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U-21s prove their mettle in nail-biting affair

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SATURDAY’S victory over Galway in the All-Ireland U-21 hurling championship semi-final at Semple Stadium in Thurles showed the quality of the team.

That’s the view of team coach Cyril Lyons. Standing in the middle of the famed Tipperary venue where he had lined out on many occasions with the Banner county in the ’80s and ’90s, the Ruan man’s immediate reaction after the game was, “What a match, my goodness, what a match.”

Clare's John Conlon runs into the challenge of Galway's Martin Dolphin, Photograph by Declan Monaghan.

“They threatened goals so many times. They played the long ball into Joe Canning. We could have nailed them in the first 20 minutes. We got clear-cut chances and things just didn’t come off but our lads dug deep. Today showed the quality of the team,” according to the Ruan school principal.

“Every time we went ahead, they nailed us but we kept going. It was a great test of character. It was a great match played in great spirit; fantastic hurling. You have to give credit to Galway as it was their first match,” said Lyons, as fans rushed to extend their congratulations.
Lyons was full of praise for the Galway captain Joe Canning.

“Look at the scores he got from every angle, play, frees and line balls. We looked to have the beating of their full-back line, if we got enough ball to our inside line. We did it at certain stages but just didn’t put it home,” he said.

“Look, it’s a great result for our lads, a fantastic preparation for an All-Ireland final. It will take a long time to recover from today and get ready again. Today was a test and our lads stuck to it and were fantastic,” concluded a clearly happy team coach.

Team captain Ciarán O’Doherty was all smiles as he made his way to the dressing room after Saturday’s thriller.

“It’s unbelievable and it’s great to have the same supporters here again that were in Dungarvan,” said the Crusheen clubman as he paid tribute to the supporters who travelled to Semple Stadium.

“It’s a great day for Clare hurling and hopefully this will help lift the standard at club level in the county. We are all looking forward to the All-Ireland final in a few weeks time. This is an unbelievable group of players who never give up and that was evident today,” according to the corner-back, who put in some score-saving tackles in the closing stages of the game.

“Look it’s our job in defence to make the blocks and Honan and the lads can get the goals,” he said with a broad smile.

“There was some serious hurling played today and everyone was out on their feet at the finish. All attention now turns to the final,” he concluded.

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