So, as the lads from Clonlara rolled in to town on Sunday morning with Torpeys, Cannings and Walshes shrouded with the damp air catching and glistening in the pale autumn sun, the street in Broadford quickly cleared as everyone made their way to the stand for the oncoming spectacle.
With the street below now emptied and even the sizzling pans of sweet smelling bacon falling silent in the Country Store and lighting of the pizza oven in Moloney’s deffered, the Clonlara lads were the first on to the pitch and were met with the roar of their supporters who had made their way deep in to hurling country for a clash of the ash that was never so important to two outstanding teams.
The Broadford lads quickly followed suit, ready to mark out their territory, to the fervour and delight of the good people of Áth Leathan.
The scene was set, seats were taken and battle commenced.
Clonlara went on the immediate offensive and within the first ten minutes scored two quick goals and a point with just one point in response for Broadford from Denis Fahy. With the score standing at Broadford 0-01 to Clonlara 2-01, thoughts went back to Clonlara’s visit to Broadford earlier in the competition when they stole a convincing win over Broadford – was this going to be a disappointing repeat?
Finding their form and realising the pressure was on, Connor O’Donnell achieved the first goal for Broadford. This was quickly followed by a second after Eoin McNamara took a free from in front of the stand and dropped the ball to the side of Clonara square. Niall O’Farrell swept in to the resulting ruck to clean up the ball and smash it to the back of the net. Balance was restored and Broadford was well and truly back in the game with the scores now even by the end of the first quarter of play.
With strong defensive play in the back lines from Eoghan Gunning, Sam Cooper, Dillion Gunning, James Gunning and Eoin McNamara helping to keep Clonlara at bay, the game ebbed and flowed until almost the end of the first-half. In a sudden blow though, and in to extra time, Clonara took their third goal which was awarded after initially being disputed as a square ball, the ball being dropped and played in to goal from close around the left goal post. That was not end of it though and in the heat of the excitement, a free awarded to Clonlara in the dying seconds of the first-half put Clonlara ahead by three points. Broadford 2-03 Clonlara 3-03.
In to the second-half a point from a free and another point from play soon put Clonara ahead by a further two points but from then on, despite a tremendous display of skill and spirit from Clonlara, the rest of the second half belonged to Broadford. With hurleys blazing Peter O’Farrell and Jake Slattery each scored a goal each and five minutes in and now one point up again, Broadford went on the rampage. Seven unanswered points over the remainder of the match (0-3 Niall O’Farrell, 0-1 Denis Fahy, 0-1 Cormac O’Brien, 0-2 Jake Slattery) helped deliver a well-deserved win for Broadford. Clonlara were fighting hard though with every win of the ball and towards the end of the match at least one more goal for the visitors seemed inevitable. Just feet in front of the goal and going one to one with Broadford goalie Harry Cooper, under pressure he deflected a direct shot back in to the square. Not to let anyone get one over his brother, Sam Cooper covered the far side of the goal to protect against the returning ball and deny the much needed goal. The game finally ended Broadford 4-11 Clonlara 3-05.
This was a game of immense skill and determination from both sides. Clonlara have proven themselves the worthiest of opponents in this competition and other under-age matches this season. The win was Broadford’s on this occasion thanks to terrific teamwork from everyone on the panel.