*Clare’s Rory Hayes had an impressive display at corner back. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
Clare’s senior hurlers have finished their 2021 Allianz National Hurling League campaign with a hard-fought four point win over Kilkenny.
Venue: Cusack Park, Ennis
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200 supporters returned to Cusack Park for the first time year as Brian Lohan’s charges welcomed their Kilkenny counterparts to Ennis. The Clare contingent of this cohort were certainly the happier as they departed the county grounds having watched the men in saffron and blue secure a third successive win.
Clare have not lost to Kilkenny in the NHL since March 2015. This win was not the most impressive during this period but worth noting is how the Banner appeared to have learned from letting a lead slip which occurred during their encounter with Wexford last month.
Tulla’s David McInerney returned to the field of play for the first time this year, he marked this with the opening score of the contest, a booming effort from wing back. Kilkenny responded via midfielder Richie Leahy before Tony Kelly and Eoin Cody swapped scores.
Clare began to dominate from here with well-worked scores converted by Diarmuid Ryan, David Reidy and Aidan McCarthy.
McCarthy demonstrated exceptional spatial awareness to find a roving Tony Kelly on sixteen minutes with the sharpshooter sticking a rocket past Eoin Murphy for the first green flag of the afternoon giving them a five point cushion.
Kelly had the umpires reaching for the green flag with Clare’s first score following the water break. Paddy Deegan fouled Ian Galvin with referee Johnny Murphy awarding a penalty that was expertly converted by the Ballyea man.
Kilkenny cancelled out the second goal with three points in as many minutes. Brian Cody’s men upped their display from here and got most benefit through runners off the ball asking questions of the Banner defence.
Indeed the Cats would outscore Clare 0-09 0-03 following Kelly’s penalty to leave just a single point between the sides at the sounding of the half-time whistle.
As they limited the hosts to four points in the third quarter, Kilkenny themselves tapped on seven scores to carve out a two point advantage.
However an exhilarating three minute spell that saw three goals scored swung the tie back in Clare’s favour. David Reidy sent a bullet past Eoin Murphy on fifty three minutes after Domhnall McMahon and Diarmuid Ryan helped to create the move.
Ryan played a part in Clare’s next attack as Ryan Taylor left Aron Shanagher with the simple task of flicking the sliotar to the net which put the hosts five points in front. Substitute Martin Keoghan got Kilkenny’s first and only goal of the afternoon on fifty five minutes to narrow the deficit once again.
Led by TJ Reid, the Cats would regain the lead but the impact of Clare’s bench and scores via Gary Cooney on the double plus single efforts from Ryan Taylor and Shane Golden were sufficient to ensure Clare didn’t let this win slip from their fingertips and into Kilkenny claws.
Once the draw was made for the NHL, Brian Lohan would have also been aware that tests versus Dublin and Kilkenny in their final outings would have them primed for championship. The Shannon man will be content with the displays on these occasions and most particularly on this outing with several players stepping up to the mark on the scoring front, ten different players registered in this regard limiting the reliance on Tony Kelly. Rory Hayes at corner back was excellent for the winners with Diarmuid Ryan, David Reidy and Aidan McCarthy also impressing.
Losing David McInerney and Aaron Fitzgerald to injury puts a dampener on what otherwise was a positive outcome for Lohan’s side.
For Kilkenny, their start to the contest was below the standards expected. They will also regret not earning a share of the spoils but overall will be pleased to have topped Division 1B ahead of a hotly anticipated championship bid. TJ Reid, Richie Reid, Huw Lawlor and Paddy Deegan did well for the Cats.
Scorers Clare: T Kelly (2-05 5f 1’Pen), D Reidy (1-02), A McCarthy (0-03), D Ryan (0-03), G Cooney (0-02), D McInerney (0-01), M Rodgers (0-01), S Golden (0-01), R Taylor (0-01).
Scorers Kilkenny: TJ Reid (0-08 7f 1’65), E Cody (0-04), R Reid (0-03), A Mullen (0-03), M Keoghan (1-00), B Ryan (0-02), R Leahy (0-01), W Walsh (0-01), D Blanchfield (0-01), A Murphy (0-01).
1. Eibhear Quilligan (Feakle)
4. Aaron Fitzgerald (Éire Óg)
3. Conor Cleary (St Joseph’s Miltown)
2. Rory Hayes (Wolfe Tones)
5. Diarmuid Ryan (Cratloe)
6. John Conlon (Clonlara) (Captain)
18. David McInerney (Tulla)
9. Tony Kelly (Ballyea)
11. Colm Galvin (Clonlara)
8. Cathal Malone (Sixmilebridge)
10. David Reidy (Éire Óg)
7. Aidan McCarthy (Inagh-Kilnamona)
15. Ian Galvin (Clonlara)
14. Aron Shanagher (Wolfe Tones)
13. Mark Rodgers (Scariff)
22. Paul Flanagan (Ballyea) for Fitzgerald (5) (Inj)
17. David Fitzgerald (Inagh-Kilnamona) for McInerney (29) (Inj)
25. Domhnall McMahon (Michael Cusacks) for C Galvin (49)
12. Ryan Taylor (Clooney-Quin) for I Galvin (50)
20. Gary Cooney (O’Callaghan’s Mills) for Rodgers (62)
19. Shane Golden (Sixmilebridge) for Shanagher (62)
1: Eoin Murphy (Glenroe)
2: Tommy Walsh (Tullaroan)
3: Huw Lawlor (O’Loughlin Gaels)
4: Paddy Deegan (O’Loughlin Gaels)
5: Darragh Corcoran (Ballyhale Shamrocks)
6: Padraig Walsh (Tullaroan)
7: Conor Browne (James Stephens)
9: Richie Leahy (Rower Instioge)
8: Richie Reid (Ballyhale Shamrocks)
10: Adrian Mullen (Ballyhale Shamrocks)
11: Walter Walsh (Tullogher-Rosbercon)
14: TJ Reid (Ballyhale Shamrocks)
13: James Bergin (Conahy Shamrocks)
12: Bill Ryan (Grague Ballycallan)
15: Eoin Cody (Ballyhale Shamrocks)
23: Martin Keoghan (Tullaroan) for Walsh (33)
18: Ciaran Wallace (Erins Own) for T Walsh (HT)
20: David Blanchfield (Bennetsbridge) for Leahy (HT)
25: Niall Brassil (James Stephens) for Ryan (HT)
19: Alan Murphy (Glenmore) for Mullen (36)
24: Liam Blanchfield (Bennetsbridge) for Bergin (60)
22: Cillian Buckley (Dicksboro) for R Reid (65)
Referee: Johnny Murphy (Limerick).