*Cathal O’Connor wins the ball in the air for Ballyea. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

Holders Ballyea flexed their muscles to progress to a third successive Clare SHC semi-final in on Sunday afternoon.

Ballyea 2-21
Clooney/Quin 0-18
Venue: Cusack Park, Ennis

Early goals in each half through Cathal O’Connor and Tony Kelly laid the foundations for victory that was only fully fleshed out in an inevitable final quarter in which they finished off Clooney-Quin with six of the last eight points.

Off the back of a disappointing group decider reverse to Cratloe a month earlier, their first championship defeat in almost two years, Ballyea emerge with renewed impetus and were immediately stung to life with a back-to-front move involving Cillian Brennan, Pearse Lillis and Niall Deasy who pick out Cathal O’Connor to fire to net for a six minute boost at 1-2 to 0-2.

Clooney/Quin remained defiant, predominantly through Peter Duggan’s frees, nine alone in the opening period, the last two of which regained parity for the first time since the fifth minute just in time for the break at 1-8 to 0-11.

Any hopes of the underdogs snatching the whip hand were quenched when only 90 seconds into the new half, Tony Kelly earned and emphatically converted a penalty to the right corner.

With that, the champions only grew in confidence whereas Clooney/Quin gathered retreated into their shells in what was a lacklustre second half display.

Instead, Pearse Lillis (2), Tony Kelly and Mossy Gavin picked off points to carve out a seven point cushion for the champions by the turn of the final quarter. There was a mini revival as a Peter Duggan free was stopped only for the 2018 All Star to hit the next three points by the 49th minute at 2-14 to 0-16.

However, it was only a temporary reprieve as Duggan received little assistance up front in contrast to frescoing duo Niall Deasy (3) and Tony Kelly (3) who shared the last six points to run out convincing nine point victors.

Scorers for Ballyea: Tony Kelly (1-7, 1-0 Pen, 2f); Niall Deasy (0-7, 4f, 1sl); Cathal O’Connor (1-0); Aaron Griffin, Pearse Lillis, Mossy Gavin (0-2 each); Cillian Brennan (0-1)

Scorers for Clooney/Quin: Peter Duggan (0-14, 11f, 1’65); Ulick O’Sullivan (0-2); Callum Hassett, Dylan Cunningham (0-1 each)

1: Barry Coote

18: Cillian Brennan
3: Peter Casey
4: Paul Flanagan

5: Gearoid O’Connell
6: Jack Browne
7: James Murphy

9: Stan Lineen
12: Morgan Garry

10: Cathal O’Connor
11: Pearse Lillis
14: Niall Deasy

13: Mossy Gavin
8: Tony Kelly
15: Aaron Griffin

19: Martin O’Leary for O’Connor (46)
2: Brian Casey for O’Connell (52)
17: Brian Murphy for Brennan (61)

1: Keith Hogan

2: Evan Maxted
3: Shane McNamara
4: Mike McNamara

7: Conor Grogan
6: John Conneally
5: Daragh Keogh

8: Ryan Taylor
9: Donagh O’Sullivan

11: Peter Duggan
14: Ulick O’Sullivan
10: Eoghan O’Brien

12: Callum Hassett
13: Ronan O’Donnell
15: Shane Harrison

20: Jimmy Corry for Harrison (19)
18: Dylan Cunningham for O’Donnell (38)
19: Luke Harrison for Hassett (55)

Referee: Rory McGann (Newmarket-on-Fergus)

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