|Third All-Ireland Club Hurling Title ♦ Under 21 Hurling County Final victory ♦ Galway Footballers triumph but Hurlers fail|
|Athenry All-Ireland Club Hurling Champions 2001
Front Row: (left to right) Pat Higgins, John Feeney, Brian Higgins, Eamonn Keogh, Cathal Moran, Brendan Keogh, David Donoghue, Donal Moran. Back Row: (left to right) Brian Feeney, Eugene Cloonan, Joe Rabbitte, Gerry Keane, Paul Hardiman, Michael Crimmins and Brian Hanley.
At inter-county level, no Galway team ever crossed the Shannon comfortable with the mantle of favourites and so the All-Ireland Club semi-final was filled with danger for Athenry. Another trip into the unknown for a game against a team capable of upsetting the odds and considered unlucky not to have won at least one All-Ireland title. With former Wexford All-Ireland winning manager Liam Griffin at the helm it was widely reported that they were putting in a huge effort and would not be easily defeated. Athenry were bidding for a historic achievement of winning back-to-back titles, a feat achieved only once before by rivals Sarsfields.
In 1995 Dunloy shocked Athenry at the same stage of the championship at Clones, but on this occasion at Dublin's Parnell Park over 4,000 supporters witnessed a display of power hurling and panache that will live long in the memory. After nineteen hectic minutes of hurling the sides were all square at six points each, with the Ulster champions quicker out of the blocks and matching Athenry throughout the field. But Athenry stepped up the pace and by half-time were 1-11 to 0-6 ahead, the goal coming from David Donohue in the final minute when he took advantage of a battled down free to rattle the net.
Cathal Moran added another in the first minute of the second half, and when Eugene Cloonan did likewise ten minutes before the end, the game was as good as over. There was no stopping Athenry and they finished comfortable winners by 3-20 to 1-10.
In the Tuam Herald Noel Carney wrote "Justifying favouritism is one thing, but annihilating supposed strong opposition in an All-Ireland semi-final is something else – that's what a well drilled Athenry team did at Parnell Park. An excellent performance, strong in defence, creative in midfield and lethal in attack once they got going they were unstoppable."
The Connacht Tribune's John McIntyre was also impressed and he wrote "I have never seen a more complete team performance from Athenry and what makes it more noteworthy is that it came on a day that Dunloy hit the ground running and tore into the opposition with a vengeance bordering on reckless at times. Not alone did Athenry survive Dunloy's early onslaught but met fire with fire and returned it with interest".
Athenry's admirable appetite for battle was typified by top performers Pat Higgins, Gerry Keane, Brian Higgins, Brian Feeney Paul Hardiman and Cathal Moran. Once again Eugene Cloonan hit a staggering 1-11, with 1-4 coming from play and was outstanding throughout as Athenry ran out comfortable winners by 3-20 to 1-10.
Team: Michael Crimmins, Eamonn Keogh, Gerry Keane John Feeney, Brian Higgins, Brian Feeney, Paul Hardiman, Brendan Keogh, Brian Hanley, Joe Rabbitte, Pat Higgins, Donal Moran, Cathal Moran, Eugene Cloonan, David Donohue. Sub Shane Donohue, Diarmuid Burns, Diarmuid Cloonan
Nobody will ever know for sure what would have happened had the A.I.B. All-Ireland Club Final gone ahead on St Patrick's Day. Postponed because of an outbreak of foot and mouth, the eagerly awaited final against Griague-Ballycallan eventually went ahead four weeks later on Easter Monday at Croke Park. The delay in staging club hurling's showpiece event was no help to Athenry while opponents Graigue-Ballycallan had the advantage of a replayed semi-final against Clare's Sixmilebridge.
In a dramatic game that went into extra time, Athenry gradually ground down the Kilkenny champions challenge to join an elite group of clubs that have won three All-Ireland Club titles. They stand alone in the record books by winning the three with virtually the same team, while Cork's Blackrock and Kilkenny's Shamrocks are the only other Clubs to win three.
The reigning champions had to call on all their vast reserves of stamina and strength to realise their dream. With seconds of normal time remaining that dream looked dead and buried as Graigue-Ballycallan clung to a three-point lead. Only a goal could save Athenry and Eugene Cloonan was the right man in the right place at the right time. Somehow he found the space to wriggle through and squeeze home arguably the most important goal of his career. It was a sensational end to an All-Ireland Final and illustrated Athenry's ability for pulling games out of the fire. The tension and excitement among their passionate fans in the 20,000 plus crowd was almost unbearable. Emotions ran high in those final seconds and when referee Johnny McDonnell sounded the final whistle of normal time, Athenry knew well that they had escaped from the jaws of defeat. Once thrown a lifeline they made no mistake in extra-time and took the game to their opponents throughout.
With their final preparations drawn out and disrupted Athenry were always going to be vulnerable against match sharp opponents. They missed a good number of scoring chances in the early stages of the game and two excellent saves by Graigue-Ballycallan goalie Johnny Ronan deprived them of goals. Croke Park's reduced dimensions impacted on the quality of the action. Five Eugene Cloonan points, one excellent one from play, two from Donal Moran and one by Pat Higgins gave their side a precarious 0-8 to 0-6 half-time lead that was not reflective of their superiority.
The holders made a flying start to the second half with two more points by Eugene Cloonan and one from Donal Moran. Eddie O'Dwyer got his name on the scoreboard with a point as Graigue-Ballycallan looked in dire trouble. But the game then underwent a starling transformation with Athenry appeared to lose their shape and Adrian Ronan came to life. He picked off a series of points from play and frees, before he ignited his side with a goal in the 45th minute. Graigue-Ballycallan now had a winning momentum about them even though Eugene Cloonan was holding his nerve with a few tricky frees.
Four points down with three minutes left to play, it looked bad for Athenry, but somehow they summed up the reserves of energy to salvage a reprieve. A point from David Donohue seemed to be only of academic interest, but Gerry Keane taking a pass from Brendan Keogh set up Eugene Cloonan's last gasp goal and extra-time.
Two inspirational points by the raiding Brian Higgins and David Donohue broke the deadlock in the opening period of extra time. Athenry extended their lead to 2-20 to 1-17 when just before half-time Eugene Cloonan's delivery was fielded by Joe Rabbitte, who was now at full-forward, and dispatched the sliotar to the net.
They were now in no mood to let up and piled on the pressure. A James Young goal in the 83rd minute gave his side a brief opening to get back in contention. Athenry, however, finished in champion style when Diarmuid Cloonan's long range free was caught by Joe Rabbitte who laid it on for David Donohue to crash to the net for the clinching score of the day.
Athenry were the better equipped team and had heroes all over the field, but pride of place must go to the man-of-the-match Brian Higgins, Gerry Keane, Paul Hardiman who completely outplayed their current All-Star Dennis Byrne, Brendan Keogh, Joe Rabbitte, Pat Higgins, Donal Moran, Eugene Cloonan who scored 1-11 and David Donohue. On the day Athenry's replacements made a vast difference particularly during extra time. Diarmuid Burns scored two splendid points Shane Donohue and Diarmuid Cloonan proved their worth in vital positions, while the revitalized David Donohue scored 1-2 that inspired his colleagues.
Team captain Joe Rabbitte put it in a nutshell after the game when he said "I don't know what to say. Halfway through the second half I thought I would be saying nothing". In the Connacht Tribune John McIntyre on a visit to the Athenry dressing-room after the game wrote "You'd know they had been down this road before. This is familiar territory to them. They take victories-even those as dramatic as Monday's Club Final in their stride. There were no naked displays of triumphalism just inner satisfaction at the completion of another successful mission. Well not quite, Martin T Kelly did open a bottle of champagne and there was no mistaking Athenry's ecstasy at retaining the Tommy Moore Cup".
When Pat Nally spoke in the Athenry Dressing-room he had everybody's attention "What you have done is unbelievable, you are wonderful ambassadors for your families, your parish, your Club and your County. It is a unique achievement".
Team: Michael Crimmins, Eamonn Keogh, Gerry Keane John Feeney, Brian Higgins, Brian Feeney, Paul Hardiman, Brendan Keogh, Brian Hanley, Joe Rabbitte, Pat Higgins, Donal Moran, Cathal Moran, Eugene Cloonan, David Donohue, Sub Shane Donohue, Diarmuid Cloonan Diarmuid Burns, Declan Higgins.
Perhaps sometime in the years to come the players will realise the enormity of what they have achieved in club hurling. Three All-Ireland titles and four Galway Senior Hurling Titles in five magnificent seasons must make them one of the greatest club sides in the history of the game.
It was glorious year also for the maroon and white of Galway with the senior footballers and hurlers in All-Ireland Finals which created unheralded sporting momentum within the county. The feat of the senior footballers in winning their ninth All-Ireland title, having come through the qualifier system restored great pride in the county. Under John O'Mahony's excellent management, it was a harrowing campaign, and took exceptional commitment and sacrifice to achieve success.
|Athenry County Under 21 Hurling Champions 2001
Front Row: (left to right) Gearoid Harty, Michael Donnellan, Tommy Kelly, Michael John Quinn, Diarmaid Cloonan, David Donohue, Kevin McCarthy, Shane Donohue. Back Row: (left to right) Joe Kelly, Cormac Cloonan, Derek Carroll, Loughnane, Liam Howley, John Madden and Cian Burke.
|County Under 14 Div 2 Football Champions 2001
Front Row: (left to right) Sean Glynn, Thomas Divilly, Brian Loughnane, Conor Cannon, Martin Feeney, Oisin McHale, Robert Kiran and Cathal Fahy. Back Row: (left to right) John Fahy, Michael Kelly, Michael Ward, John Grealish, Brian Forde, Stephen Flannery and Ciaran O’Donovan.
|Players Eugene Cloonan, Joe Rabbitte with Deidre Mc Greevy of Eircell, Brian Feeney and Pat Higgins at the launch of Eircell's sponsorship of the Club.|
| AIB Provincial Club Player Award to Eugene Cloonan
Front Row: (left to right) Mary Cloonan, Ann Cloonan, Eugene Cloonan, Eugene Sheehy (AIB Bank). Back Row: (left to right) Mick Crimmins, Michael Higgins, Pat Nally, Angela crimmins, Micheal O'Muircheartaigh, Kathleen Quinn, Jim Cloonan, Michael Quinn, Jarlath Cloonan and Dermot Monaghan.
| Galway All-Ireland Senior Hurling Finalists 2001
Front Row: (Left to right) Fergal Healy, Ollie Canning, Alan Kearns, David Tierney, Michael Healy, Kevin Broderick. Back Row: (left to right) Greg Kennedy, Liam Hodgins, Derek Hardiman, Eugene Cloonan, Joe Rabbitte, Mark Kerins, Cathal Moora, Michael Crimmins and Richie Murray.
|Gary Fahy raises the Sam Magure Cup following Galway's victory over Meath|
|Athenry captain Joe Rabbitte raises the Tommy Moore Cup following the All-Ireland Club Hurling Final||Gary Fahy raises the Sam Magure Cup following Galway's victory over Meath|