National Hurling League Division 1 Group B Round 5
Clare 4-20 Kilkenny 1-25
CLARE completed their National League campaign on a high in Cusack Park this afternoon after holding off a defiant Kilkenny to secure a third successive victory, reports Eoin Brennan.
Having faded in a similar test of endurance a month previously against Wexford, this time the home side proved the stronger coming down the final straight. Having hit Kilkenny for four goals, the sides were still level by the 68th minute. However, following a monster Tony Kelly free, substitutes Gary Cooney (2) and Ryan Taylor ensured the Clare finished with the last four points to deservedly prevail over the previously unbeaten Cats.
It was an intense yet very open and compelling end-to-end wrestle for supremacy that was live on nine occasions and saw the lead change hands three times alone in the final quarter.
Injuries to defensive duo Aaron Fitzgerald and the returning David McInerney were the only downsides to an ideal championship warm-up on home soil. Captain John Conlon, excelled once more in his new role at centre-back alongside another storming display from Diarmuid Ryan who contributed three long range points.
After early goal sightings for Billy Ryan and Mark Rodgers, it was Clare who entered the first water break on the front foot after Aidan McCarthy picked out the overlapping run of Tony Kelly to emphatically finish to the top right corner of the net at 1-6 to 0-5.
It wouldn’t be long before Kelly doubled his tally as a trip on Ian Galvin earned a penalty that the 2020 All-Star duly dispatched to the same corner to soar seven points clear.
Kilkenny craved a response and it was the consistency of TJ Reid’s placed balls along with points from Adrian Mullen (2), Walter Walsh and Billy Ryan that built up a head of steam to lower the deficit to the minimum by the break at 2-09 to 0-14.
Without Walter Walsh and Adrian Mullen for the new half, instead it was Eoin Cody and Richie Reid that stood up in the scoring stakes to complete their side’s recovery and actually hold a 0-21 to 2-14 lead heading into the final quarter.
Clare thought they had done enough to cement the points when resuming with a brilliant opportunist goal from David Reidy and an equally powerful finish from Aron Shanagher within the same minute at 4-14 to 0-21.
However, Kilkenny simply refused to lie down at any stage and after hitting back with a goal of their own through substitute Martin Keoghan, a trio of TJ Reid placed balls edged the Cats in front once more by the 61st minute at 1-24 to 4-14.
The sides would regain parity twice more but in what was now a battle of the fresh legs, it was Clare that grasped the opportunity with the last four points while also seeing goalkeeper Eibhear Quilligan deny TJ Reid with a point blank stop at the death.
Clare’s unbeaten record against Kilkenny now stretches to six matches but it’s the Munster Championship tie against the Leinster champions’ neighbours Waterford that is now the main focus for Brian Lohan and Co. over the next fortnight. However, confidence shouldn’t be an issue at least after such an encouraging finish to the National League.
Clare: Eibhear Quilligan (Feakle); Aaron Fitzgerald (Éire Óg), Conor Cleary (St Joseph’s Miltown), Rory Hayes (Wolfe Tones); Diarmuid Ryan (Cratloe), John Conlon (Clonlara) (Captain), David McInerney (Tulla); Tony Kelly (Ballyea), Colm Galvin (Clonlara); Cathal Malone (Sixmilebridge), David Reidy (Éire Óg), Aidan McCarthy (Inagh-Kilnamona); Ian Galvin (Clonlara), Aron Shanagher (Wolfe Tones), Mark Rodgers (Scariff)
Subs: Paul Flanagan (Ballyea) for Fitzgerald (5, inj), David Fitzgerald (Inagh-Kilnamona) for McInerney (30, inj), Domhnall McMahon (Michael Cusack’s) for C. Galvin (49), Ryan Taylor (Clooney-Quin) for I. Galvin (50), Gary Cooney (O’Callaghan’s Mills) for Rodgers (63), Shane Golden (Sixmilebridge) for Shanagher (63)
Scorers: Tony Kelly (2-5, 1-0 Pen, 5f); David Reidy (1-2); Aron Shanagher (1-1); Diarmuid Ryan, Aidan McCarthy (0-3 each); Gary Cooney (0-2); David McInerney, Mark Rodgers, Shane Golden, Ryan Taylor (0-1 each)
Kilkenny: Eoin Murphy (Glenmore); Tommy Walsh (Tullaroan), Huw Lawlor (O’Loughlin Gaels), Paddy Deegan (O’Loughlin Gaels); Darragh Corcoran (Ballyhale Shamrocks), Padraig Walsh (Tullaroan), Conor Browne (James Stephens); Richie Reid (Ballyhale Shamrocks), Richie Leahy (Rower Inistioge); Adrian Mullen (Ballyhale Shamrocks), Walter Walsh (Tullogher Rosbercon), Billy Ryan (Graigue-Ballycallan); James Bergin (Conahy Shamrocks), TJ Reid (Ballyhale Shamrocks), Eoin Cody (Ballyhale Shamrocks)
Subs: Martin Keoghan (Tullaroan) for W. Walsh (33, BS), Michael Carey (Young Irelands) for Mullen (35, BS), Ciaran Wallace (Erin’s Own) for T. Walsh (HT), David Blanchfield (Bennettsbridge) for Leahy (HT), Niall Brassil James Stephens) for Ryan (HT), Liam Blanchfield (Bennettsbridge) for Bergin (60), Cillian Buckley (Dicksboro) for R. Reid (65)
Scorers for Kilkenny: TJ Reid (0-9, 7f, 2’65); Eoin Cody (0-4); Adrian Mullen, Richie Reid (0-3 each); Martin Keoghan (1-0); Billy Ryan (0-2); Richie Leahy, Walter Walsh, David Blanchfield, Michael Carey (0-1 each)
Referee: Johnny Murphy (Limerick)