Páraic O’Loughlin tries to block Peter Hogan.

For all the major strides made by Clonlara in 2023, overcoming Ballygunner is still a few rungs up the hurling ladder as the perennial Waterford champions carved out their own piece of history by becoming the first club to garner a three-in-a-row of Munster Senior Club Hurling Championship crowns.

Ballygunner 2-24
Clonlara 0-17
Venue: FBD Semple Stadium, Thurles

Playing with the pace, power, movement and understanding of an inter-county team, it was an-other exceptional performance worthy of such an unprecedented feat and witnessed by only 2,981 hardy souls in the arctic-like temperatures.

Clonlara simply didn’t get time to breath as the Gunners clearly had their homework done on the Clare champions puck-out while every error, no matter how minute was severely punished by a near unerring Ballygunner.

Requiring a near perfect display just to remain in contention, it was a frustratingly sobering even-ing in Thurles, only solaced by a never-say-die hour from Paraic O’Loughlin and a three point haul for Leaving Cert student Diarmuid Stritch.

On the flip side, Peter Hogan and Kevin Mahoney were exceptional for Ballygunner, Pauric Ma-hony expertly punished from placed balls and play while Dessie Hutchinson popped up with the goal that ultimately mattered at the end of the opening quarter.

Indeed, having gotten off to the perfect start with a John Conlon point from the throw-in following by a Micheál O’Loughlin free, reality soon hit home for Clonlara when Ballygunner rattled off the next four points through Pauric Mahony (2), Peter Hogan and Kevin Mahony.

More than that though, there were clear warning signs that there was far too much space in their previously miserly rearguard as Ballygunner twice carved open Clonlara’s defence, only for Des-sie Hutchinson to be fouled on his way to goal while Kevin Mahony’s shot was tipped away for a ’65 by Logan Ryan.

The goal finally arrived in the 14th minute when Patrick Fitzgerald intercepted a Clonlara lineball and delivered towards the square where Hutchinson caught and fired to the net to put daylight between the sides at 1-5 to 0-3.

Four minutes later, it seemed curtains for Clonlara when Hutchinson turned provider for Mikey Mahony to set up brother Kevin to power the holders to a 2-7 to 0-4 cushion.

Clonlara did steady the ship and matched their opponents for the remainder of the half, with Micheál O’Loughlin (3), Diarmuid Stritch and Ian Galvin equalling the triumvirate of Pauric Mahony (3), Kevin Mahoney and Peter Hogan at 2-12 to 0-9 by the break.

John Conlon tried to inspire his side on the restart but the Clare champions would be powerless to prevent a rampant Ballygunner from stretching the gap to 15 by the turn of the final quarter as four additional Pauric Mahony placed balls were bolstered by five other point scorers at 2-21 to 0-12.

Far from dropping their heads, a battling Clonlara did create two glorious goal opportunities but crucially failed to take either of them as Ian Galvin cut in from the left only for his shot to be excel-lently tipped away by Stephen O’Keeffe while entering the final ten minutes substitute Cian Mori-arty played in Paraic O’Loughlin but he failed to properly gather possession and the chance was gone.

Clonlara did outscore their opponents by 0-5 to 0-3 in the final quarter which typifies their endur-ing spirit but in terms of the silverware, Ballygunner remain the undisputed Kings of Munster.

Scorers for Ballygunner: Pauric Mahony 0-10 (5f, 2’65); Kevin Mahoney 1-4; Peter Hogan 0-4; Dessie Hutchinson 1-1; Patrick Fitzgerald 0-2; Mikey Mahony, Conor Sheahan, Harry Ruddle 0-1 each

Scorers for Clonlara: Micheál O’Loughlin 0-6 (4f, 1’65); Diarmuid Stritch 0-3; John Conlon, Paraic O’Loughlin 0-2 each; Ian Galvin, Aidan Moriarty, Dylan McMahon, Micheál Stritch 0-1 each

Ballygunner
1: Stephen O’Keeffe

2: Ian Kenny
3: Barry Coughlan
4: Tadhg Foley

5: Shane O’Sullivan
6: Philip Mahony
17: Ronan Power

8: Conor Sheahan
9: Paddy Leavey

12: Peter Hogan
11: Pauric Mahony
15: Mikey Mahony

13: Patrick Fitzgerald
10: Dessie Hutchinson
14: Kevin Mahoney

Subs
7: Harry Ruddle for Power (49)
18: Billy O’Keeffe for Sheahan (54)
21: Cormac Power for K. Mahony (54)
19: Sean Harney for Foley (57)
22: Gavin Corbett for Pauric Mahony (57)

Clonlara
1: Seimi Gully

4: Logan Ryan
3: Ger Powell
2: Michael Clancy

7: Paraic O’Loughlin
6: Dylan McMahon
5: David Fitzgerald

8: Aidan Moriarty
9: Jathan McMahon

11: John Conlon
12: Colm Galvin
10: Colm O’Meara

13: Diarmuid Stritch
14: Ian Galvin
15: Micheál O’Loughlin

Subs
17: Cian Moriarty for C. Galvin (37)
20: Micheál Stritch for O’Meara (47)
21: Daniel Moloney for M. O’Loughlin (47)
19: Bryan McLeish for J. McMahon (53)
18: James McCormick for Ryan (57)

Referee: Ciaran O’Regan (Cork)

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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