At the final whistle Graignamanagh celebrated a first junior championship win in over 40 years - but boy, did they have to work for it!
The boys in green and white won their first junior knockout championship match since 1972, earning a quarter-final berth, but they had to battle their way past Cloneen at a very windy Gowran on Sunday (2-11 to 0-12).
Graignamanagh played with the strong breeze in the first half and got off to a tonic start when lively corner-forward Sheamie Kavanagh raised a green flag after three minutes.
Cloneen responded well to this early setback, with points from Eoin Regan and free-taker Brian Farrell drawing them level after 10 minutes.
Despite getting a great start from that goal the Southerners were struggling to get motoring, with Cloneen proving to be the better team during this period.
Graig eventually settled down and points from Padraig Whelan and Terry Dreelan (frees) put them 1-4 to 0-4 after 20minutes, the Cloneen reply coming from a point by Fergal Brennan.
Graignamanagh were on Top now and a goal from Terry Dreelan, after some good work by Brendan Foley, put them in a good position. But for some wayward shooting from their inside forward line they could have gone in at half-time with a more comfortable lead than what was posted on the scoreboard (Graignamanagh 2-5, Cloneen 0-4).
The first was a tame affair, far from what was expected for a championship game, but the action picked up in the second half. A change of kit seemed to do the trick as the Cloneen men, in their new strip of red and white, came out a transformed team and put it up to Graig in every department.
Cloneen didn’t take long to get going. Three placed balls from midfielder Brian Farrell had Graig on the back foot, but points from Terry Dreelan and Padraig Whelan steadied the ship momentarily.
Highlight of the Game
Then came the undoubted highlight of the game. In a dazzling eight-minute spell Cloneen half-back Dean Shortall pointed three magnificent sideline balls.
These sublimely skilful efforts by Shortall were a real tonic for Cloneen. Graig looked to be in trouble, as Shortall’s haul left three points between the teams with 11 minutes remaining (2-8 to 0-11).
The Barrow boys dug deep. Some good play from James Meaney and centre-back James Doyle, plus scores from Lee Kinsella, Seamie Kavanagh and Terry Dreelan (65) - allied to some bad misses from Cloneen in the final stages - were enough to get Graignamanagh into the quarter-finals - just!
Despite grinding out victory, Graig know they will need a big improvement if they are to stay in the hunt to lift the Aylward Cup.
Best for Graig were Sheamie Kavanagh, James Meaney, Adam Kennedy, Sean Dowling, Padraig Whelan and Lee Kinsella. Cloneen’s top performers were Dean Shortall, Brian Cahill, Paul Kelly, Eoin Regan and Fergal Brennan.
SCORERS: Graignamanagh - Terry Dreelan (1-6, 0-4 frees, 0-1 65), Sheamie Kavanagh (1-2), Padraig Whelan (0-2), Lee Kinsella (0-1). Cloneen - Brian Cahill (0-7, 0-6 frees, 0-1 65); Dean Shortall (0-3, line balls); Fergal Brennan, Eoin Regan (0-1 each).
Graignamanagh - Ian Kavanagh; Jim O’Donnell, James Cahill, Sean Dowling; Emmett Coakley, James Doyle, Adam Kennedy; James Meaney, Eddie Walsh; Lee Kinsella, Brendan Foley, Terry Dreelan; Bernard Hennessy, Padraig Whelan, Sheamie Kavanagh. Subs: Thomas O’Donnell, Sean Cahill, Jordan Brett.
Cloneen - Sean O’Neill; Aidan Barry, Noel Roche, Conor Delaney; Dean Shortall, Paul Kelly, Conor McDonald; Brian Cahill, Kieran Whelan; Corman McDonald, Ronan Walsh, Fergal Brennan; Eoin Regan, Kevin Phillips, Brennain Buggy. Subs: Brian McDonald, Paul Donnelly.
Referee - Paul Whelan (Mullinavat).