme Mulcahy found the captain in space and he drilled the sliotar over the bar for what everybody thought was the winning score. But Cratloe weren’t prepared to lie down and when the ball broke to Martin Ogie Murphy on the halfway line he struck another equaliser to take the game to extra-time.
The 6,365 spectators took a deep breath.
In extra-time Kilmallock outscored their rivals by eleven points to three. The Balbec fitness swayed the contest in our favour and we totally dominated the two ten-minute periods. Points from Bryan O’Sullivan, Jake Mulcahy and Paudie O’Brien opened a match-winning gap and Paddy O’Loughlin, introduced as the fifteenth man also got on the scoresheet. Kilmallock scored 1-27 from play and it is difficult to single out individual performances as this was a true team victory. Bryan O’Sullivan and Paudie O’Brien were outstanding at midfield and top-scorer on the day Jake Mulcahy(1-6) receive special mention but, as has been the case right through this year, this panel of players is a team and each player could be mentioned as key to this victory – Liam Walsh’s diving double block-down that led to our goal was as important a contribution as any score on the day, Barry Hennessy’s saves at key times when Cratloe tried to blow us away with goals, Graeme Mulcahy’s points early in the game kept us in touch when Cratloe threatened to pull away, Robbie Hanley’s piercing run at the Cratloe defence and his pass under pressure for the goal, Aaron Costello’s pass to Graeme for what looked like the winning point – the list is endless.
When Fergal Horgan blew the final whistle the stands emptied onto the pitch to celebrate and congratulate the great Balbec boys that had given us our first Munster Cub title since 1994.
In years to come when tales of great games are being discussed and the conversation turns to the Munster Club Final of 2014…remember we were there. We were among the 6,365 that witnessed this epic.
Those were the days my friend…