National Hurling League
Division 1 Group B Round 5
Clare v Kilkenny at
Cusack Park Ennis,
(Johnny Murphy, Limerick)
Put simply, Clare will relish having a real cut at Leinster champions Kilkenny in Cusack Park this Saturday.
It’s not solely because it’s the perfect gauge of their development so far either as the Banner also hold an enviable record against Brian Cody’s side that no other county can currently match.
Clare are unbeaten in five matches against Kilkenny in as many seasons, starting with that rousing nine point Division 1 Semi-Final victory in 2016 on their way to bridging a 38 year gap to the county’s last National League crown.
A sixth positive result would provide the perfect lead-in to the start of the Munster Championship against Waterford a fortnight later in terms of belief and confidence, something that Kilkenny currently possess in abundance having powered to four straight victories thus far.
The thing is that Clare have been warming up nicely too, with Saturday’s five point away victory over Dublin teeing them up for a juicy final round showdown according to man-of-the-match Tony Kelly.
“We’re in a league this year that’s a ramp up to championship and look, some things went well, there will be other things next week that we’ll have to work on and different personnel changes as well but that’s all part of the league this year.
“This is a pleasing win and a pleasing display too especially in the second half. And we’ve another good test again against Kilkenny just to see where we are as well.”
Brushing off his own remarkable 20 point contribution, having missed the last game and a half through a dead leg, Kelly feels that the side are improving with every passing match.
“I thought the work-rate was the most pleasing thing especially there in the second half. I thought our middle third were excellent in turning ball over and just working hard and look, that’s the foundation for every team across the country.
“There’s no science to it, working hard and honesty is the number one thing and the skills come after that.
“And we did that tonight. We felt we were also good enough to get the result against Wexford and it was disappointing to let it slip with maybe ten or 12 minutes to go so we’re happy to have dug in and come out with the result this evening.”
A result that ensured back-to-back wins and nearing a championship pace as they prepare for Kilkenny and then Waterford in a decisive remainder of June.
“There was a marked difference in intensity there. Especially in Parnell Park, it’s the perfect test because the field is a bit tighter than a Thurles, Limerick or Cusack Park.
“And that’s ideal because you really get that championship feel to it.
“It was a step up in competition today and we’ve another step up again on Saturday against Kilkenny which is mighty for us going into the Munster Championship.”