From the moment full-forward Cathal O’Connor kicked Clare into the lead with the opening goal in the first minute, there was never a doubt about the outcome of the National Football League Division 4 round two tie.
Played in difficult, windy conditions at Hennessy Park in Miltown on Saturday, Clare were always in control but despite the ease of their victory, there will be some concern in the Clare camp, not least because they recorded a total of 16 wides and conceded their first goal in competitive fare this season.
Clare showed five changes in personnel and a number of positional switches from the side that lost by a point to Leitrim in Carrick-on-Shannon six days earlier.
Gordon Kelly and David Tubridy were ruled out due to suspension while injury ruled out Barry Duggan, Diarmuid Daly and Rory Donnelly. Cooraclare man Donnelly failed a late fitness test and was replaced by Enda Lyons, while the others who came into the starting line-up for the tie were Shane McNeilis, Kevin Hartnett, Michael Foran and Shane Brennan.
Cathal O’Connor moved from midfield to full-forward in a direct switch with Timmy Ryan. While the switch worked on this occasion with O’Connor contributing 2-2 from play and Ryan dominating the midfield exchanges in the second half, it will be interesting to see how it works against stiffer opposition.
A goal to the good after just a minute, Clare found it difficult to find the target for the remainder of the quarter and managed just three points, one coming from wing-back John Hayes until O’Connor struck for his and Clare’s second goal in the 19th minute.
In that time, Clare had hit four wides, two from frees.
Twenty minutes into the game the home side lost corner-back Niall White with a hamstring injury and he was replaced by Éire Óg’s Michael O’Regan. It was 2-6 to 0-0 after 26 minutes and a further four minutes went by before Kilkenny had their first and only wide of the day. Full-forward Graham Lawlor kicked their only point from a free off the hands a minute later but Clare finished the half strongly and a Shane Brennan goal after he took a pass from Alan Clohessy left the half-time score at 3-6 to 0-1.
Clare replaced half-forwards Niall Browne and Michael Foran for the second half, bringing in Adrian Cahill and David O’Brien while Kilkenny brought in Michael Duggan for centre-back Michael Malone.
John Hayes extended Clare’s lead after just 12 seconds but then the home side were rocked when Kilkenny goaled. Michael O’Regan failed to hold a delivery from Graham Lawlor and Duggan first-timed the ball to the top corner of the net from the edge of the square.
From here on, there was only one team in the contest. Timmy Ryan dominated at midfield and following a move involving Adrian Cahill and O’Regan, Alan Clohessy had Clare’s fourth goal 12 minutes into the half.
Impressive Kilkenny goalkeeper JJ O’Sullivan made a good stop from David O’Brien before points from Clohessy (free) O’Brien and Cathal O’Connor left the winners 4-11 to 1-1 ahead at the three-quarter stage.
Two Clohessy frees and another from O’Brien extended Clare’s lead further before Shane Brennan got in for his second and Clare’s fifth goal with eight minutes still to play.
Clare really didn’t learn much for this outing but, in running up an impressive tally, they did their score difference a power of good. Martin McMahon, John Hayes, Timmy Ryan, in the second half and Cathal O’Connor impressed on a day when Kilkenny’s best were goalkeeper JJ O’Sullivan, Emmet Vereker, Graham Lawlor and Thomas Kehoe.
Clare: Joe Hayes; Niall White, Lawrence Healy, Martin McMahon; Kevin Hartnett, Shane McNeilis, John Hayes; Gary Brennan, Timmy Ryan; Niall Browne, Michael Foran, Shane Brennan; Enda Lyons, Cathal O’Connor, Alan Clohessy.
Subs: Michael O’Regan for White (inj 20 minutes); Adrian Cahill for Browne (half-time); David O’Brien for Foran (half-time); David O’Connor for Lyons 56 minutes); Conor Ryan for Clohessy (64 minutes).
Scorers: Cathal O’Connor (2-2); Alan Clohessy (1-7, 0-6f); Shane Brennan (2-0); David O’Brien (0-3); John Hayes (0-2); Gary Brennan, Enda Lyons (free). Michael O’Regan (0-1) each.
Frees: 25; Wides: 16; 45s: 2
Bookings: Timmy Ryan (64 minutes)
Kilkenny: JJ O’Sullivan; Declan Grennan, Richard O’Hara, John Sheehan; James Mackey, Michael Malone, John Cullinane; Emmet Vereker, Ciaran Foran; Thomas Kehoe, David Garvey, Paddy Raftice; David Prendergast, Graham Lawlor, Sean Mooney.
Subs: Michael Duggan for Malone (half-time); James Culleton for Lawlor (45 minutes); Tommy Maher for Garvey 60 minutes);
Scorers: Michael Duggan (1-0); Graham Lawlor (0-1 f).
Frees: 22; Wides: 1.
Bookings: Michael Malone
(25 minutes); Declan Grennan
Referee: Ger Lynch, Kerry.