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2022 Remember: County Final Memory: Looking back on Clonaslee’s intermediate hurling triumph in their 1997 double-winning season

We revisited the famous 1997 Intermediate Hurling final back in September, remembering the clash between two proud Laois teams, Clonaslee and Colt.

Clonaslee 1-14 Colt 1-7
1997 Laois IHC Final

Clonaslee have a proud hurling heritage in Laois, one that includes four senior titles to the club’s name, albeit the last one in 1975, and the three others in the early days of the GAA in 1890, 1891 and 1910.

At intermediate level they lead the roll of honour with eight titles – and a steady supply of them from the 1930s on: 1936, 1943, 1955, 1962, 1969, 1982, 1987 and their last in 1997, 25 years ago this year.

Indeed the late 1990s was a successful and busy time for the club and across 1997 and 1998 they won three championships: intermediate hurling in 1997 as well as Junior ‘A’ football six weeks later. In 1998 they won the intermediate football final.

That 1997 hurling final ended a run of successive defeats in 1994 and 1995, but despite numerous setbacks, there was no stopping them in that 1997 season.

Under the guidance of manager Noel Foynes, they beat Ballyfin, Park-Ratheniska and Clough-Ballacolla to get to the final though their campaign was pock-marked with dismissals with Mark Rooney and James Young both missing the final through suspension after being sent off in the quarter-final and semi-final respectively. Declan Rooney returned for the final, where he’d score four points.

In a tight fixtures schedule which was delayed because of the All Ireland-winning exploits of the Laois minor footballers, Clonaslee ended up playing on three successive weekends in their quarter-final, semi-final and final.

And though they only scraped by Clough-Ballacolla in the semi-final, they were far too strong in the decider for a Colt team who were only in their first year at intermediate having won the Junior ‘A’ the previous season. Managed by Jim Ring, they had beaten Camross, after a replay, Ballypickas and Ballyfin to reach the final.

And they were the warm favourites in the Leinster Express preview the week before the game.

“It could be close but if Colt reproduce their form of the semi-final, they could be in the senior ranks next year,” went the closing line of the article.

But the following week’s edition was all about Clonaslee.

“A proud and unique distinction was maintained last Sunday at O’Moore Park when the hurlers of Clonaslee continued the tradition of claiming an IHC title for their eighth consecutive decade and doing so in style,” was the opening paragraph of Brian Keyes’ match report.

“A comfortable victory – indeed one of the more convincing wins in this grade in many years as Colt failed to match the firepower of a talented Clonaslee side which should make an impact on the senior hurling scene in the years ahead.

“The game was decided by half time,” added Keyes, “with Clonaslee flying in attack.”

Thanks to three points from man of the match Shay Fitzgerald, two from Joe Fitzgerald and one each from Declan Rooney, captain John Bates and Sean Flynn, Clonaslee led by 0-8 to 0-3 at half time.

They were never really threatened in the second half and a goal from full-forward Trevor Snell and a couple of well-taken points from Declan Rooney saw them ease to a ten-point win.

The Clonaslee season continued that year on the football field in the depths of winter, though in those years the footballers played under the ‘St Manman’s’ banner.

On December 14, they beat Mountrath in the Junior ‘A’ football final by 3-11 to 0-4. The following year they beat Arles to win the intermediate final and in 1999 they were senior in both codes.

That was short-lived as the Tinnahinch arrangement of Clonaslee and Rosenallis came into play for hurling then and they reached senior finals in 2001, 2002 and 2006 all the while playing separately at the lower grades.

They did get to the Senior ‘A’ final in 2015 (now the Premier Intermediate) where Portlaoise beat them by 1-14 to 1-11.

But Sunday’s final against Abbeyleix will give them the chance to go back to the top tier for the first time since the late 1990s.

SCORERS – Clonaslee: Shay Fitzgerald and Declan Rooney 0-4 each, Joe Fitzgerald 0-3, Trevor Snell 1-0, John Bates 0-2, Sean Flynn 0-1. Colt: Carl Grant 0-5, Enda McDonald and Larry Connor 0-1

CLONASLEE: Sean Corcoran; Eamon McEvoy, Martin Fallon, Enda Fitzgerald; Tommy Smith, Conor Bates, Kevin Flynn; Darren Rooney, Pat Hyland; John Bates, Sean Flynn, Declan Rooney; Shay Fitzgerald, Trevor Snell, Joe Fitzgerald

COLT: Paddy Brennan; David Keogh, Martin Grant, Paddy Sinnott; Padraig Dunne, Pat Connor, Larry Connor; Carl Grant, John Sinnott; Brendan Connor, Liam Phelan, PJ Moffitt; Michael Grant, Bosco Grant, Cathal Grant. Subs: Enda McDonald for M Grant, Fint Walsh for Sinnott, Michael Malone for Dunne

SEE ALSO – Check out all our 2022 Remembered stories here

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Steven Miller is owner and managing editor of LaoisToday.ie. Husband of Emily, father of William, Lillian and John, he's happiest when he's telling stories