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County Final Memory: Clonad claim famous success in 1992

The Clonad team that won the Laois senior hurling championship in 1992

Clonad 0-16 Portlaoise 2-7
1992 Laois SHC Final

From 1976 to 1991 only two clubs won the Laois senior hurling championship: Camross and Portlaoise.

In 1992, however, Clonad broke that all up, when the club steeped in history won their first title in 22 years.

Having won the final in 1970, they then lost finals in 1971, 1975, 1987 and 1991.

In ’91, they were beaten by Portlaoise in the final by ten points; but the following year, they really came back in style.

They beat Portlaoise in the opening round of the group stages and then narrowly got the better of Errill, before beating Camross in the semi-final.

That early loss to Clonad sent Portlaoise on the longer route but they bounced back with wins over Castletown Gaels, Borris Gaels, Rathdowney and then survived a real scare against The Harps in the semi-final.

In the final, Portlaoise looked well set to retain the title they had won the previous year and their eighth title in 12 years.

First-half goals from Pat Critchley and Christy Dunphy helped Clonad to a six-point lead at the break but the sending off of Critchley and Clonad full-back Tim Fahey early in the second half was a big moment.

“For the final 17 minutes, Clonad took over,” reported the Nationalist the following week.

County footballer Noel Roe “did much to spark Clonad’s revival” while “the other hero of the hour was free-taker extraordinaire Evan Fennell. The No 13 was given eight chances and all eight were on the button”.

Clonad captain Pat Norton lifts the cup after the 1992 Laois SHC final

With Clonad roaring back into the game but still two points down with five minutes remaining, Greg Fennell missed a glorious goal chance but Roe – who scored six points from play in total – levelled things up and then veteran Mick Doran put them unto the lead “from a very narrow angle wide on the left”.

Two more points from Fennell saw them over the line.

“As the final whistle blew hurleys and helmets were thrown into the air signalling Clonad’s victory over near neighbours Portlaoise,” read the opening paragraph in The Nationalist. “The 22-year wait was over.”

One player who got considerable media attention was Clonad midfielder Mickey Drennan, who only a week earlier had helped Ballyroan win their first Laois senior football title since 1950.

Drennan enjoyed a busy dual career – captaining Laois to a Leinster U-21 football title in 1982 and then winning a Leinster U-21 hurling the following year. He also played senior football for Laois and for Leinster.

With the Ballyroan footballers he had lost finals in 1984, 1985 and 1990 before they beat St Joseph’s in 1992. A week later he had another huge success with Clonad, making him one of only a handful of players to win senior hurling and football medals in the same year.

The Nationalist reported that he joined an exlusive club that had won both senior medals in the same year – Andy Dunne and Billy Bohane had done so previously with Clonad and Ballyroan while The Heath’s Paddy Keyes, Tom Walsh, Joe Conroy, Ollie Fennell, Dinny Roe, the Conroys and Tom Looby did so with The Heath and Clonad in 1962. Many of the Portlaoise players had done so with Portlaoise also.

Clonad got back to the final again in 1994 when they went down heavily to Camross and the small club have since come down through the grades having previously been one of Laois’s longest-serving senior clubs. They now play in the intermediate grade, the third tier in Laois club hurling.

Portlaoise later lost the 1995 final to Castletown but won it again in 1998 and 2004 before losing senior finals in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011.

In recent years they have been up and down from the senior grade and were relegated last year, meaning they will play in the newly-named Premier Intermediate this year.

SCORERS – Clonad: Evan Fennell 0-8 (all frees), Noel Roe 0-6, Mick Doran 0-1, Greg Norton 0-1. Portlaoise: Niall Rigney 0-4 (three frees), Pat Critchley 1-0, Christy Dunphy 1-0, Paul Bergin 0-2, Declan Hearns 0-1

CLONAD: George Fennell; Pat Norton, Tim Fahey, Pat Roe; Denis Lalor, Andy Bergin, Andy Dunne; Michael Drennan, Donie Norton; Gordon Conroy, Mick Doran, Greg Norton; Evan Fennell, John Fennell, Noel Roe.

PORTLAOISE: John Hanniffy; Brian Murphy, John Bohane, Noel Rigney; Des Rigney, Cyril Duggan, John Taylor; Niall Rigney, Eamon Murphy; Paul Bergin, Liam Bergin, Pat Fitzpatrick; Christy Dunphy, Pat Critchley, Declan Hearns. Sub: Des Killeen for Hearns

REFEREE: Johnny Kirwan (Borris-in-Ossory)

SEE ALSO – Check out our County Final Memory series here