By Seamus Hayes
Clare 2-28 UCC 1-4
WATERFORD Crystal senior hurling tournament title holders, Clare had an easy passage to the 2014 final when they played UCC at O’Garney Park in Sixmilebridge on Sunday.
With the 2013 All-Ireland senior hurling championship top scorer, Colin Ryan, contributing 1-12 the Banner side easily booked a place in the final where they will play either Tipperary or University of Limerick. This semi-final, scheduled for Nenagh, was postponed due to the inclement weather conditions.
The Newmarket-on-Fergus man was in sparkling form, as Clare recorded a facile victory over UCC in a game played in difficult weather conditions.
Showing ten changes from the side which comfortably overcame Limerick in the previous week’s quarter final, the holders included nine of their All-Ireland winning line up in their starting team for Sunday’s game.
Despite playing against the wind in the first half, Clare were well on the way to the final by the end of the opening quarter by which time they were 10 points clear; with 1-7 on the board with the visitors still to register a score.
The margin at half time was seven points, 1-10 to 1-3 but it was clear at this stage that it would take a huge turnabout if the Cork college side was to get back into contention.
Whatever slim hopes UCC might have entertained of a second half comeback were well and truly buried in the early minutes of the second half.
Ten unanswered points in the opening 11 minutes of the half ended the game as a contest and from here to the final whistle the home side continued to dominate.
For the second week in a row, competition for places in the panel was evident as all 20 players that saw game time were clearly keen to impress the management team. Clare’s support play was particularly impressive.
According to Clare selector Mike Deegan, “You could see that our boys were a bit rusty and they need hurling. We would have preferred a stronger challenge but we need games for the lads”.
While he acknowledged that Clare scored a lot of points, he felt they needed to create more goal chances , “especially on days like today when you are so dominant. You see other teams scoring lots of goals and that’s something we need to work on”.
Éire Óg’s Shane O’Donnell and Sixmilebridge player Noel Purcell played for UCC in the second half.
Clare must now wait for news on when they will play the final. Originally scheduled for Sunday next, that’s unlikely to be the case following the postponement of the other semi-final between Tipperary and University of Limerick. The Limerick college, managed by former Clare full back Brian Lohan, who was an interested spectator in Sixmilebridge, will begin their challenge for Fitzgibbon Cup honours on Thursday and with another game in this competition a week later, it remains to be seen when their game with Tipperary will be scheduled for.
Clare: Patrick Kelly; Seadna Morey, David McInerney, Cian Dillon (0-1); Brendan Bugler, Pat Donnellan (0-2), Pat O’Connor; Liam Markham, Peter Duggan (0-1); John Conlon (0-3) Cathal O’Connell (0-2) Colin Ryan (1-12, 1-7 frees); David Reidy (0-1) Conor McGrath (0-2) Davy O’Halloran (1-1);
Subs: Cathal McInerney (0-2) for McGrath; Jamie Shanahan (0-1) for Duggan (both 42 minutes); Conor Cleary for O’Connor; Paul Flanagan for Morey (both 50 minutes); Nicky O’Connell for Dillon (60 \minutes);
UCC: Darren McCarthy; Stephen Maher, David Glynn, Diarmuid Lestor; James Barry (0-1, ‘65), Cormac Murphy, Shane Roche; Robert O’Shea, Daniel O’Mahony; Tomas. Butler, Mark Sugrue, Brian Harnett; Alan Cadogan, Jack Ahern (0-3, all frees), Patrick Deasy (1-0);
Subs: Noel Purcell for Barry; Shane O’Donnell for O’Shea; Mark O’Driscoll for Maher (all at half time); Alan Gould for Glynn (50 minutes) ; P.J. Hall for McCarthy(55 minutes)
Referee: Michael Wadding, Waterford