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Paul Rodgers and Harry Doherty of Clare stop David Ryan of Tipperary from clearing the ball during the 2024 Munster Minor Hurling Final. Photograph by Natasha Barton

Historic back-to-back finals the juciest of carrots for Clare

All-Ireland Minor Hurling Championship Semi-Final
Kilkenny v Clare at FBD Semple Stadium Thurles, Sunday 1pm (Colum Cunning, Antrim)

It’s not the first clash of Clare and Kilkenny’s minor sides this year but Brian O’Connell’s side will be hoping to get the same impact as their initial meeting and advance to back-to-back All-Ireland Minor Hurling Finals for the first time in the county’s history.
As noted before the Munster decider a month ago, Clare’s pre-championship warm-ups against Leinster duo Galway and Kilkenny provided the confidence and belief for a relatively rookie squad to hit the ground running in Munster, a momentum-fuelled run that saw them overcome all four rivals before being overtaken coming down the final straight against Tipperary in the final.
Standing up to the roll of honour leaders Kilkenny and defending provincial champions Galway was an acid test but Clare’s litmus paper will be required once more on Sunday if they are to double the dose on the newly crowned Leinster winners.
Remarkably Kilkenny have not won an All-Ireland minor title in a decade and haven’t even contested a final since 2020 so there will be pressure on the Cats to get over the line. Clare should not lack for motivation either though as having been uncharacteristically subdued in the Munster decider, they will be thankful for receiving another opportunity to create their own piece of history and perhaps get another crack at Tipperary.
Kilkenny are not infallible either though as already beaten by Dublin and Wexford at the group stages, they managed to regroup and find their feet in spectacular style for the business end, chalking up nine goals in three matches against Kildare, Galway and Dublin to wrestle back the Leinster cup.
Three weeks on from that success, Niall Bergin’s side resume with clear wind in their sails, with Jake Mullen, younger brother of Kilkenny senior Adrian, shooting the lights out so far with 4-39 while the Banner must also be wary of centre-forward Bill McDermott (2-9) and half-backs Jack Dollard and David Barcoe.
Therefore, it’s all about what Clare can bring as having had a crucial return to form against Wexford in Semple Stadium a fortnight ago, their muscle memory of Thurles alone should be another boost ahead of this winner-takes-all tie.
What has brought Clare to this lofty stage has been their collective solidity and ability to work tirelessly for one another. Sunday will arguably take their best performance of the year to win but with an All-Ireland final the juiciest of carrots, effort or application definitely won’t be an issue, it’s more about fulfilling their potential and snatching this unique opportunity with both hands.

Clare Minor Hurling Panel: Marc O’Brien (Cratloe) (Captain); Darragh Ball (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield), Graham Ball (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield), Eanna Collins (Cratloe), Matthew Corbett (Clooney-Quin), Evan Crimmins (Newmarket-on-Fergus), Matthew Crotty (Scariff), James Cullinan (Ruan), Darragh Dillon (Clonlara), Harry Doherty (Clarecastle), Patrick Finneran (Clooney-Quin), Eoin Fitzpatrick (Banner), Conor Geraghty (Smith O’Brien’s), Jake Gibbons (Whitegate), Ryan Hayes (Tulla), Dara Kennedy (Ballyea), Sean Óg Kilkenny (Bodyke), Tadhg Lohan (Cratloe), Jack Lovett (Broadford), Roan McDermott (Éire Óg), Cillian McGrath (Clonlara), Luke McGuane (Inagh-Kilnamona), Darragh McNamara (Clooney-Quin), Sean McNamara (Clooney-Quin), Aaron Moloney (Killanena), Darren Moroney (Éire Óg), Rian Mulcahy (Éire Óg), Mark Mullins (Sixmilebridge), Liam Murphy (O’Callaghan’s Mills), Cian O’Callaghan (Ballyea), Jerry O’Connor (Clooney-Quin),
Jack O’Halloran (Sixmilebridge), Conor Ralph (Clarecastle), Paul Rodgers (Scariff), Michael Vaughan (Broadford)

Clare Minor Management: Brian O’Connell (Manager); Damian O’Halloran, Donal Moloney, Fintan Leamy, Ger Hickey, Tom Barry, Denise Lynch (Coaches/Selectors); Hugh O’Neill (S&C)

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