Kilkenny 2-10 Clare 0-14
By Fintan O'Toole
Monday, September 06, 2010
IT was not as facile as their runaway last four win over Galway, but
after a white knuckle ride at Croke Park yesterday Kilkenny were crowned
All-Ireland minor hurling champions. Richie Mulrooney's charges were
made to work hard before securing yesterday's title as they atoned for
last season's final defeat. The manner in which they crushed Galway at
the semi-final stage last month left them unbackable favourites, but
Clare produced a wonderful performance that tested the Cats to the
limit. The Banner youngsters tore into the tie from the start and showed
scant regard for their opponent's reputations.
Clare settled quickly and bossed the first-half exchanges. When an
excellent point by wing-back Enda Boyce had them six clear by the half
hour mark it looked like a shock was on the cards.. But their opponents
refused to panic. They remained calm and composed, engineering a route
back into contention and seizing the openings that fell their way. A
quickfire burst of two points before the break, courtesy of John Power
from a placed ball and Michael Brennan from play, cut the gap to four
points (0-9 to 0-5) at the interval. Then came two goals which shaped
the outcome of this clash. The first arrived in the 35th minute when Ger
Aylward scooped up possession and off-loaded to corner-forward Michael
Brennan in space. The latter's finish was clinical as he shot low across
Clare goalkeeper Ronan Taaffe into the bottom corner of the net.
Seven minutes later and Kilkenny had another green flag with Brennan
once more at the heart of the move. Again it was Aylward who broke the
ball into space for Brennan to race onto and with the Clare defence in
close pursuit, Brennan intelligently opted to kick rather than strike
past Taaffe. The ball was destined for the net but its flight was
interrupted by Kilkenny substitute Paul Buggy, who got the finishing
touch before it crossed the line. It meant that the sides were level
(2-5 to 0-11) and the momentum was with the Leinster men. A lengthy
stoppage ensued after that second goal following a serious leg injury to
Clare corner-back Haulie Vaughan, but when play resumed it was obvious
Kilkenny had an extra pep in their step. They finally began to tap into
the hot streak of form that had swept them to GAA headquarters with
midfielder Kevin Kelly scything through for two points and Aylward
lashing over another.
Clare's resilience surfaced again in the finale. David O'Halloran buzzed
around the attack to claim two points, with John Power firing one in
between for Kilkenny. When substitute Aaron Cunningham knocked over a
point under pressure in the 58th minute, the margin between them was
wafer thin (2-9 to 0-14). Clare missed some chances in those final
minutes but credit also the Kilkenny defensive effort with Jason
Corcoran, Willie Phelan and Owen McGrath in sterling form. The coup de
grace was applied to the Cats victory when Brennan popped over a 64th
minute point after a searing run forward by Aylward had initiated the
That score copperfastened Kilkenny's success, but the fact they did not
depart with victory should not diminish the excellence of Clare's
performance. They played with hunger and determination, particularly in
the first-half as they obliterated Kilkenny in the aerial battles and
gobbled up multiple breaks around the middle third. Some of the game's
best performers wore saffron and blue jerseys. Paul Flanagan and Seadna
Morey were immense in the full-back line, Clare destroyed Kilkenny at
midfield courtesy of Colm Galvin and the excellent Tony Kelly, while
Paudge Collins and Jamie Shanahan were shone in the half-forward line.
A Collins point in the 9th minute tied the game at 0-2 apiece and for
the rest of the half Clare took over with O'Halloran, Daire Keane, Kelly
and Boyce all landing superb points. Clare even overcame the concession
of a contentious penalty in the 24th minute. The foul on Kevin Kelly was
soft but despite it clearly taking place outside the large
parallelogram, referee Anthony Stapleton awarded a penalty. Power was
denied a goal though by a combination of Ronan Taaffe and Paul Flanagan.
After that Clare were in buoyant mood but Kilkenny's savvy, maturity and
opportunism in front of goal just wore them down in the second-half.
Scorers for Kilkenny: M Brennan 1-2; P Buggy 1-0; O McGrath (two frees),
K Kelly, J Power (one free) 0-2 each; G Aylward, C Buckley 0-1 each.
Scorers for Clare: D O'Halloran 0-5 (three frees); T Kelly, P Collins, N
Arthur (two frees) 0-2 each; D Keane, E Boyce, A Cunningham 0-1 each.
Subs for Kilkenny: P Buggy for O'Hanrahan (37), P Holden for Walsh (39),
R Reid for Holden (56).
Subs for Clare: A Cunningham for Malone (41), A Mulready for Vaughan
(inj) (46), D McInerney for Arthur (58).
Referee: Anthony Stapleton (Laois)