By Owen Ryan
Clare League 3 Kerry League 0
CLARE stormed into the Oscar Traynor final as a sensational second half hat trick from man of the match Eoin Hayes gave them victory in Tralee on Sunday.
The class of Hayes made the difference, while the 0-3 scoreline was a little harsh on the home side, who were a match for the visitors for much of the game. Two of the goals came in the last ten minutes, as Kerry piled into attack, chasing an equaliser. Those goals also came after they had lost their best defender, who was withdrawn after showing signs of cramp.
In the first half the contest was very even and at the break it was clear that the first goal could be decisive.
That proved to be the case and once Clare took the lead with half an hour left, Kerry started pushing quite high up the pitch. Consequently they were left vulnerable to the type of counter attack that led to the second goal seven minutes from time, while the third, in the closing seconds, just put some gloss on the scoreline.
While Clare deserved the win, Kerry must have been left wondering what might have been had Gary Keane found the net on 58 minutes, instead of smashing a shot from close range off the crossbar. At that stage Kerry had some momentum and if they had taken the lead, things could have been very different. The visitors were in the lead within three minutes of that incident, and never looked back.
Both sides were feeling each other out in the opening minutes, with Kerry having two early chances, but weak shots from Gintarus Paketarus and Brian Murphy meant Clare keeper John Mulready wasn’t tested.
At the other end Hayes went very close after 23 minutes. Kerry centre half Shane Guthrie was caught in possession by David McCarthy who put Hayes through on goal. His fierce shot beat the sprawling David Hennessy but struck a post and rebounded away to safety. That was a warning for the home side.
Jonathan Burrows gave a very sound performance in the Kingdom’s defence and when he went up for a corner in 29th minute he nearly got on the score sheet. His header looked to be creeping into the bottom right hand corner but John Mulready did very well to get across and keep it out.
Two minutes later a cross from Hayes was met by David McCarthy whose header struck Burrows and while the deflection took the Kerry keeper out of the equation, the ball went narrowly wide.
Kerry had another good chance in the 39th minute, Brian Murphy feeding Maurice O’Rahilly in the box, but his shot was too high.
At the break Kerry introduced Mark O’Sullivan for Danny Roche and the switch made a difference, as the home side dominated the start of the second period.
They had their first chance in the fifth minute, Peter McCarthy forcing his way in from the left and drawing a save from Mulready.
Paketarus had another chance in the 57th minute and then came Keane’s effort which he smashed against the crossbar, a chance he really should have scored from.
On the hour came the turning point. Stephen Kelly played a fantastic through ball to Hayes who was cutting in from the right. He did very well to bring the ball under control, take it forward and then fire an excellent shot beyond the despairing David Hennessy. The goal had come against the run of play and it put Clare in the driving seat.
Kerry had to try and force an equaliser but the Clare centre backs, Eoin O’Brien and particularly Darren Murphy, were in good form in the second period, and the home side didn’t have that many chances. Their best one came in the 64th minute when Paketarus found himself poised to score but could muster no real power in his shot.
Clare’s lead was nearly doubled in the 81st minute, when Hayes turned provider and put sub Stephen Hickey through. However his effort struck a post and Hayes was off target from the rebound. By now Hayes was frightening the life out of the Kerry rearguard, which was now minus the excellent Burrows, and two minutes later the Newmarket man would make amends for the miss.
Kerry were pushing up on Clare and when a long punt forward found Hayes there wasn’t the requisite cover at the back. Hayes again showed some decent skill before applying an excellent finish and with seven minutes left to play, it was as good as over.
Deep in injury time a through ball from sub Ronan McCormack found Hayes who showed a cool head to take the ball around David Hennessy and he walked the ball into the net.
Clare deserved the win, being quite comfortable once they took the lead. The outstanding Hayes made the difference for them, while Kerry were left to rue wasted chances.
Clare: John Mulready, Matty Nugent, Darren Cullinan, Darren Murphy, Eoin O’Brien, Alan Kelly, Colin Smith, Stephen Kelly, Eoin Hayes, David McCarthy, Alan Brigdale.
Subs: Stephen Hickey for McCarthy 54 mins, Ronan McCormack for Brigdale 85 mins, Darryl Eade for Smith 90 mins.
Kerry: David Hennessy, Maurice O’Rahilly, John McDonagh, Jonathan Burrows, Shane Guthrie, James Sugrue, Danny Roche, Gary Keane, Gintarus Paketarus, Peter McCarthy, Brian Murphy.
Subs: Mark O’Sullivan for Roche HT, Jonathan Hamilton for Daketorus 66 mins, Con Barrett for Burrows 79 mins.