*GAA President Jarlath Burns with Clare captain Conor Cleary. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

NATIONAL HURLING league glory has been achieved by Clare for the fifth time after they overcome Kilkenny on Saturday evening.

Clare 3-16
Kilkenny 1-20
Venue: FBD Semple Stadium

Inagh/Kilnamona duo Aidan McCarthy and David Fitzgerald struck for the all-important goals as Clare claimed the Allianz NHL title for the first time since 2016, a result that sees Brian Lohan win his first piece of silverware since becoming Banner boss in October 2019.

Without doubt Clare were the better team over the course of the game but they were made sweat for the win after a late Eoin Cody goal on sixty minutes put matters on tenterhooks and the Ballyhale Shamrocks man was denied a second green flag when Eibhear Quilligan saved his penalty three minutes later. The loss of TJ Reid was certainly felt for the Cats in this regard.

Quilligan’s Feakle clubmate Adam Hogan was outstanding at corner back for the winners, earning up to four frees in the contest after bursting out from defence after getting to the sliotar ahead of his marker.

Finishing the league with the title under their belts is ideal preparation for Clare ahead of the eagerly awaited first round of the Munster championship in two weeks against Limerick with the manager of the All-Ireland winners John Kiely among those in Thurles on Saturday.

Making things even better for Clare was the return of both Shane O’Donnell making his first appearance of the year when introduced at half-time and the addition of David McInerney as the contest progressed.

Wides and unforced errors dominated the opening half but Clare fared the better, they nudged ahead for the first time on fourteen minutes. The lead swung back with Kilkenny when they hit a rally of four points on the trot but McCarthy stepped up with a vital goal to swing the tie back in Clare’s favour.

His green flag on thirty one minutes arose when Mark Rodgers snatched back possession to set him on his way with the Inagh/Kilnamona man delivering a bullet to the roof of the net. He saw out the half with 1-2 on the trot to see Clare lead 1-8 0-9 by the half-time whistle.

As spectators were still making their way back to their seats, David Fitzgerald had the ball in the back of Eoin Murphy’s net to really put the momentum on Clare’s side.

It was an Inamona combo for the third goal with David Fitzgerald winning possession from a puckout and giving an offload to McCarthy who finished sublimely to give Clare a seven point lead with fifty three minutes.

Matters on the hurling field are never easy with Kilkenny and so it proved, Clare didn’t close out the game but Derek Lyng’s side were not going to roll over. The Cats cancelled out McCarthy’s second major with three points in succession before Clare hit back via McCarthy and Mark Rodgers.

Eoin Cody goaled to ensure a nervy finish and the penalty he was awarded but didn’t convert resulted in Mark Rodgers picking up a black card and forcing Clare to play the remaining two minutes of normal time and five minutes of additional time with fourteen men.

Two McCarthy frees were sufficient even though Kilkenny tapped over further points via Cian Kenny, Martin Keoghan and Cody.

For Brian Lohan’s Clare, Adam Hogan and Aidan McCarthy played starring roles with strong contributions from Diarmuid Ryan and Cathal Malone. All roads now lead to Cusack Park on April 21st but Clare move in that direction with an extra pep in their step.

Scorers for Clare: A. McCarthy (2-10, 0-9 frees); D. Fitzgerald (1-0); M Rodgers (0-2); D. Lohan, D. Ryan, I. Galvin, C. Malone (0-1 each).

Scorers for Kilkenny: E. Cody (1-4, 0-3 frees); M. Keoghan (0-4); A. Mullen (0-3); C. Kenny (0-2); B. Drennan (free), S. Murphy, B. Ryan, L. Blanchfield, R. Reid, J. Molloy, J. Donnelly (0-1 each).

Clare:
1: Eibhear Quilligan (Feakle)

4: Conor Leen (Corofin)
3: Conor Cleary (St Joseph’s Miltown)
2: Adam Hogan (Feakle)

5: Diarmuid Ryan (Cratloe)
6: John Conlon (Clonlara)
7: Cian Galvin (Clarecastle)

10: Cathal Malone (Sixmilebridge)
9: Darragh Lohan (Wolfe Tones)

8: David Fitzgerald (Inagh/Kilnamona)
15: David Reidy (Éire Óg)
12: Peter Duggan (Clooney/Quin)

11: Mark Rodgers (Scariff)
15: Aidan McCarthy (Inagh/Kilnamona)
14: Ian Galvin (Clonlara)

Subs:
22: Shane O’Donnell (Éire Óg) for I Galvin (HT)
23: Aron Shanagher (Wolfe Tones) for Reidy (52)
20: David McInerney (Tulla) for C Galvin (57)

Kilkenny:
1: Eoin Murphy (Glenmore)

4: Tommy Walsh (Tullaroan)
3: Huw Lawlor (O’Loughlin Gaels)
2: Shane Murphy (Glenmore)

5: David Blanchfield (Bennettsbridge)
6: Paddy Deegan (O’Loughlin Gaels)
7: Richie Reid (Shamrocks)

8: Cian Kenny (James Stephens)
9: Jordan Molloy (O’Loughlin Gaels)

10: Adrian Mullen (Shamrocks)
11: John Donnelly (Thomastown
12: Billy Ryan (Graigue Ballycallan);

15: Eoin Cody (Shamrocks)
14: Billy Drennan (Galmoy
13: Luke Hogan (O’Loughlin Gaels),

Subs:
25: Martin Keoghan (Tullaroan) for Hogan (29)
22: Timmy Clifford (Dicksboro) for Drennan (44)
21: Kevin Blanchfield (Bennettsbridge) for Molloy (49)
26: Liam Blanchfield (Bennettsbridge) for Ryan (59)

Referee: Johnny Murphy (Limerick)

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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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