Clare hang on to book All Ireland final place
ALL IRELAND MINOR HURLING SEMI FINAL
Once more Clare hurling supporters can book their tickets for Croke park on All Ireland Sunday. Last year it was the under 21s and now this season the minors have given hope once more after a barren year at senior level.
Not since the halcyon days of 1997 had Clare supporters the opportunity to welcome onto Croke Park hallowed a Clare minor team and even then it was as munster runners up in 1997 not as champions as on this occasion. Dublin who had lost the Leinster final by 13 points to Kilkenny struggled past Antrim in the quarter final to face Clare at odds of 4/1 with bookmakers suggesting there were only there to provide cannon fodder for Clare. Far from this materialised as the game matured.
The first chance for a score fell to Colm Galvin who got on the end of a huge Ronan Taaffe free but his effort was hooked wide. Daire Keane also was off target from a scorable position before David O Halloran caught a stray Dublin clearance 30 yards out and with ease popped the ball over the bar. The second Clare score in a game that one could describe as a slow burner in terms of excitement. Niall Arthur had the second Clare score from a placed ball after four minutes. In the intervening 6 minutes the bannermen hit three wides as the Dublin forwards looked incapable of piercing a comfortable Clare rearguard. A fine score from Tony Kelly was the highlight of the first quarter as he was clinical from a narrow angle. Dublin managed one attack from a sideline in the first 15 minutes that ended up wide. From the puck out the ball got down the right wing to Daire keane and he opened his Croke Park account before finally Dublin supporters had reason to cheer as Dean Flood converted a free under the shadow of the Hogan stand. This appeared to perk up the Banner boys as the reeled off four scores in two minutes with Daire Keane missing a clear goal chance from five yards. Tony Kelly and Niall Arthur (2) all from play hit the target before Keane was set up by Paudge Collins only to see his effort blocked by the goalie and spinning over the bar. The game appeared to be most certainly drifting the way of the visitors to the capital city before ahat trick of truly great scores of skill came from Dublin to reignite their dormant challenge.
The Dublin half back line were beginning to mount a sustained period of control as the Clare backs were showing slight creaks in the half back line. Emmet O Conghaile started off the Dublin fightback with a great score after a flickback by Cormac Costello to keep the ball in play. CIaran Kilkenny with the first of two excellent scores and Glenn Whelan with his only score narrowed the Clare lead to four points. Dean Flood with a well struck free reduced it to three before Jamie Shanahan had the last Clare score of the half. Dublin, however finished with a confident flourish as Ciaran Kilkenny and Cormac Costello son of Dublin surpemo John scored a brace of points to leave Clare nervous (0-9) to (0-7) half time leaders. A element of tunnel vision hurling afflicted the Clare forwards int he first half as often poor shot selection cost Clare scores when better placed colleagues were screaming for the ball. Another aspect that troubled Clare was the high ball that was being won by the Dublin half forward line especially Ciaran Kilkenny and Fergal Heavey. Niall Arthur mishit his second free of the day before scoring two in a row to stretch the Clare lead to four, (0-11) to (0-7) early in the second half. Cathal Malone who was on the verge of being replaced by Aaron Cunningham scored just after missing a goal chance as Clare surged five clear after 36 minutes. Clare were rocked moments later when a sideline ball sent in by Cormac Costello was dropped by Ronan Taaffe to the waiting Emmet O Conghaile who first timed to the net as Clare were now back to a two point lead. Colm Galvin and Niall Arthur restored calmness with two points int he 37th and 39th minutes. John Hetherton and Arthur swopped scores as the quality of the game was increasing. Dean Flood and Kilkenny who is underage next season were on target for the liffeysiders in the 46th and 47th minutes to leave Dublin (0-15) to (1-10) ahead with the game entering the final 13 minutes. The move of the game from a Clare perspective that was to prove telling come full time was the introduction of Aaron Cunningham. His first two touches were golden resulting in valuable points as once more Clare were back in front by four points,(0-17) to (1-10). Clare's luck ran out as Ronan Taaffe was beaten at his near post by Cormac Costello to leave the minimum between the sides with seven minutes to act out. A sign of the battling qualities of Clare emerged as once more when the need was the greatest they hit back with scores. On this occasion Daire Keane and Paudge Collins were the sharpshooters. Niall Arthur who never lacks the confidence to take on the responsibility to shoot for scores did so in the 55th as the bannermen were now three clear but under incessant pressure from an increasingly dominant Dublin side. Colm Galvin who excelled worked hard but got little support as Tony Kelly drifted in and out of the game after a promising start. Dean Flood, just before being replaced point a 56th minute free. John Hetherton who impressed since his introduction sent over another free in the 59th as Dublin now looked likely to force a replay or even capture the spoils entirely. Last gasp defending by the Clare defence especially the full back line denied Dublin a clear goal chance. A 62nd minute effort from 45 yards by Dublin sub Robert Hardy hit the post one foot from the crossbar. Had the shot being lower Clare would have been out of the race for the Irish press cup. Clare will for the third time ever be in action in the minor final on the first Sunday in September and ironically whilst it means little there has never been much between Kilkenny and Clare in underage games. It is interesting to note that the key forwards for Clare did not play particularly well and still Clare hit 20 points. It is my view that Galway imploded against Kilkenny and maybe if Clare rise to new levels and why should'nt they, a powerful showing may await on Sept 5th. Best for Clare were Paul Flanagan, Seadna Morey, Stephen O Halloran, Colm Galvin, Tony Kelly, Niall Arthur and Aaron Cunningham. Dublin had strong showings from Conor Murphy, Sean McClelland, Danny Sutcliffe, Ciaran Kilkenny, Cormac Costello, Emmet O Conghaile, John Hetherton and Cillian Moffat.
CLARE: Ronan Taaffe, Haulie Vaughan,, Paul Flanagan, Seadna Morey, Enda Boyce, Kevin Lynch, Stephen O Halloran, Colm Galvin (0-1), Tony Kelly (0-2), Cathal Malone (0-1), Paudge Collins (0-1), Jamie Shanahan (0-1), Daire Keane (0-3), Niall Arthur (0-8), David O Halloran (0-1). Subs: Aaron Cunningham (0-2) for Malone, Alan Mulready for O Halloran,
DUBLIN: Eamonn Dillon, Conor Murphy, Emmet McKenna, Sean McClelland, Cillian Moffat, Danny Sutcliffe, Ben Quinn, Darren Kelly, Brian McCarthy, Glenn Whelan (0-1), Ciaran Kilkenny (0-3), Fergal Heavey, Cormac Costello (1-1), Emmet O Conghaile (1-1), Dean Flood (0-4). Subs: Naoise Maguire for Kelly, John Hetherton (0-2) for Whelan, Robert Hardy (0-1) for McCarthy, Niall Ryan for Flood,
Referee: Eamonn Hassen (Derry).
Michael O Connor
Gaelic games officer