By Mike Fitzpatrick
Clare 1-14, Kilkenny 0-13
Great displays of hurling action have been no stranger to Gaelic Park this year, with exciting teams such as Waterford, Tipperary and Limerick on show. Add to these, the two sides here Sunday and you’ve got an ensemble worthy of Semple Stadium. This was a thriller. Both sides were fully aware of the importance attached to the tie, Kilkenny have not been having such a great year and Clare have battled against the odds to ensure themselves of a playoff position come the end of the playing season.
Both sides held leads at important stages of the game, with Kilkenny looking at times as if they would grab victory, only for Clare to claw back into the contest. Jamesie "Shiner" Brennan starred for Kilkenny, hitting a number of points for the Cats to give his side crucial leads, though on many occasions, these leads were foiled by the efforts of Clare’s on-form midfielder, John Kennedy.
The first half ended upon something of an even keel, with either side looking capable of snatching the all important win. Darren Doherty, Clare’s influential dangerman up front was calmed by some fine defensive work from the likes of Marky Kennedy and Niall Kirwan, at one stage surviving an accidental collision in which he had a hurley broken over his unprotected head. Doherty, though restricted to scoring less than he has done before, was still increasingly dangerous for the Banner County.
Kilkenny switched themselves around a little after Clare had taken a slight lead in the second half, bringing on the heavily experienced powerhouse forward, Michael Collins, a move which showed immediate dividends when he hit two quick points to bring the Cats right back into the game. Kilkenny piled on the pressure, with Richie Hogan coming perilously close with a goalbound effort which Aidan O’Connor did well to keep out. It was all to play for in the final five minutes with the score tied at 13 points. Darren Doherty of Clare stole in behind the Kilkenny backline to hit a late goal to give his side a three-point lead, and though Kilkenny immediately counterattacked, it looked to be the Bannermen’s day. Substitute Michael McCloskey hit the final point of the afternoon to give Clare a well fought four point victory. Kilkenny showed guts, grit and no small amount of determination in this tie, but unfortunately the Cats claws were clipped by this ambitious Clare side.
Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter
Clare: Aidan O’Connor, Tony Burns, Noel McGovern, Marty McGlade (0-1), Keith Mongovan, Brian Adams, Sean Harvey (0-1), John Kennedy (0-7), Vinnie Collins, Barney Breen, Keith Corcoran, ‘neas Dowling (0-2), Darren Doherty (0-1), Subs: Mickey McCloskey (0-2), Paul Donovan (1-0).
Kilkenny: James Joyce, Luke Doyle, Mark Kennedy, Niall Kirwan, Peter Breen, Dave Brennan, Pat Rohan, Vinny Norton, Tony Spillane, Brian Ryan (0-3), Jerome Edge, James Brennan (0-8), Richie Hogan. Subs: Michael Collins (0-2), Padraic Hannon.