Hurling Match Reports
By Michael O Connor.
Clare's league assault is back on track after a week of gloom had transcended the hurling heartland following a below par display against Cork. The common perception existed that Kilkenny would heap more early season misery. What emerged was quite different and refreshing.
Following the supposed shock win over Cork by Dublin the previous evening a result in this game was now imperative for Clare if Dublin were to get a result in another game prior to the showdown with Dublin in Cusack Park. What transpired was a hurling lesson handed out to Kilkenny, a reality that rarely happens
The Kilkenny warm up on pitch consisted of one man with a bag of sliotars whilst Clare had an impressive set up waiting for the team upon arrival onto the pitch.
Kilkenny possessed the stiff breeze for the opening half as Aaron Shanagher had the opening score after a long delivery from Jamie Shanahan. The Clare team were in front by four seconds later after a one two with Shanagher ended with Aaron Cunningham goaling to be followed by another Aaron Shanagher point from play as the Wolfe Tones clubmen were in control. Shanagher continued this good vein of from winning a free pointed by David Reidy. Kilkenny's Cillian Buckley had the first attack for his side but his goal effort was wide of Donal Touhy's goal after a blistering opening five minutes action. Liam Blanchfield sent a scorable free wide before TJ Reid with a free finally got Clare off the mark after 8 minutes action in Cusack Park.
David Reidy restored a 6 point lead after 10 minutes from a convertd 65 as Clare with long deliveries into the corner were stretchng Kilkenny until they got to grips with is as Conor Fogarty added the visitors second score. David Reidy added another pointed free in the 13th minute as both sides gave spectators much to enjoy with hard fast hurling before once again another David Reidy free stretched Clare seven clear after 18 minutes only for TJ Reid to respond with a like score almost immediately.
David Reidy worked hard to hold onto possession before offloading to David Fitzgerald and his effort sneaked in between the posts after 22 minutes as Kilkenny trailed (1-7) to (0-3) yet staying in close contact. TJ Reid hit back with another successful Kilkenny free as the game entered the final ten minutes of the opening half. Donal Touhy ran out over a incoming ball and it ended up with Conor Fogarty putting the ball over the bar to narrow the Clare lead to five as David Fitzgerald hit Clare's first wide in the 27th minute. David Reidy ended a great move hitting the post and the rebound was sent wide by Aron Shanagher who first timed. Eoin Murphy sent over a huge free from inside his own half and now Clare who looked so dynamic needed scores from any angle to stem the tide and up popped Podge Collins in the 31st minute. Again old failings emerged as Clare over elaborated and lost a number of clear point chances. This did not unduly matter to them on the day as they held a six point lead entering injury time in the first half as Donal Touhy made a double save from Richie Leahy conceding a 65 second over by Reid. The Ballyhale shamrocks man added another score, this time from play near the end of injury time to leave Clare nervous (1-9) to (0-8) interval leaders.
David Reidy had the first scoring chance of the new half after Cathal Malone was heavily fouled and the Eire-og made no mistake two minutes into the second half as Richie Hogan was now at centre forward. TJ Reid narrowed the deficit to four once more before a great score from Cillian Buckley left just the goal in it after 41 minutes before Aron Shanagher hit back for his third score of the day. John Conlon was now out the field and working hard to win the dirty ball to keep Clare in contention in front of 7395 spectators. The regularity of scores collapsed for the intervening ten minutes until Richie Leahy and Podge Collins exchanged scores in the 51st minute as the Clare forward line appeared to be failing under pressure but on the other hand Kilkenny could not make and inroads as substitute Cathal McInerney scored a valuable point after 53 minutes as Clare led (1-13) to (0-11). Clare added scores from Reidy (free) and Cathal McInerney by the 58th minute.
Kilkenny won a penalty conceded by Cian Dillon but TJ Reid's effort was stopped by Donal Touhy at the expense of a 65 sent over by Reid after 62 minutes. John Conlon and Shanager (free) after foul on McInerney secured the win with 7 minutes of normal time remaining as Clare stretched (1-17) to (0-12) ahead. The match winning score came from McInerney setting up Malone who raced through before releasing Shanagher for a well taken goal. Jason McCarthy added a point within 20 seconds as Clare were now double scores ahead and ensuring parity with Kilkenny Dublin and Cork in what could be a relegation dogfight.
Scorers for Clare: David Reidy (6f, 1’65) 0-7; Aron Shanagher (1f) 1-4; Aaron Cunnngham 1-0; Podge Collins, Cathal McInerney 0-2 each; David Fitzgerald, John Conlon, Jason McCarthy, Peter Duggan (’65) 0-1 each
Scorers for Kilkenny: TJ Reid (4f, 2’65) 0-7; Conor Fogarty 0-2; Eoin Murphy (1f), Cillian Buckley, Richie Leahy 0-1 each
CLARE: Donal Touhy, Oisin O Brien, Cian Dillon, Seadna Morey, Brendan Bugler, Conor Cleary, David Fitzgerald, Jamie Shanahan, David Reidy , Aaron Cunningham, Podge Collins, Cathal Malone, Aaron Shanagher, John Conlon, Shane O Donnell. Subs: Cathal McInerney for Cunningham, Jason McCarthy for Reidy, Peter Duggan for Malone, Pat Donnellan for Bugler, Shane Golden for Shanahan,
KILKENNY: Eoin Murphy, Evan Cody, Padraig Walsh Conor O Shea, Joey Holden, Paul Murphy, Kieran Joyce, Conor Fogarty, Cillian Buckley, Liam Blanchfield, TJ Reid, Richie Leahy, Richie Hogan, Walter Walsh, Kevin Kelly. Subs: John Joe Farrell for W Walsh, Shane Prendergast for Cody, James Maher for Hogan, Ollie Walsh for Kelly
Referee: James Owens
By Michael O Connor.
Raw emotion took over Cusack Park recently as Ballyea supported by clubs from their hinterland and afar invaded headquarters after referee Damian Fox blew the long whistle to laud their heroes who delivered the first ever county hurling title to a parish that aptly has a townland known as Paradise.
Since the turn of the millenium 11 different Clare hurling clubs out of 20 and most recently have won at least one County senior title. Only 4 clubs have namely, Crusheen, Cratloe, Clarecastle and Sixmilebridge have won more than one title since 2000. Ballyea are now in this club and most importantly won as had long been expected since the turn of the decade their first ever title before 5058 spectators in ideal hurling conditions.
The opening score in the 2nd minute fell to Clare football captain Gary Brennan and he had a second chance seconds later but sent wide. Ballyea were totally in control as Tony Kelly set up PatJoe Connolly for his sides second point. Indeed Pat Joe sent an eminently open score into the goalie's hand. Ballyea with accuracy could have been five up after four minutes. Clonlara finally got the board with a long range point, much to the relief of his team management.
Gary Brennan saw a 7th minute effort deflected over the bar with the goal waiting to be scored. It was with amazement that supporters of both sides looked on at the gaps that were being opened up in the Clonlara rearguard as Martin O Leary shot tamely at Ger O Connell that was sent out for a 65 converted by Tony Kelly to send Ballyea (0-4) to (0-1) clear. The intensity of Tony Kelly saw a first time delivery sent into the Clonlara square. It broke to Martin O Leary who flicked it along ground and Gary Brennan finished to the net. Clonlara were now 6 in arrears and that was reduced to five with a Cathal O Connell free after 12 minutes. John Conlon narrowed it to four seconds later from play as somehow it felt that Ballyea might have blown out their best. Michael O Loughlin scored a hard earned point. Brian Carrigg dispossessed Cathal O Connell as he was about to shoot for goal. Within a minute the ball was in the Clonlara net as Niall Deasy raced unchallenged for goal and Ballyea were (2-4) to (0-4) clear after 16 minutes. Cormac O Donovan was switched perhaps too late on Niall Deasy to curb his influence on the wing.
Cathal O Connell hit back from a free as Clonlara over the following five minutes at best curtailed Ballyea's attacking prowess and indeed hit two Cathal O Connell frees to reduce the deficit to four points entering the final five minutes. Niall Deasy was well contained in the second quarter after his early exploits as Nicky O Connell was now sweeping but more was to come for Deasy in the second half.
Cathal O Connell who had a profitable hour from frees had his fourth score before corner back Joe Neylon was a folk hero with a great effort as the last score of the half fell to Colm Galvin to leave three points between the sides (2-5) to (0-8) at the break.
The Intensity of exchanges increased markedly in the second half as the referee allowed the game to be played at hard but fair level. Niall Deasy restored the four point lead with the first score of the new half before Cathal O Connell, Brian Carrigg and a great score from Darach Honan all by the 36th minute saw Ballyea hold a (2-7) to (0-10) advantage.
No matter how much Clonlara showed flashes of brilliance they could not score and simply hoofing the ball to the left hand side of John Conlon did not deliver much despite a much improved effort by Conlon from the drawn game. In the space of two minutes Ballyea went from three to five points clear as Tony Kelly (free) and a great crossfield ball from Kelly to the onrushing Jack Browne ended with the full back on target. This score meant that the entire Ballyea full back scored and their three point tally was the difference in the end between the sides.
Colm Galvin and Cathal O Connell narrowed the deficit to three as Clonlara had to defend in depth to deny a succession of Ballyea efforts from a variety of attackers as surprisingly Cormac O Donovan who was struggling but could have been moved elsewhere was instead subbed. Clonlara against the run of play struck for a goal and a well executed one at that from John Conlon. There was mild controversy when John Conlon's argued that a point effort was waved wide. The sides were level in the 47th minute and continued to be so by the 54th minute as the action was relentless with both sides striking for two points each courtesy of Tony Kelly, Niall Deasy and Cathal O Connell (2).
Ballyea took the lead with a Niall Deasy free in the 57th minute as Clonlara were in dire need of an equaliser as the clock ticked towards sixty. It was Ballyea that got the next score as Damian Burke found himself unmarked and he sent the ball over for a two point lead. This became three as Tony Kelly was on hand in the 61st minute. One last effort of nailbiting hurling fell to Clonlara as Darach Honan was pulled down by Gearoid O Connell. The free was cleared and the last ball sent in by Clonlara was caught majestically in the air by Jack Browne and within seconds Ballyea were county champions for the first time in Clare GAA history.
BALLYEA: Kevin Sheehan, Joe Neylon (0-1), Jack Browne (0-1), Brian Carrigg (0-1), Paul Flanagan, Gearoid O Connell, James Murphy Tony Kelly (0-4), Stan Lineen, Niall Deasy (1-3), Pat Joe Connolly (0-1), Cathal Doohan, Martin O Leary, Gary Brennan (1-2), Pearse Lillis. Subs: Damian Burke (0-1) for O Leary, David Egan for Connolly.
CLONLARA: Ger O Connell, Cillian Fennessy, Domhnall O Donovan, Gareth Kennedy, Nicky O Connell (0-1) Neil Ryan Oisin O Brien, Cormac O Donovan, Colm Galvin (0-2), Darach Honan (0-1), James Hastings, Ger Powell, Cathal O Connell (0-8), John Conlon (1-1), Michael O Loughlin (0-1) Subs: Shane O Brien for N Ryan, Pat O Hare for Cormac O Donovan, Padraic O Loughlin for O Hare, David Fitzgerald for Galvin.
Referee: Damien Fox (Clooney/Quin).
After the game former county board chairperson and lifelong Ballyea clubman Michael O Neill was invited by county chairman Joe Cooney to present the canon hamilton cup to Ballyea captain Stan Lineen. Christy Ryan representing Martin Donnelly presented the top score award to Tony Kelly as Joe Cooney presented the man of the match award to Niall Deasy.
By Michael O Connor.
Low key but still an All Ireland final. That was the bottom line for both sides in Semple Stadium. What transpired was never expected by either side but the five goal salvo created and delivered with Kilkenny efficiency ended this game by goal three as a physically lighter Clare side tried to their limits but were never in contention after twenty minutes.
Kilkenny were playing only their second game in the competition whilst Clare had overcame Limerick after extra time and were chasing their second ever title in this grade following their inaugural 2011 success, also against Kilkenny. The leinster champions made five changes to the side from the provincial final meaning business that alerted many to their desire for continued success. Clare had two changes from the Munster final starting lineout
Alan Murphy was quickly into the referee's notepad for a heavy frontal challenge on Shane Taylor who had to retire after less than one minutes action as he was replaced by Dara Walsh. The paltry attendance of 1,401 in what was only 6th game in the whole competition saw opening minutes of little real fare to entice more of this competition in the intervening years.
The game's first score fell to Doora Barefield's Davy Conroy with a long range effort before in the 8th minute Danny Russell set up Kevin Hehir for the Clare sides second score. Hehir turned provider with a surging run through the centre after being set up by Mikey O Neill. His flick pass on the edge of the square was finished brilliantly to the net by Ryan Taylor as Clare were now (1-2) to (0-0) clear after 10 minutes of Semple Stadium action.
Kilkenny hit three wides before a soft goal conceded by Clare as Nicky Cleere got the ball over the line in the 13th minute seemed to unsteady Clare that after a positive start allowed Kilkenny majority possession the following couple minute. This was ended with a 16th minute Shane McGrath score that he help initiate when he won possession at midfield.
Jack Langton responded for the first Kilkenny point from 75metres before once again Clare were soft at the back. A high ball sent in by Alan Murphy was flicked to the net by John Walsh evading the outrushing Daniel Vaughan. Kilkenny were now a point clear after 17 minutes, Danny Russell scored a wonderful effort to level matters. Disaster number 3 was not far away another high ball caused trouble for a slight Clare full back line and it fell to Billy Ryan who blasted past Daniel Vaughan to send the Leinster champions (3-1) to (0-7) clear after 19 minutes. Kevin Hehir was next to score with his second of the first half as Nicky Cleere with a rare Kilkenny free was successful before once again the Clare goal was breached for the fourth time as Luke Scanlon raced clear from a breaking ball and gave Daniel Vaughan no chance. Kilkenny's Nicky Cleere added another free as seven points now separated the sides that soon became eight with Luke Scanlon on target.
A Shane McGrath free lifted the siege but only momentarily as another Nicky Cleere free was sent over. The final score of the half was a Shane McGrath free as Clare were in serious trouble and nothing less than two goals would bring them back into the game. Half time score Kilkenny (4-5) Clare (1-7). The physical stature of the Kilkenny side was overwhelming Clare in key defensive positions.
A Jason McCarthy point settled the Clare nerve early in the second half but once more the willingness of Kilkenny to go into the tackle hard but fair was too much for the lighter Clare players to absorb and contend with. Another issue was the Clare fouling around the body of the inrushing Kilkenny midfielders and forwards that proved profitable for their freetakers.
Shane McGrath kept Clare in the game with another free as now a goal was paramount for Clare without conceding scores. A controversial free in the eyes of Clare supporters was sent wide by Nicky Cleere. This let off was kind to Clare as McGrath added another free in the 41st minute to narrow the deficit to five points. A speculative effort from Billy Ryan was over the bar after a pressurised clearance from Daniel Vaughan fell his way. Only frees from McGrath was ensuring Clare supporters had a reason to care about the final quarter. Indecision in the Clare rearguard led to John Walsh on score Kilkenny's 20th point. Sustained pressure from Clare led to a well worked Jason McCarthy point entering the final quarter. Just as Clare got a foothold Pat O Grady's men attacked and another piece of poor defending allowed Billy Ryan another score. McGrath converted a foul on Hehir who was back in the game after a promising opening 10 minutes. Again another free converted by Kilkenny, this time by Alan Murphy kept 6 points between the sides entering the last ten minutes. Kilkenny's ability to concede frees 50m from goal was classical to deny Clare any form of a goal chance to make the game competitive. McGrath with his 8th an 9th scores narrowed it to four before Billy Ryan and Alan Murphy restored an invaluable six point lead and this was the end of the Clare challenge as Kilkenny tagged on scores as Evan Cody received a second yellow card as John Walsh rounded off with his side's fifth goal.
The Kilkenny full forward line scored (3-10) with the vast majority emanating from play as they overran their opponents with ease. Others from the winners to shine included Luke Hickey, Conor Delaney, Luke Scanlon, Alan Murphy and Tom Alyward. Clare had honest performers in Shane McGrath who was for me the most consistent player on the field aided well by Kevin Hehir, Jason McCarthy with Danny Russell and Ryan Taylor early on.
KILKENNY: Aaron Duggan (Dicksboro), Evan Cody (Dicksboro), Tom Aylward (Mullinavat), Luke Hickey (James Stephens), Jason Cleere (Bennettsbridge), Conor Delaney (Erin’s Own), Jeoff Brennan (St Patrick’s), Jack Langton (Clara)(0-1), Luke Scanlon (James Stephens)(1-2), Alan Murphy (Glenmore)(0-2), Conor Tobin (Fenians), Richy Leahy (Rower Inistioge), Billy Ryan (Graigue Ballycallan) (1-4), Nicky Cleere (Bennettsbridge)(1-4), John Walsh (Mullinavat) (2-2).
Subs: Sean Morrissey (Bennettsbridge)(0-1) for Tobin (45), Jack McGrath (James Stephens) for Leahy (54), Shane Donnelly (St Lachtain’s) for Murphy (60)
CLARE: Daniel Vaughan (Tulla), Rory Hayes (Wolfe Tones), Eoin Quirke (Whitegate), Ciaran Cooney (O’Callaghan’s Mills), Aidan McGuane (Kilmaley), Shane Taylor (Broadford), Jason McCarthy (Inagh-Kilnamona) (0-2), David Conroy (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield), Kevin Hehir (Inagh-Kilnamona)(0-3), Oisin Donnellan (Feakle), Shane McGrath (Feakle) (0-10), Daragh Corry (Tulla), Danny Russell (Éire Óg)(0-1), Michael O’Neill (Kilmaley), Ryan Taylor (Clooney-Quin)(1-0)
SUBS: Dara Walsh (Éire Óg) for Taylor (2, inj), Eoin Enright (Kilmaley) for Hayes (HT), Paraic O’Loughlin (Clonlara) for Donnellan (40).
Referee: Paud O’Dwyer (Carlow)
By Michael O Connor.
The real championship was now in play with a sense of sulphur looming over nearly every camp that lost. Did national league success really matter if the championship run ended in Semple Stadium and over two weeks before the Galway races?
The runaway success against Laois answered no questions regarding the Clare make up except there was hunger to score heavily. It was pointed out by the hurling number crunchers that since the 2013 title win Clare had managed only meagre wins in qualifier games and that a statement of intent was needed if Clare were to be meaningful All Ireland contenders come quarter final stage. In front of David Fitzgerald's charges were a Limerick side that struggled past a game Westmeath side in Mullingar with suggestions that not all was ideal in terms of Limerick's preparations all season. Following the game Limerick manager TJ Ryan intimated that his three year run as manager would be under serious question as to if he would continue with the strong suggestion that he will step down in the coming days.
The continued absence due to injury of Conor McGrath was a key downer for Clare as they could ill afford the loss of their proven championship performer despite having what appeared to be a strong forward division waiting on the line.
Aron Shanagher opened the scoring after 15 seconds as Tony Kelly was left isolated at full forward by Clare at the throw in only for Shane Dowling to respond with a 70 metre seconds later. John Conlon hit the side netting after evading his marker before Kevin Downes scored an excellent effort. Darragh O Donovan added a third Limerick score after 6minutes as Clare were finding it difficult to get past the Shannonsiders half back line and were reduced to long range efforts that did not find the desired target. If anything a more motivated Limerick line and players were taking the game to Clare. The next scores came in the space of 30 seconds as Dowling (free) and John Conlon (free). Brendan Bugler cleared the ball of the Clare line as a goalward effort by Dowling was sent out for a 65 that the Na piarsaigh man scored.
Padraic Collins and David McInerney appeared to inject new impetus into Clare as Limerick faltered a little with a point apiece in the 18th and 19th minutes respectively. A huge puck out from Andrew Fahy ended with Shane O Donnell on the scoreboard as Clare were now clearly on the frontfoot. Limerick failed to score for the last twenty minutes of the first half as Clare hit nine unanswered scores in this period. O Donnell's score sent Clare ahead for the first time since the opening minute. The standard of fare was at best tedious to watch as neither side appeared capable of motivated to score a goal. Cian Dillon was the playmaker for Clare as he took 8 short puck outs from goalkeeper Andrew Fahy.
Padraic Collins and two efforts from Tony Kelly left Clare (0-9) to (0-5) in front with three minutes remaining in the first half as Limerick who were in possession of the ball often enough to score if the ability existed were just hanging on and were thankful that Clare were also unable to score with Kilkenny like ruthlessness. Shane O Donnell who was benefitting from a looser role around the forward line converted another point and it was Tony Kelly who rounded off the opening half scoring to leave Clare (0-11) to (0-5) ahead at the break.
A safe start to the opening ten minutes for Clare in the new half would see them into the last 6 was the common perception. That theory would have been stronger with a goal to aid the scoreline but that option on the day was as rare as a white blackbird. Limerick made two replacements and one of those, namely Gearoid Hegarty had the first score of the new half. Within two minutes Shane Dowling sent over another free before Tony Kelly and Shane O Donnell responded to negate the positive Limerick start.
Limerick threw off the shackles somewhat led by Diarmuid Byrnes and it did upset Clare who could not build up a bank of scores to definitively say the game was over as a contest. Tony Kelly, Diarmuid Byrnes and James Ryan added to the scoresheet by the 47th minute to leave Limerick (0-14) to (0-9) in arrears. The intervening 15 minutes was far more entertaining than the previous 45 minutes but still it would require a goal from Limerick to win the game and as Clare were matching Limerick effectively score for score it was beyond the reach for Limerick to win the game. Paul Browne, Diarmuid Byrnes (2), Shane Dowling, Tony Kelly and Jack Browne were the 6 point scores entering the final ten minutes with Clare holding a (0-16) to (0-13) lead.
The last ten minutes of normal time did have exciting moments but only two points with Kelly and Dowling each with a free on the mark as Clare hung onto the three point lead with five minutes of injury time to play. Aron Shanagher won was a fortunate penalty in the eyes of many in the 71st minute that Tony Kelly chose to put over the bar. James Ryan hit back from play before a trademark late score from play by Kelly sent Clare through as four point winners with the least amount of fuss and spectacle.
CLARE: Andrew Fahy, Oisin O Brien, Cian Dillon, Patrick O Connor, Brendan Bugler, David McInerney (0-1), Jack Browne (0-1), Conor Cleary, David Reidy, Colm Galvin, Tony Kelly (0-9), John Conlon (0-1), Padraic Collins (0-3), Shane O Donnell (0-3), Aron Shanagher (0-1). SUBS: Aaron Cunningham for Conlon, David Fitzgerald for Browne
LIMERICK: Nickie Quaid, Tom Condon, Richie McCarthy, Richie English, Diarmuid Byrnes (0-3), Gavin O Mahony, Paudie O Brien, Paul Browne (0-1), Darragh O Donovan (0-1), Declan Hannon, James Ryan (0-2), Cian Lynch, Kevin Downes (0-10, Shane Dowling (0-6), Graeme Mulcahy. SUBS: Tom Morrissey for O’Donovan, Gearoid Hegarty (0-1) for Hannon, Seamus Hickey for O’Brien, Barry Nash for Mulcahy, Alan Dempsey for English.
Referee: James Owens (Wexford).
In the preceding qualifier game Wexford created a shock of some proportion defeating Cork and the raw emotion of their supporters brought alive Semple stadium and maybe the championship.
CLARE..............5 32 LAOIS...............0-12
By Michael O Connor.
A game to forget for those looking for a contest was the fear for what transpired to be a sizable attendance of 5,518 for this round 1 qualifier in Cusack Park on Saturday evening. The oddsmakers who were stung later for the first goalscorer after unsure information from media outlets offered Clare at even money at -17 points. As it turned out they could have offered -34 and still pundits would have won such was the paucity of Cheddar Plunett's charges.
Clare were forced to change regular net minder Patrick Kelly who suffered a ligament leg injury as Whitegate's Andrew Fahy made his senior inter county championship debut. The Whitegate man was in goal when Clare won the 2011 Intermediate All Ireland crown. Conor McGrath was also ruled out and he was replaced by Aron Shanagher as the bookies had Clare marked up for the easiest of wins. There was little change other wise to the Clare side from earlier outings in the league and championship as David McInerney who earlier in the season was touted to be missing most of the year was in for the start. Darach Honan who disappointed in championship action was untogged along with a multitude of panellists.
Charles Dwyer was on hand with the first score after 5 seconds as Aron Shanagher saw a goal effort saved then the rebound going wide. As Tony Kelly was now on frees due to the absence of McGrath the expectancy was there for a bountiful return from the Ballyea sharpshooter. He didnt fail in this regard and was on the mark after three minutes for Clare's first score. Clare hit two wides before David Reidy saw his effort saved on the line but Shane O Donnell who had a barren time in front of goal all season poked the rebound to the net in the 5th minute. Laois possess for the last half decade one of the best forwards in hurling in the person of Willie Hyland and a lot of what they play goes through the Clough Ballacolla man. Laois goalkeeper Enda Rowland was on hand to send over a long range free after nine minutes before PJ Scully added another Laois free after 12 minutes as Clare failed to score from the 5th to the 14th minute when once again Tony Kelly converted the easiest of frees. One of the best scores of the day fell to Podge Collins after 15 minutes before John Conlon and Tony Kelly added further points by the end of the first quarter to open up a five point lead.
Clare forward striking was causing distress for the Clare management as long ball to nowhere or no one in particular and against better opponents scores would have been conceded such was the possession giveaway. Willie Dunphy responded with a Laois point after Conor Cleary failed to clear the ball in front of goal. David McInerney (2), Neil Foyle, Tony Kelly (2) and Conor Cleary were all point scorers by the 30th minute as the home side were stretching clear on a (1-10) to (0-5) lead. The last five minutes of the half ended all hope of an entertaining second half as Clare stepped up a gear on the field adding (1-4) without reply. Colm Galvin (2), Tony Kelly and John Conlon took the point chances as Aron Shanagher hit the first of his eventual hat trick to leave Clare 15 clear, (2-14) to (0-5) ahead at the break.
Clare did the basics right and any real analysis on the game would hinge on a woeful Laois effort and perhaps 15 minutes of the first half that saw Clare malfunction in the scoring stakes. Clare supporters all over the ground engaged themselves on their phones for the second half regaling friends with updates from Pairc Ui Rinn instead of watching the game. Clare hit Laois hard for eight points in a row in the opening ten minutes of the second half to open up a mammoth 23 point lead with Tony Kelly (3), Shane O Donnell, Davy McInerney, Podge Collins, Aron Shanagher and Conor Cleary on target. Willie Hyland broke up the scoring sequence before Tony Kelly, Cathal O Connell (who replaced Kelly) and two Shanagher goals sunk Laois deeper into the mire and 29 points behind. Laois goalkeeper Enda Rowland who was in this scribe's opinion his sides best player denied Clare at least three goals and scored two points from frees into the bargain. Mark Kavanagh, Matt Whelan and Willie Hyland (2) rounded off the Leinster sides scoring as Clare still managed a further (1-6) as Podge Collins had his sides 5th and final goal as Laois ended with 13 players as Charlie Dwyer and Ben Conroy both received two yellow cards during the game.
Best for the winners included Shane O Donnell, Tony Kelly, Aron Shanagher, David McInerney, Cian Dillon, Pat O Connor, Colm Galvin, Cathal O Connell and Conor Cleary. Enda Rowland, Patrick Purcell, Willie Hyland, Cahir Healy until injury forced his removal and Charles Dwyer tried hardest for Laois
CLARE: Andrew Fahey (Whitegate), Cian Dillon (Crusheen), Patrick O’Connor (Tubber), Oisin O’Brien (Clonlara), Jack Browne (Ballyea), David McInerney (Tulla) (0-3), Brendan Bugler (Whitegate), Conor Cleary (Kilmaley) (0-2), David Reidy (Éire Óg), John Conlon (Clonlara) (0-2), Padraic Collins (Cratloe) (1-3), Colm Galvin (Clonlara)(0-2), Tony Kelly (Ballyea) (0-10), Shane O’Donnell (Éire Óg) (1-3), Aron Shanagher (Wolfe Tones)(3-1).
Subs: David Fitzgerald for McInerney, Shane Golden (0-1) for Reidy, Seadna Morey for Cleary, Cathal O Connell for Kelly, Colin Ryan for Conlon,
LAOIS: Enda Rowland (0-2), Dwane Palmer, Cahir Healy, Leigh Bergin, Matt Whelan (0-1), Ryan Mullaney, Patrick Purcell, Colm Stapleton, Charles Dwyer (0-2), Neil Foyle (0-1), Ben Conroy, John Lennon, Willie Hyland (0-3), Pj Scully (0-1), Willie Dunphy (0-1). Subs: Ross King for Leigh Bergin (inj), Mark Kavanagh for Scully, Darren Maher for Stapleton, Joe Phelan for Willie Dunphy,
Refere: Barry Kelly (Westmeath)
By Michael O Connor
The intense heat and faster ground that welcomed both teams to Thurles was light years away from the conditions prevalent when they met in the two league finals less than a month ago. Clare were delighted to win the league final but with respect to the Decies June 5th was the first time they could say they were putting on the field their best or close to same 15 players. The return of Maurice Shanahan and Mahony were warning signs that Clare could not ignore. From a Clare perspective David McInerney, Aaron Cunningham and John Conlon were deemed long term injury victims and it simply amazing to see that they could play any part on Sunday. Great to see such unnaturally fast recoveries but will it have long term consequences?
Waterford had a sensational start to proceedings when Austin Gleeson was accurate after 20 seconds and the ball was in the Clare net with less than two minutes played. A high ball sent in from the side was missed by all and Maurice Shanahan had the unexpected easy finish to the Clare net. David Reidy was denied a Clare goal just before this action when his well hit shot was saved brilliantly by Stephen O Keeffe at the expense of a 65 that was sent wide by Conor McGrath.
This body blow to Clare and concession of scores was curtailed by Clare when they settled and the game began to see saw from end to end. Conor McGrath got the Bannermen off the mark as Conor Cleary added a second after six minutes. Seven minutes elapsed before the next score that once again fell the way of Davy Fitzgerald's side as a booming effort from Colm Galvin. Waterford team captain Kevin Moran who had been underperforming in the league final meetings hit over a well taken effort after 14 minutes before Padraic Collins levelled matters within a minute. Austin Gleeson and Tony Kelly in particular scored wonderful efforts in the 20th and 22nd minutes respectively. Maurice Shanahan, Padraic Collins, Shane Bennett were amongst those who scored in the final ten minutes as neither side could stamp their authority on proceedings and thankfully from Clare's perspective they contained Waterford despite not making greater inroads on the scoresheet. Half time Waterford (1-9) Clare (0-8)
The first action of the new half saw Tony Kelly drive a 65 wide from out near the sideline as Clare no had used three different freetakers. It was now apparent that Clare needed Colin Ryan on the field to at least fix this issue as it was now gone beyond redemption. Just as Clare urgently required a solid scoring start to the second half it was Waterford who effectively closed out the game with three points in the opening four minutes from Pauric Mahony and Austin Gleeson who was now to all intents scoring with each touch to leave Waterford (1-12) to (0-8) clear.
Conor McGrath from a 40th minute free and Philip Mahony exchanged points as Brendan Bugler took matters into his own hands with a booming effort from inside his own half. Mahony (2), Colin Ruan (65) and David Fitzgerald from play all by the 48th minute still saw Clare in arrears by six points.
A huge cheer greeted the arrival onto the field of Davy McInerney who was greeted with hard shoulders by Waterford defenders. McInerney's His first touch saw the Tulla man solo upfield and was just wide. However, he gave up the ball twice that led to two Waterford scores including Austin Gleeson's score that put five between the sides once more at a crucial time. That score stifled the Clare fightback that had gained momentum and reduced the deficit to four points as David Reidy and Cathal O Connell had been on target. Kevin Moran increased the lead to the previous six points in the 57th minute. Colin Ryan and Moran once more after 62 minutes ensured this gap remained in place.
It must be accepted that Clare whilst playing within themselves did keep taking the battle to Waterford who now simply had to contain and attack from deep to win the game as Clare required goals to ensure a competitive last five minutes. Austin Gleeson, Cathal O Connell, Jake Dillon, Maurice Shanahan with one outlandish score rounded off the second half scoring. The early concession of a goal by Clare, the save by O Keeffe from Reidy, the off colour nature off Clare freetaking and simply being out hurled for 40 minutes sent Clare on the qualifier route and a possible clash with Laois, Wexford, Westmeath or Cork.
Waterford dominated and controlled the game with strong performances from Stephen O Keeffe, Austin Gleeson, Kevin Moran Pauric Mahony, Maurice Shanahan, Shane Fives and Tadgh DeBurca. Once again Cian Dillon played his role to a high standard even though a little more under pressure than during the league. Others who tried hard but seemed to fade in the second half included Conor Cleary, David Reidy, Brendan Bugler, Colm Galvin early on, Padraic Collins, Tony Kelly as Cathal O Connell looked busy when introduced.
CLARE: P Kelly; C Dillon, P O'Connor, C Cleary (0-1); O O'Brien, B Bugler (0-1), D Fitzgerald (0-1); D Reidy (0-1), C Galvin (0-1), P Collins (0-2), T Kelly (0-1), C McGrath (0-3, 2f); D Honan, S O'Donnell, J Conlon (0-1), Subs: C Ryan (0-2, 65) for Honan 43m; C O'Connell (0-3, 2f) for McGrath 51m; S Golden for Fitzgerald 53m, A Shanagher for Collins 58m; A Cunningham for Galvin 66m;
WATERFORD: S O'Keeffe; N Connors, B Coughlan, S Fives; D Fives (0-1), T De Burca, Philip Mahony (0-1); J Barron, K Moran (0-3); Pauric Mahony (0-6, 5f ), S Bennett (0-1), M Walsh; M Shanahan (1-2), A Gleeson (0-6, I sideline, P Curran. Subs: T Devine for Benett 54m; J Dillon (0-1) for Curran 57m; B O'Halloran for Pauric Mahony, C Dunford for Shanahan 70m; Stephen Bennett for Walsh 74m.
Referee: J Owens (Wexford).
By Michael O Connor.
One of the most creative displays of hurling by a county Intermediate side in living memory was constructed and displayed in glorious reality for Clare supporters in Thurles as Waterford were blown away after a promising first ten minutes that saw two goals piercing the Clare rearguard.
A blooding process for Clare with an eye at the under 21 championship tie versus Waterford away in the intervening month. 10 of the Clare starting side and 12 of the Waterford side would be thinking deeply of the under 21 clash with a number of the Clare side also involved with the training panel of the senior squad when required. Conditions were superb as usual at Semple stadium for the curtain raiser to the main event. Expectation of a sizable attendance for the two events were firmly squashed by the start of the Intermediate game with barely a trickle in for commencement of the action.
Shane McGrath had Clare's opening scoring chance but from a free sent the ball well wide as Colin Crehan got the game's first score in the 2nd minute before Waterford DJ Foran equalised soon after. David Gartland from a free and DJ Foran with his second point left Waterford 3-1 up after 6 minutes as Clare missed a goal chance when Danny Russell's effort was sent wide under pressure. Clare were under the cosh and this pressure intensified moments later as Foran grabbed a goal after a long range free was sent in. David Gartland added a second free and even at this interval Clare appeared leaderless and only Oisin Donnellan with a 9th minute wide relieved the pressure for half a minute. Andy Molumby was clear and pointed for Waterford in the 10th minute and now the decies led (1-5) to (0-1). Ryan Taylor won a free that was sent over by McGrath moments after the Feakle man had converted another free as Clare had appeared to settle into the game after the error strewn opening quarter. Danny Russell narrowed the deficit to four with a well taken effort in the 15th minute,. Clare were right back in the game following a third McGrath and a well finished goal from Ryan Taylor despite being rugby tackled by Gavin Power that levelled up proceedings.
DJ Foran responded to restore the Waterford lead that collapsed in the space of five minutes but within two minutes Jason McCarthy who was arguably Clare's best first half performers struck over a sweet effort from halfway before Kevin Hehir set up Colin Crehan's who low effort got past Power. Clare were now three clear after being 7 down early in the game. Tommy Waring and Oisin Donnellan who was impressing were exchanged scores (Donnellan required hawkeye) as Clare maintained a three point lead entering the final five minutes. Donnellan and David Conroy with two scores sent Clare clear but once again Waterford got DJ Foran at the end of a ball and he goaled to leave Waterford two clear and the Clare full back line struggling on every high ball sent in by the Decies. Clare finished the better as Shane McGrath once more from a free left Donal Moloney's side (2-10) to (2-7) clear at the interval. After the first ten minutes Clare outscored Waterford (2-9) to (1-1) which was one of the strongest comebacks witnessed by Clare supporters by a Clare side for some time.
DJ Foran who was now being marked by Eoin Quirke received the ball once more from Mark O Brien and pointed before Ryan Taylor was quick off the mark for Clare's opening score of the new half. Scores begin to rain in with regularity but unfortunately for Waterford it was their goalkeeper who was the busiest. Danny Russell, Shane McGrath (2) and Ryan Taylor all hit over minors as Russell who was the oldest on the Clare side dispossessed Gavin Power and goaled for the third Clare goal as Clare now raced (3-15) to (2-9) ahead.
Twenty minutes left to play and Clare appearing in control of their own destiny and a date in the provincial final looming. Waterford did stabilise at the back as Clare could not keep up the scoring rate. Seamus Keating and David Gartland(2) kept Waterford in hope of a late flourish but less than three goals conceded and Clare were home and hosed winners. Colin Crehan, David Gartland, Michael O Malley (2) and Crehan again were on target between the 50th and 55th minute as Clare raced 10 clear. Colin Crehan missed a clear goal opportunity trying to place the ball past Gavin Power instead of hitting with intensity. The last score of the game that trundled to the obvious result fell to Rory Hayes as Clare now moved on to the munster final.
Best for Clare was my man of the match Jason McCarthy, Aidan McGuane, Kevin Hehir, Shane McGrath, Danny Russell, Colin Crehan, Ryan Taylor and Oisin Donnellan. DJ Foran led the line for Waterford but unfortunately from their perspective they faded badly after an enterprising start. Others to hold their hold included David Gartland, Michael Harney and Mark O Brien.
CLARE: Daniel Vaughan, Eoin Quirke, Barry Fitzpatrick, Ciaran Cooney, Jason McCarthy (0-1), Aidan McGuane, Dara Walsh, David Conroy(0-1), Kevin Hehir, Oisin Donnellan (0-2), Shane McGrath (C)(0-5), Darragh Corry, Colin Crehan (1-2), Ryan Taylor (1-3), Danny Russell (1-3). Subs: Rory Hayes (0-1) for Fitzpatrick, Michael O Malley(0-2) for Corry, Michael O Neill for McGrath, Ben O Gorman for Hehir, Shane Gleeson for Donnellan,
WATERFORD: Gavin Power, William Hahessy, Niall Fives, Kieran Bennett, Michael Harney(0-1), Conor Prunty, Billy O Keeffe, Seamus Keating(0-1), Mark O Brien, Andy Molumby(0-1), David Gartland (0-4), Jordan Henley, Peter Hogan, DJ Foran (C) (2-4), Tommy Waring (0-1). Subs: John Paul Lucey for Molumby, Edmond O Halloran for Waring, Dermot Ryan for Fives, Robbie Flynn for Henley, Croistoir Breathnach for Gartland,
Referee: John McCormack (Tipperary)
By Michael O Connor.
In a weekend of shocks that very nearly commenced on Friday evening when Tulla ran Clarecastle to a injury time win their country neighbours Feakle took it a step further to injure a bigger championship beast. Slay would be incorrect due to the nature of the championship and ironically Cratloe with McGrath and McInerney back in tow still remain the team to beat but take nothing away from this great Feakle effort.
The opening score fell to Feakle wing forward Martin Daly in the second minute only for Shane Gleeson to hit back with a free for the Cratloe men as the sweltering heat enveloped Cusack park. The first half scoring developed a pattern whereby neither sides was no more than two points ahead at any juncture. The first half was also totally devoid of goal opportunities as Shane McGrath and Steven Conway with a well executed score before a brilliant piece of skill from Podge Collins ended with a score to leave Feakle (0-3) to (0-2) ahead. Three in a row from Cratloe courtesy of Sean Chaplin, Aidan Browne and Shane Gleeson stretched the South Clare side (0-5) to (0-3) ahead after 14 minutes action in Ennis. The game developed into a stop start formula as a number of frees were awarded to both sides most notably of the scoring nature to Cratloe as the first half wore on. Shane McGrath responded to narrow the deficit to the minimum and indeed he was one of the main players on view in the game especially the first half when Feakle required leadership.
With a number of the established Cratloe players playing well within themselves Feakle were in control of large tracts of Cusack Park. Shane McGrath, Conor Nelson, Conor Ryan, Gleeson and McGrath again added minors in a five minutes spell as Cratloe took a narrow shortlived lead. In a free ridden first half the remaining five scores on the half were all frees, bar one. Eoin Tuohy, Gary Guilfoyle (play) and Shane McGrath were on the mark for Feakle as a brace of Shane Gleeson frees left it at (0-9) apiece entering the dressingrooms.
Cratloe recommenced the action and were quickly two points to the good as Shane Gleeson and Podge Collins swoped for scores in the opening two minutes. Indeed the East Clare hamlet were most fortunate not be five in arrears after 35 minutes as Podge Collins sent a screamer across the bow of Eibhear Quilligan's goal. The scores appeared to dry up as both sides to their credit did create but the execution was off target especially Cratloe's who hit three scorable efforts wide in three minutes. Team manager Val Donnellan was asked by referee Kevin Walsh to remain on the bench. This incident was forgotten seconds later when from outside the square Oisin Donnellan first timed a crossfield ball to the net to level matters. It was the score the game required even though the tempo had increased for the five minutes previous. Shane McGrath sent Feakle ahead in the 43rd only for Podge Collins to equalise at the end of the third quarter. Oisin Donnellan once more after 47 minutes restored a one point Feakle lead.
It was now becoming a game of nerves with any mistake or feed given away in a scorable position likely to be fatal such was the closeness of exchanges. Shane McGrath converted a close range free only for Sean Collins to respond within seconds from play to leave the minimum between the sides entering the last seven minutes. Gearoid Ryan was sharp in the Cratloe goal to deny Steven Conway a match winning goal seconds after Enda Noonan and McGrath once more had stretched the Feakle lead to three points.
It was now Feakle's game to lose and would they crack under the pressure? Not on this occasion anyway as Shane McGrath got an invaluable insurance score in the 57th minute to force Cratloe to score at least (1-1) to get extra time. Liam Markham who was their go to man in the second half pointed in the 59th minute and two minutes into injury time Shane Gleeson sent over a free but too little, too late for Joe McGrath's men who enter the losers group that is more interesting this season than the winners group.
Feakle can thank the efforts of Evan McMahon, the impressive Eoin Tuohy, Shane McGrath, Gary Guilfoyle, Martin Daly, Oisin Donnellan when moved outfield, Steven Conway and Ray Bane. Cratloe will bounce back with the likes of Gearoid Ryan, Sean Chaplin, Liam Markham, Shane Gleeson, Padraic Collins to lead the charge.
CRATLOE: Gearoid Ryan, Shane O Leary, Michael Hawes, David Ryan, Sean Chaplin (0-1), Liam Markham (0-1), Jamie Arthur, Conor Ryan (0-1), Oige Murphy, Shane Gleeson (0-8), Padraic Collins (0-3), Sean Collins (0-1), David Collins, David O Brien, Aidan Browne (0-1). Subs: James Enright for David O Brien,
FEAKLE: Eibhear Quilligan, James Noonan, Evan McMahon, Ger Hanrahan, Eoin Tuohy (0-1), Raymond Bane, Killian Bane, Shane McGrath (0-8), Con Smyth, Gary Guilfoyle (0-1), Colin Nelson (0-1), Martin Daly (0-1), Oisin Donnellan (1-1), Colm Naughton, Steven Conway (0-1). Subs: Enda Noonan (0-1) for Naughton,
Referee: Kevin Walsh (Wolfe Tones).
By Michael O Connor.
A superb defensive effort by Crusheen laid the foundations for the win in perfect conditions at headquarters. The tight marking that was evident at the throw in displayed the hard fought carried on for the hour as it was indeed the hardest game played over the weekend. Both sides were off target before as usual Niall Gilligan opened the scoring. Crusheen's freetaker Pat Vaughan was not to be outdone and he sent over a free and a second from play to settle Crusheen nerves.
Jamie Shanahan who was the primary avenue for scores in the first half for Sixmilebridge hung away from Cian Dillon and struck over three points with his first coming after 8 minutes. Gilligan and Shanahan added two more successful efforts by the 14th minute in a low scoring first quarter and when Caimin Morey sent Sixmilebridge three clear the omens were not favouring Crusheen. Pat Vaughan stemmed the tide with a free before a long range free by Vaughan in the 20th minute was doubled to the net by full forward Fergus Kennedy. This scored undid all the work of Sixmilebridge as Crusheen had done little real in front of goal and were a point clear. Three more points is all that emerged for the remainder of the half as Sixmilebridge outscored Crusheen 2 to 1. Pat Vaughan with another free in the 21st minute saw the winners move two clear only for Shanahan and Gilligan to respond in the 22nd and 25th minute to leave parity between the sides, (1-4) to (0-7) at the break.
At this juncture it did look as if Sixmilebridge would come out and win the second half in a low scoring event however it was Crusheen who received the perfect start to dull the Bridge fight somewhat early on.
Cillien Mullins and veteran Gearoid O Donnell in the first three minutes after the restart sent Crusheen two clear as Ciaran O Doherty was now at centre back to curtail Shanahan and Cian Dillon moving out to centrefield. Shanahan had his last score of the evening and when Alex Morey hit the target the sides were once again level. The decisive moments of the game had the involvement of Donal Tuohy who was probably Crusheen's man of the match. He denied Danny Morey from close range after 37 minutes as Niall Gilligan pointed in the same action. Three scores from Pat Vaughan, Gilligan and Pa Sheehan preceded four Crusheen wides in as many minutes as many felt that Crusheen were spurning the chance to close out the game.
Conor O Donnell and the increasing presence of Colin Vaughan who was a revelation when moved outfield for the last quarter levelled the game once more. Pa Sheehan and Niall Gilligan were not found wanting grabbing a brace of scores in the 48th minute. On each occasion Sixmilebridge or Crusheen went two points clear the other side hauled them back with the intervening scores.
The lacklustre nature of the first half was now replaced by a real championship effort. Pat Vaughan, Conor Deasy and Colin Vaughan were all on the scoresheet between the 50th and 55th minutes as once again deadlocked was the story on the scoreboard and extra time was looming. Surprisingly, Sixmilebridge were struggling to gain momentum and did not spring more players from their bench and more importantly gave away ground on the pitch to Crusheen who advanced up the field with precision hurling.
Pat Vaughan set up younger cousin Colin on the CBS stand side and he sent over the lead point. Jamie Fitzgibbon who had been introduced added a second lead point and now Sixmilebridge now required a goal to win. With the game on full time Alex Morey who was to the fore in the second half left the minimum entering the 2 minutes of injury time. A stoppage at the start of same ensured that four minutes plus was played. The correct playing time was played nonetheless by Ambrose Heagney. Still, more drama. Sixmilebridge launched in one last salvo. The ball came to Alan Mulready but having sense the danger before anyone Donal Tuohy raced out and body blocked the ball at the expense of a 65'. Niall Gilligan, who is entering his 21st championship the same number ironically as Gearoid O Donnell and one behind Cathal Dillon stood over the ball and his high high effort was waved wide despite despairing efforts by the veteran to claim a point.
Seconds later, Crusheen who had been tipped by many to go into decline celebrated as if it was championship success. Far from that it was but still with Clare cup points on offer as well it sets up Crusheen to concentrate on championship for the year safe in Div 1 of the cup once more. What odds both teams meet again in September. Best for Crusheen were my man of the match Donal Tuohy, Ciaran O Doherty, Jason Greene, Pat Vaughan, Colin Vaughan, Jamie Fitzgibbon and Cian Dillon in the second half. Sixmilebridge worked hard but appeared somewhat leg weary in the last quarter. Once again Niall Gilligan carried the responsibility for score making with Caimin Money, Seadna Morey, Pa Sheehan, Conor Deasy, Alex Morey also to the fore
SIXMILEBRIDGE: Derek Fahy, Noel Purcell, Barry Fitzpatrick, Cathal Lynch, Caimin Morey (0-1), Aidan Quilligan, Kevin Lynch, Seadna Morey, Pa Sheehan (0-2), Conor Deasy (0-1), Jamie Shanahan (0-4), Alex Morey (0-2), Danny Morey, Niall Gilligan (0-6), Alan Mulready. Subs: John Fennessy for D Morey.
CRUSHEEN: Donal Tuohy, Jason Greene, Gerry O Grady, Mark Perrill, Ciaran O Doherty, Cian Dillon, Cathal Dillon, Joe Meaney, Pat Vaughan (0-7), Alan Tuohy, Conor O Donnell (0-1), Gearoid O Donnell (0-1), Cillien Mullins (0-1), Fergus Kennedy (1-0), Colin Vaughan (0-3). Subs: Jamie Fitzgibbon (0-1) for Touhy, Alan Brigdale for Perrill, Alan Tuohy for J Meaney
REFEREE: Ambrose Heagney (Corofin).
By Michael O Connor.
Clare dont win easily, do they? A stunning recovery for Clare. Without doubt Clare had some of the best individual performers on the day but to come from six points down twice and three points in the final minutes was taking the art of brinkmanship to a new level. Tactically, Clare were on top form. Changes were made that worked and the only weakness appear to be the sometimes poor ball sent in without direction to three Waterford backs. The return of John Conlon and David McInerney is required without delay on a day when the grainy old footage of 1977 and 1978 can now be put to the back shelves as new champions can be lauded.
The air of anticipation of two types of games enveloped Semple stadium. 1) A game full of tactics that would see 24 players between the two 45 yard lines or 2) a game that might surprise and become a free flowing spectacle as both sides possessed forwards capable of hitting the high mark.
Disaster for Clare after 30 seconds when Patrick Curran raced through David Fitzgerald and Pat O Connor before blasting easily past Patrick Kelly. He quickly added a free in the second minute as Clare were even at this stage under the cosh. A super score set up by Podge Collins and finished by Tony Kelly settled the nerves as Tadgh DeBurca was the sweeper but that had litte effect as Podge Collins scored the second Clare point after five minutes. Shane O Donnell was blocked down and Kevin Moran pointed from long distance to restore a three point lead for the decies at semple stadium. Aaron Cunningham scored a long lobbing ball after David Fitzgerald received the end of the hurley from Tom Devine that ended with a booking for the Mondeligo man after 9 minutes.
Tony Kelly was on hand to narrow the gap to the minimum with a sweet effort from inside the Waterford half as there was more excitement after 10 minutes in the replay than 60 minutes of the drawn game. Conor McGrath brought parity to the sides after 15 minutes from a free as Clare appeared to have stemmed the early Waterford onslaught. The Cratloe man sent his side a point clear before a stray crossfield pass from Pat O Connor went to Waterford and Jake Dillon goaled. Clare, now for the second time had to fight for the game that had looked under control seconds earlier. Conor McGrath responded with another free before Austin Gleeson, Jamie Barron and Shane Bennett hit back to put five points between the sides (2-7) to (0-7) after 24 minutes. Once more Clare looked to McGrath. A number of efforts to play Shane O Donnell the ball when at least three gilt edge point chances were available cost Clare dearly. McGrath and Darragh Fives, both from play left Clare trailing by five points with five minutes left in the first half. Patrick Curran made this six points as the hooking and blocking of the Waterford players was unsettling Clare too easily and catching them in possession. A clever one two between McGrath and Reidy saw Clare's top scorer send over his sixth point of the first half and he quickly added a seventh. Indeed McGrath had scored the last seven Clare scores. Fittingly the last score of the half fell to McGrath from a free to leave Waterford (2-9) to (0-12) in front but Clare could thank their lucky stars in front of 14,210 spectators not be six or more in arrears.
The second half started with a welter of scores as Austin Gleeson, Patrick Curran, David Fitzgerald and Pat O Connor were on the scoresheet with two minutes of the restart to leave the three point gap between the sides. Tony Kelly narrowed it to two points in the 41st minute. Colin Ryan entered the fray for Colm Galvin as Patrick Curran hit over another free. At this stage there were no alarm bells ringing for Clare but an in effective approach to get ball to the full forward line was hampering considerably their scoring potential. Curran from a free, Austin Gleeson and Jamie Barron seconds later stretched the Decies lead to six points with 24 minutes left to play and now the bells were ringing for Clare. To quell them up came Tony Kelly who blasted to the net and this was followe by a stunning move involving Pat O Connor, Darach Honan and Colin Ryan who returned to Honan who popped it over the bar to leave Clare (2-15) to (1-16) in arrears before Curran once more left three in the game. Gleeson stretched it to four points after some hard work from Clare was let down by sky high clearances giving the attack no chance. Colin Ryan narrowed it to three once again with 12 minutes left as now it did appear Clare needed the goal due to the danger of Waterford counterattacking and adding on four or more points. The nerves were settled when Kelly once again narrowed the deficit to a brace of points it was a case of game on. David Reidy with a booming effort had the Clare support on their feet and now with eight minutes left it was down to the minimum before once more Curran with a free left two in the event. The three point Decies lead was restored courtesy of sub Brian O Halloran before once again Clare hit back through Colin Ryan as the game was now in the last three minutes.
The drama was only beginning. Colin Ryan was set up by Darach Honan and he made no mistake before Tony Kelly took over. First, the free that was debated heavily by Waterford as they felt they should have been awarded one seconds earlier in the same battle of players. Tony Kelly was ordered by David Fitzgerald to take the free and he struck with much assurance over the bar. From puck out David Fitzgerald caught the ball released to Reidy who flicked onto Kelly and the rest is history.
CLARE: Patrick Kelly (Inagh-Kilnamona), Jack Browne (Ballyea) Pat O’Connor (Tubber)(0-1), Cian Dillon (Crusheen), Brendan Bugler (Whitegate), Conor Cleary (St Joseph’s Miltown / Kilmaley), David Fitzgerald (Inagh-Kilnamona)(0-1), David Reidy (Éire Óg)(0-1), Colm Galvin (Clonlara), Darach Honan (Clonlara) (0-2), Tony Kelly (Ballyea) (1-6), Aaron Cunningham (Wolfe Tones na Sionna)(0-1), Podge Collins (Cratloe)(0-1), Shane O Donnell (Eire-og), Conor McGrath (Cratloe) (0-8). Subs: Colin Ryan (Newmarket on Fergus)(0-2) for Galvin, Cathal O Connell (Clonlara) for Collins, Aron Shanagher (Wolfe tones na Sionna) for O Donnell,
Waterford: Stephen O’Keeffe (Ballygunner), Shane Fives (Tourin), Barry Coughlan (Ballygunner), Noel Connors (Passage), Tadhg de Burca (Clashmore / Kinsalebeg), Austin Gleeson (Mount Sion)(0-3),Philip Mahony (Ballygunner), Jamie Barron (Fourmilewater)(0-2), Darragh Fives (Tourin)(0-1), Kevin Moran (De La Salle)(0-1), Shane Bennett (Ballysaggart)(0-2), Michael Walsh (Stradbally), Patrick Curran (Dungarvan)(1-9), Jake Dillon (De La Salle)(1-0), Tom Devine (Modeligo). Subs: Colin Dunford (Colligan) for Devine, Brian O Halloran (Clashmore/Kinsalebeg) (0-1) for Dillon, Maurice Shanahan (Lismore) for Bennett,
Referee: Diarmuid Kirwan (Cork).
After the game the National hurling league division 1 cup was presented to Clare joint captains Cian Dillon and Tony Kelly by GAA president Aoghan O Farraeil.
By Michael O Connor.
There was way more bite to the throw in and movement with intent in this game than the curtainraiser and quickly the supporters got behind the teams. The first real action of the game saw John Conlon being fouled enroute to goal with Conor McGrath sending over a 1st minute free. Richie Hogan responded from play before Aaron Cunningham on receipt of a David Fitzgerald handpass split the posts after five minutes. Cian Dillon was pressed into the sweeper role leaving Kilkenny veteran Jackie Tyrell free at the opposite end of the park. McGrath, Collins and McGrath sneaked Clare into a (0-5) to (0-1) lead with ten minutes played. TJ Reid, Conor Cleary and Kevin Kelly all added to the scoreboard as Clare led (0-6) to (0-3) after 14 minutes action. The positioning John Conlon and the drifting upfield of the Conor Cleary and David Fitzgerald for puck outs caused consternation in the Kilkenny ranks. It led to the first goal when a long delivery by Colm Galvin found Joey Holden one on one with John Conlon and it was the Clare man who won putting the ball past Eoin Murphy who had a day to forget in the Kilkenny goal. Aaron Cunningham added a point before responses from John Joe Farrell and Reid after 18 minutes.
Aaron Cunningham pounced on a breaking ball for the second goal as Colm Galvin who is now in the running for hurler of the year if his efforts keep up added a point to send Clare nine points clear. TJ Reid and Padraig Walsh responded in some style but when the third Clare goal came from Aaron Cunningham first timing a ball broken off John Conlon to the Kilkenny net a eleven point lead had opened up.
The remaining minutes of the first half resulted in six more points being shared with TJ Reid, John Power and Kevin Kelly on target for Brian Cody's men with responses from Clare coming from Colm Galvin, Aaron Cunningham and John Conlon to leave an unbelievable but deserved 11 points, (3-12) to (0-10) between the sides at the break.
What could Brian Cody or any manager say to his side at the break. Memories of the first half leinster final of 2012 when Galway overran Kilkenny came to mind. Ironically Kilkenny came back to win the All Ireland and with the Fennelly,s Paul Murphy and others to come back few will be getting carried away with the possibility of the decline of Kilkenny who are still favourites for the All Ireland crown in September. Ironically Kilkenny in the 2012 leinster final won the second half on the scoreboard. This actually repeated itself in Thurles on Sunday as they outscored Clare (2-9) to (1-10) in the second half and this should serve as a cold reminder to Clare to stay levelheaded.
Conor McGrath struck early in the second half as Padraig Walsh hit back from play after 38 minutes. McGrath converted a 65 before TJ Reid hit the Clare net as his 21 yard free got past a forest of Clare hurleys in the 42nd minute. Reid and Cillian Buckley narrowed the Clare lead to 7 points by the 46th minute as David Reidy ended the mini drought for Clare in the 48th minute. Walter Walsh had his first score from play as this now meant all Kilkenny forwards were now on the scoresheet.
There was never any real fear from a Clare perspective of defeat and this was stamped when a stunning goal from 35 yards of some ferocity by Conor McGrath drewe applause from all sides. It restored a 11 point lead for Clare and a huge cheer welcomed the returning Tony Kelly who replaced the injured John Conlon with 20 minutes left to play.
His first two touches ended with points as Joey Holden was begging for the final whistle to come such was the day he experienced at full back. The game was a non event in the final ten minutes as both sides added four points as Clare looked towards the final and Kilkenny now feared the wrath of training in Nowlan Park for May, June and July under Brian Cody.
CLARE: Patrick Kelly, Oisin O Brien, Pat O Connor, Paul Flanagan, Conor Cleary (0-1), Brendan Bugler, David Fitzgerald, David Reidy, Colm Galvin (0-5), Darach Honan (0-2), Conor McGrath (1-5), Aaron Cunningham (2-3), John Conlon (1-1), Padraic Collins (0-1). Subs: Tony Kelly (0-3) for Conlon, Cathal O Connell (0-1) for Honan, Colin Ryan for Reidy, Aaron Shanagher for Cunningham, Bobby Duggan for Collins.
KILKENNY: Eoin Murphy, Jackie Tyrell, Joey Holden, Shane Prendergast, Padraig Walsh (0-2), Kieran Joyce, Conor O Shea, Cillian Buckley (0-1), Lester Ryan, Walsh Walsh (0-2), TJ Reid (1-7), Kevin Kelly (0-2), John Power (0-1), JonJo Farrell (1-1), Richie Hogan (0-1). Subs: Brian Kennedy for Tyrell, Liam Blanchfield for O Shea, Conor Bolger (0-2) for Kelly
Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary).