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FAIRY-TALE COMES TRUE FOR ATHENRY; Athenry 0-14, Wolfe Tones 1-8.

Athenry's fairy-tale season came to a thrilling climax at Croke Park yesterday as the Galway champions clinched their first ever All-Ireland Club hurling title.

After losing out to Midleton at the final hurdle eight years ago, PJ Malloy's troops were determined to set the record straight.

And unfortunately for opponents Wolfe Tones that is exactly what they did.

For all the gift and guile of Brian Lohan, Sean Power and Paul Meany, the Clare side were simply over-run in an exciting second half.

Seventeen wides during that period is a testimony to Athenry's almost total superiority.

Nothing though can take away from the convincing manner of their victory which left the Wolfe Tones players a despairing and dejected bunch by the final whistle.

In truth, they can have no complaints. Eager and enthusiastic in the first half they simply had no match for Athenry's power-play of the second.

Appearing in their first ever club final, the Shannon club's dreams of bringing home the Tommy Moore Cup were still well and truly alive by the break.

By then the scores were tied, Athenry's 0-8 Wolfe Tone's 1-5.

The game was played at a blistering pace that dazzled the Croke Park crowd.

Only 10 seconds had passed when Athenry drew first blood with a point from Pat Higgins. Full forward Eugene Cloonan added a further point two minutes later, the first of nine for the Athenry star.

One of the key duels was between Cloonan and Wolfe Tones full-back Brian Lohan.

It was a tussle of opposites - the young hurling prodigy versus the wise old captain and All-Star.

Cloonan might have ended with the man of the match award but Lohan was also to star for his side in typical fashion. The hectic early pace saw the Clare side grab the only goal of the game. A speculative long free from Sean Power caught the Athenry defence napping and Derek Collins popped up to flick the ball into the net.

Cloonan levelled affairs with a free a minute later but Wolfe Tones again grabbed the lead with points from Paul Lee and Paul Keary.

By the interval there was still nothing to separate the sides. At that stage the favourites was Athenry, but for all their second half dominance Athenry couldn't shake off their gritty opponents.

Only 13 minutes remained on the clock when the Clare side finally managed their first score of the half by which stage Athenry still only led by three points.

On top now in almost every sector of the pitch, the Galway champions just couldn't transform their superiority into scores.

But they held on for a deserved victory, one which is sure to spark a hectic bout of St Patrick's Day celebration.

ATHENRY: M Crimmins, E Keogh, G Keane, J Feeney, B Higgins, B Feeney, P Hardiman, P Healy, B Keogh, C Moran, P Higgins, B Hanley, A Poinard, J Rabbitte, E Cloonan.

Subs: E Brady for B Hanley, 44; J Hardiman for P Healy, 55.

Scorers: E Cloonan 9 points; B Higgins 1; P Healy 1; C Moran 1; P Higgins 1; A Poinard 1.

WOLFE TONES: D Garrihy, G McIntyre, B Lohan, M Hartigan, S Power, F Lohan, P Meany, D Riordan, P O'Rourke, F Carrig, J McPhilips, P Lee, P O'Rourke, D Collins, P Keary.

Subs: C O'Neill for P O'Rourke, 49; J Riordan for D Riordan 51.

Scorers: P Keary 0-5; D Collins 1 goal, F Lohan 1 point; F Carrig 1; P Lee 1.

Referee: D Murphy (Wexford).
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Title Annotation:Sport
Author:Lanigan, Philip
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Mar 18, 1997
Words:586
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