County Minor Hurling Champions 1995
Front Row: (left to right) Thomas Howley, Eugene Cloonan, David Donohue, John Feeney, Aidan Poniard, Aidan Cahill, Shane Donoghue, Back Row: (left to right) Diarmuid Burns, Diarmaid Cloonan, Raymond Treacy, Liam O'Brien, Cathal Daly, Emmet Caulfield, Richard Brady and Donal Keane.
Athenry's hopes of reaching the All-Ireland Club Final were shattered in the cruelest circumstances imaginable at St. Tiernagh's Park Clones in the semi-final against Dunloy. Four minutes into injury time substitute Jarlath Cunning deflected the sliotar past a helpless Athenry goalie Michael Crimmins, to give his side the lead and victory by 2-10 to 1-11. What appeared a hard earned victory for Athenry turned into a heartbreaking defeat that stunned players and supporters. Dunloy had looked the better team for most of the first half, but a Pat Higgins goal rejuvenated Athenry and a rousing second half display brought them within sight of an All-Ireland Final appearance.
Few could fault the team's commitment, they carried the Galway banner heroically and maintained the high standard expected of the county's representatives. Paul Hardiman deservedly got the man-of-the-match accolade and along with Gerry Dempsey, Gerry Keane and Brian Feeney were Athenry's outstanding players. Pascal Healy put in a storming final twenty minutes, while Brendan Keogh, Cathal Moran and Pat Higgins got some great scores. Joe Rabbitte, operating at full forward, could not be faulted but did not get an adequate supply of the ball in the first half.
Team: Michael Crimmins, Gerry Dempsey, Eamonn Keogh, Gerry Keane, Pascal Healy, Brian Feeney, Paul Hardiman, Brendan Keogh, John Hardiman, Pat Higgins, Brendan Morrissey, Declan Higgins, Cathal Moran, Joe Rabbitte, John Conway, Subs: Brian Hanley, P J Molloy.
Through to the quarter-finals, they learnet nothing from those group games and were unlucky to draw their predecessors. Sarsfield's old hunger was back, and coupled with their determination to compensate for their defeat in the previous year's final, they never allowed Athenry to dictate or get a sustained grip on the game.
There was little between the teams in the opening twenty minutes at Duggan Park, then Sarsfields hit a purple patch before halftime and got four consecutive points to lead 0-9 to 0-6 at the break. The challengers had some anxious moments early in the second half but managed to restrict Athenry to points from Pat Higgins and Cathal Moran. They continued to trade scores, but Sarsfields always had the edge and won by 1-15 to 0-12.
Athenry were understandbly dissappointed at surrendering their county title. On the day their team selection never worked and probably was one of the main reasons for the defeat. Paul Hardiman at corner back, Brendan Keogh at wing back, Joe Rabbitte at midfield, Gerry Keane at full forward and Brian Hanley at corner forward raised more tha a few eyebrows. Only young Brian Higgins, who had an excellant match, Eamonn Keogh, Brian Feeney, Paul Hardiman, Pat Higgins and Cathal Moran played to their potential and could not be faulted.
Team: Michael Crimmins, Pascal Healy, Eamonn Keogh, Paul Hardiman, Brendan Keogh, Brian Feeney, Brian Higgins, Joe Rabbitte, John Hardiman, Donal Moran, Pat Higgins, Declan Higgins, Cathal Moran, Gerry Keane, Brian Hanley. Subs: John Conway, Gerry Dempsey, Eugene Cloonan.
The under 21 hurlers had no luck either in their quarterfinal clash with a Nigel Shaughnessy inspired Loughrea, losing by 1-9 to 0-9. Athenry could have won this encounter, but they paid the price for failing to take their chances. A goal for Loughrea by Sean Maloney decided the issue despite the best efforts of Donal Keane, Brian Higgins, Liam Hoyne, Donal Moran, Emmett Caulfield and Eugene Cloonan.
It took a late goal from Eugene Cloonan to seal victory for Athenry minors over Loughrea in the county semi-final at Ballindereen. Faced with the challenge of a highly rated Loughrea side, Athenry played with such conviction it was hard to understand how they had to rely on Eugene's goal but it would be fair to say that the Athenry sharpshooter and towering midfielder Emmet Caulfield won the day for Athenry.
Reporting on the game in the Connacht Tribuene, Ciaran Tierney wrote " they relied too much on the brilliance of one forward - whose omission from the county's minor championship panel was a glaring omission on the basis of this lethal performance.....he accounted for all but one point of his side's total". In the first twenty minutes he scored 1-5 for his side but Loughrea were back in the game at the break just two points in arrears, 1-5 to 1-3.
The Loughrea defence, inspired by Vinny Maher, improved considerably in the second half and they were ahead when Eugene Cloonan got through to score and ensured his side's place in the county final by 2-7 to 1-7.
They annexed their third county title in a row with a display of flair, skill and determination to defeat Castlegar by 2-15 to 1-13 at Ballindereen. It was an epic final of swaying fortunes, but throughout Athenry always seemed to have the upper hand and the P.J. Molloy trained side were deserving winners.
In the opening half two brilliantly executed goals for Athenry were vital. The first came after Eugene Cloonan floated the sliotar ahead of David Donohue whose shot was saved by Terence Grogan but Diarmaid Burns met the rebound and rattled the net. Castlegar battled back and went ahead coming up to halftime but Eugene Cloonan put Aidan Poniard through, he passed to David Donohue who made no mistake and put Athenry ahead 2-7 to 1-8 at the break.
It was all square after eight minutes into the second half, with Cashel matching Athenry stroke for stroke. Then suddenly Athenry went up a gear, reorganized their forwards and in a devastating eight minute spell shot five points, three from Eugene Cloonan and one each from Aidan Poniard and Emmet Caulfield. Cashel responded with points but they were matched with points from Diarmaid Burns and two more from Eugene Cloonan, one a massive free from inside his own half.
In the final hectic minutes Cashel threw everything at Athenry, but a rock solid defence held firm. Goalkeeper Cathal Daly was outstanding with great support from defenders Richard Brady, Diarmaid Cloonan and team captain John Feeney. In the final minutes they played vital roles while at midfield Emmet Caulfield was again a powerful force. In attack Aidan Poniard, David Donohue, Diarmaid Burns who scored 1-3, and nine point Eugene Cloonan were best.
Team: Cathal Daly, Richard Brady, Donal Keane, Diarmaid Cloonan, Aidan Cahill, John Feeney, Liam O'Brien, Emmet Caulfield, Shane Donohue, Aidan Poniard, Eugene Cloonan, Diarmaid Burns, Thomas Howley, David Donohue, Raymond Treacy. Sub: Mattie Egan.
The idea of Athenry comprehensively defeating famed Dunmore McHales in a county minor (B) semi-final was an unlikely scenario but there was no doubting the merit of their performance when winning by 3-12 to 1-7 at Mountbellew. Athenry's chances were boosted by a poor display by McHales, but that does not detract in any way from the performance of a talented Roy O'Brien trained side. Physicially stronger, extremely fit and eager, they showed great teamwork throughout with an Aidan Poniard goal the highlight of the game when he brilliantly punched a John Feeney cross to the net.
In a low scoring final they edged out Kilconly by 1-5 to 0-7at Tuam Stadium to complete the first phase of what was a historic double. This was a rugged, vigorously fought game with plenty of tension that may have accounted for the low scoring and high number of wides. It was played in a sporting if rough manner and even the most partisan Athenry supporter would not have begrudged Kilconly a second chance in a replay. They missed three scoring chances from close range frees, awarded by referee Vincent Judge, in the four minutes extra time played. Some of those frees were questionable but Brian Moran had no luck and Athenry were deserving winners.
The most admirable aspect was the manner in which the Athenry players maintained their composure during a difficult second half and nerve wrecking final minutes. Fully committed , John Feeney was the outstanding player on the field from start to finish and the centre back notched three vital points from frees. A Eugene Cloonan goal helped Athenry to a 1-2 to 0-3 halftime lead, but the second half was a low scoring affair with very little between the sides. Athenry held out for a well earned victory and owe most to Johnny Melia, Diarmaid Burns, John Feeney, Hugh Brady, Emmet Caulfield, Richard Brady and Eugene Cloonan for a welcome Football success.
Team: Alan Feeney, Johnny Melia, Bernard Ryan, Diarmaid Burns, Aidan Cahill, John Feeney, Keith Qualter, Emmet Caulfield, Hugh Brady, Cathal Daly, Richard Brady, Francis Coffey, Raymond Treacy, Eugene Cloonan, Aidan Poniard. Sub: Thomas Howley.
Over the pevious two decades Galway hurling teams had been successful in all grades of hurling. The one notable exception was senior colleges hurling. All the past disappointments were cast aside in a devastating and glorious fashion when a John Hardiman managed St. Raphaels, Loughrea defeated Midleton CBS by 5-10 to 3-5, with Kevin Broderick scoring three goals.
Galway minor hurlers failed to hold off a remarkable second half recovery by Cork in a highly competitive All-Ireland semi-final at Thurles. Leading by nine points at halftime, Galway were bitterly disappointed to have a goal disallowed and lose full back Vinny Maher during the second half. Both Richie Brady and John Feeney played in the corner back positions and could not be faulted, but the ommission of Eugene Cloonan from a thirty strong panel by Noel Lane was surprising.
After the great successes of the previous year, 1995 was a difficult year for juvenile teams and the only notable success was the under 13 defeat of Meelick-Eyrecourt in the Fr. Joe Walsh Cup final, winning five games on their way to victory. The under 14's and under 16's did reasonably well to reach the semi-finals in their respective competitions. However, they failed to do themselves justice in these games.
Cian Burke and Kieran Flannery played on the Galway under 14 team and David and Shane Donohue with Diarmuid Cloonan were members of the under 16 side. Kieran Flannery won the Galway under 14 skills competition and was runner up in the All Ireland skills final at Feile na nGael.
Hurling Board Chairman Tom Callinan presents the Fr. Griffin Cup to Athenry captain John Feeney following
the County Minor Hurling Final.
County Minor B Football Champions 1995
Front Row: (left to right) Keith Qualter, Cathal Daly. Richie Brady, Bernard Ryan, Hugh Brady, Aidan Cahill, John Feeney. Back Row: (left to right) Johnny Melia, Raymond Treacy, Alan Feeney, Aidan Poniard, Emmet Caulfield, Eugene Cloonan, Francis Coffey and Diarmaid Burns.
Minor football manager Roy O'Brien with successful minor football captain Bernard Ryan raise the Minor Cup
Athenry Vocational School's captain Eugene Cloonan holding the All-Ireland Junior Hurling Cup following the final with teamates Kevin Higgins and Joe Hession (Turloughmore)
Athenry All-Ireland Vocational Schools Junior Hurling Champions 1995
Front Row: (left to right) Brendan Hardiman, Jonathan Glavin, Diarmaid Cloonan, Eugene Cloonan, Jarlath Fahy, Kenneth Cullinane, Gary Hurney. Back Row: (left to right) Raymond Treacy, Tom Costello, Joe Hession, Alan Fahy, Derek Murphy, Jamie Cannon, Michael Morrissey and Joseph Coen.