Category: Archive

Cats shred Clare in hurling final

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The shooting was of such a relentless quality that the Clare defense couldn’t have been faulted. Henry Shefflin and the greatest artist of his generation, D.J. Carey, led the way with a combined total of 2-13, which equaled the losers’ collective effort. The Clare goalkeeper, Davy Fitzgerald, admitted later that almost every time he looked up, the ball was flying between the posts. “It was breaking my heart,” he said.

But it wasn’t as if the rest of the Kilkenny players sat back and admired the pinpoint accuracy of Shefflin and Carey. The Clare forwards deservedly came in for some stick with just 0-3 from play. However, they were stifled by some magnificent defending by Philly Larkin, Michael Kavanagh and Noel Hickey. Farther up the field, Andy Comerford and Derek Lyng ran the show at midfield despite the best efforts of Colin Lynch, and then to cap Kilkenny’s day of celebration, Charlie Carter and Brian McEvoy — pretty good subs — both came off the bench in the closing stages to fire over spectacular scores.

In the quarterfinal and semifinal, Clare had given Galway and Waterford leads and then reeled them in with performances of sheer determination. Their experienced wing-forward Jamesie O’Connor had predicted that a similar allowance for Kilkenny would end in disaster, and so it transpired. The winners were 1-2 in front after just seven minutes, and from that moment on the nearest Clare came was three points early in the second half. Sensing that their opponents were gaining in confidence, Kilkenny typically then hit three scores in a row through Shefflin (2) and Carey to widen the gap once again.

If Clare’s game of catch-up was played out with a never-say-die spirit epitomized by Brian Lohan, Seanie McMahon and Lynch, for the most part they were outhurled. With their attack superbly snuffed out, McMahon, who hit six points from placed balls, and O’Connor, who clipped over four frees, provided the majority of the scores. And crucially, while Carey and Shefflin both finished with opportunist goals, Clare rarely threatened the Kilkenny net.

Badly caught by Galway in last season’s semifinal, it was if Kilkenny had vowed to come back this summer with an added drive to set the record straight. Now, they’ve finished up with the National League title to add to this triumphant All-Ireland, and if anyone from outside the county was hoping that the supply line was drying up, the minors also won the title last Sunday.

While the skill and swagger of the Kilkenny players were the predominant memory of a game watched by 76,000 spectators, it was obvious that manager Brian Cody has instilled an impressive work ethic in his players. None of the Claremen had any time to dwell on the ball, and if the winners’ forwards weren’t keeping the scoreboard ticking over, they were slowing the deliveries coming out of the Clare defense.

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The expectation was that Kilkenny would have difficulties going through the center of the Clare rearguard, where Brian Lohan and McMahon have been enduring sentinels since 1995, but right from the off, Shefflin charged past McMahon andclipped the ball across the face of the goal, where Carey batted it sumptuously home for the the game’s first goal.

Kilkenny never looked back, and Carey, playing in only his second competitive game of the year, warmed to his task. Encouraged to come out of retirement by Cody, Carey delivered yet again on the biggest stage with a display of breathtaking skill. John Power, who came on as a sub late in the contest, best summed up Carey’s influence. “You know, the biggest thrill of all my career was to play with D.J. there,” he said. “People kind of doubted him a year or two ago, so it was powerful to see him putting in a performance like that. We’ll never see the like of him again for composure and eye, as well as the respect he has for the other players.”

Watching the Leinster final from the stands earlier in the summer, Carey knew he had some more left in the tank. “I was very passionate when I was watching,” he said. “At this stage, I have the heart to go on some more. It’s all about the legs next year, though.”

On Sunday, he added three frees to the early goal, and three points from play, one of which in the second half was a stunning effort as he shimmied away from Ollie Baker, controlled the ball on his stick, and unerringly found the target from out near the sideline.

If Carey had the purists in raptures, Shefflin was Kilkenny’s driving force. Carey mused later that he wished he could play on for another 10 years just to be on the same pitch as Shefflin. Despite the attentions of McMahon at center-back, he scored and provided almost at will, and with Kilkenny in front by 1-18 to 0-15, he sealed his team’s victory with a goal in 6 minutes from the end.

The impressive newcomer Martin Comerford blocked down an attempted clearance by Brian Lohan, stroked the ball across in front of the Kilkenny square, and Shefflin was on hand to get the vital touch ahead of Gerry Quinn.

Quinn had surprised most commentators by starting the game despite suffering a serious hand injury in the semifinal, and while he gave it his best shot, it was never going to be Clare’s day once Kilkenny got their noses in front. “I don’t know if we’re 7 points the lesser team,” said the losing manager, Cyril Lyons. “They were always ahead by 5 or 6, and when the score is that way, you can try things and they come off.”

Clare trailed by 6 at the interval and managed to cut the gap to 3 for a couple of minutes only for Kilkenny to pull away yet again. A comprehensive victory then; a final decorated by the brilliance of Carey and of Shefflin, but a final that will endure most of all for Kilkenny’s superb team effort.

Kilkenny: J. McGarry; M. Kavanagh, N. Hickey, P. Larkin; R. Mullally, P. Barry, J.J. Delaney; A. Comerford (0-1), D. Lyng (0-1); J. Hoyne, H. Shefflin (1-7, 4 frees), J. Coogan (0-1); E. Brennan (0-1), M. Comerford (0-1), D.J. Carey (1-6, 3 frees). Subs: C. Carter (0-1) for Coogan, 53 mins.; B. McEvoy (0-1) for Hoyne, 56 mins.; J. Power for Brennan, 71 mins.

Clare: D. Fitzgerald; B. Quinn, B. Lohan, F. Lohan; D. Hoey, S. McMahon (0-6, 3 65s, 2 frees), G. Quinn; J. Reddan, C. Lynch (0-2); J. O’Connor (0-4, 4 frees), T. Griffin (0-1), A. Markham; T. Carmody, N. Gilligan (0-2), D. Forde. Subs: O. Baker (0-1) for Reddan, 20 mins.; G. Considine (0-2) for Forde, 56 mins.; A. Quinn (0-1) for Markham, 61 mins.; C. Plunkett for Baker, 69 mins.

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