*Clare centre-back, James Hegarty. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
Clare lived up to expectations when brushing aside the challenge of Kerry to set-up a Munster Minor Hurling Championship Semi-Final joust with holders Cork.
Venue: O’Garney Park, Sixmilebridge
Just as Kerry are invariably scorching hot favourites to blow away the Banner in football, Clare were in an equally no-win situation against the Kingdom newcomers in hurling, trained by Clarecastle native and 2013 All-Ireland senior winning panelist Patrick Kelly.
However, the hosts were professional throughout with a remarkable 50 shots at the posts over the hour. So while it did take them time to adjust their radar early on, once they got into their stride, Clare were comfortable all over the field. Indeed, Clare scored eight unanswered points by the end of the opening quarter to stop wind-assisted Kerry’s hopes of a bright start in its tracks.
Jack O’Neill (4) and Oisin Whelan (3) were central to that early blitz, with the latter unlucky not to add at least one goal.
The spinal attacking pair would continue their march, with O’Neill taking his impressive tally from play to six by the 22nd minute while full-forward Whelan finished the half with Clare’s last five scores including an excellent 23rd minute strike to the net at 1-16 to 0-4.
With the wind to come and the Kingdom rather subdued, despite the best efforts of main protagonists Jack Enright and Sean McElligott, Clare only picked up where they left off on the resumption with another early rally, this time putting the result beyond any shred of doubt with a 1-7 unanswered purple patch.
Clarecastle freetaker Whelan took his tally to 1-12 while Cian Neylon also got in on the scoring action when Clare’s persistence to overturn a Kerry short puck-out opened the door for the Kilmaley poacher to grab Clare’s second goal in the 35th minute.
Chief marksmen Whelan and O’Neill would be rested by the two thirds mark but Clare never relented as the impressive James Organ took up the scoring mantle with a further six points while substitutes Fred Hegarty and home favourite Fionn Hayes raided for a brace of late points each to take Clare’s scoring spread to eight different players.
Kerry goalkeeper Tomás Godley produced a brilliant point blank save to deny Hayes an injury-time goal but it mattered little as Clare’s attentions quickly turn to a last four clash with Cork in seven days time.
Having secured back-to-back victories, Brian O’Connell’s Clare have improved with every outing but face the ultimate barometer of their progress against the unbeaten Rebels in Páirc Ui Rinn next Tuesday evening.
Scorers for Clare: Oisin Whelan 1-12 (10f), Jack O’Neill 0-6, James Organ 0-7 (3f, 1’65), Cian Neylon 1-0, Fred Hegarty 0-2, Fionn Hayes 0-2, Sean McMahon 0-1, Michael Collins 0-1
Scorers for Kerry: Sean McElligott 0-5 (5f), Jack Enright 0-2
1: Mark Sheedy (Sixmilebridge)
2: Eoghan Gunning (Broadford)
3: Fionan Treacy (Éire Óg)
4: John Cahill (Clooney-Quin)
5: Sean McMahon (Smith O’Brien’s)
6: James Hegarty (Inagh-Kilnamona)
7: Fiachra Ó Braoin (Sixmilebridge)
8: Matthew O’Halloran (Sixmilebridge)
9: Diarmuid Stritch (Clonlara)
12: James Organ (Corofin)
11: Jack O’Neill (Clooney-Quin)
10: Michael Collins (Clonlara)
15: Cian Neylon (Kilmaley)
14: Oisin Whelan (Clarecastle)
13: Sam Scanlan (Clooney-Quin)
23: Fred Hegarty (Inagh-Kilnamona) for O’Neill (38)
19: Dylan Keane Hayes (Kilmaley) for Collins (41)
24: Fionn Hayes (Sixmilebridge) for Whelan (44)
18: Piaras Ó Sé (Ruan) for Stritch (50)
20: Eoin O’Regan (Éire Óg) for O’Halloran (53)
1: Tomás Godley (Kilmoyley)
2: Raymond McGrath (Ballyduff)
3: Conor Nolan (Kilmoyley)
4: Dara Nolan (Crotta O’Neillls)
5: Gary O’Riordan (St Brendan’s)
6: Luke Kennelly (Ballyduff)
7: Kian Sheehan (Abbeydorney)
8: Sean McElligott (Crotta O’Neills)
9: Luke Rochford (Ballyduff)
10: Liam Óg O’Connor (St Brendan’s)
11: Jack Enright (Ballyduff)
12: Keelan Best (St Brendan’s)
13: Killian Boyle (Ballyduff)
14: Calum O’Sullivan (Abbeydorney)
15: Brian O’Connor (Dr. Croke’s)
17: Ryan Hickey (St Brendan’s) for O’Riordan (19, inj)
19: Darragh Corridon (Kilmoyley) for O’Sullivan (41)
18: Rory Reen (Tralee Parnell’s) for Best (42)
24: Tom O’Flaherty (St Brendan’s) for Kennelly (58)
Referee: Alan Tierney (Tipperary)