*Adam Hogan emerges out of defence in possession for Clare. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

CLARE’s senior hurlers produced a remarkable second half comeback to claim their place in the All-Ireland final for the first time in eleven years.

Clare 0-24
Kilkenny 2-16
Venue: Croke Park

With sixty eight minutes on the clock, Clare took the lead for the first time in the contest and once they stuck their noses ahead there was going to be no stopping a defiant and determined outfit in saffron and blue from seeing the game out to the finish.

Led by the outstanding David McInerney, Clare righted the wrongs of successive All-Ireland semi-final losses to Kilkenny to set the record straight and put Brian Lohan’s side seventy minutes away from lifting the Liam McCarthy for the fifth time.

Alongside McInerney, the impact of Ryan Taylor was central to the outcome, the Clooney/Quin who sustained an ACL injury in last year’s meeting between the sides at the semi-final stage made a big impact when becoming Clare’s first substitute on forty nine minutes.

Four first half saves from Eibhear Quiligan would ensure Kilkenny hadn’t the game put to bed by half time while his clubmate Adam Hogan came out trumps in the big duel with Eoin Cody despite the Ballyhale Shamrocks man netting one of the goals of 2024 in the opening half.

For that opening half, Clare never hit their stride and Kilkenny had far more possession even though both sides coughed up five wides each for the first thirty five minutes.

They were fortunate that Kilkenny were wasteful in front of goal but blessed to have Quiligan on form. With nine minutes played, he had a double save, first from Cian Kenny and then as the ball worked its way back across the goal to stop Adrian Mullen from registering a green flag. He was next called on to deny Mikey Carey who was allowed run through the heart of the Clare defence while Quilligan showed sublime reflexes to stop Martin Keoghan’s thirty third minute attempt.

TJ Reid was first to register a score on Saturday afternoon, converting a free following a John Conlon foul inside the opening forty seconds of the tie. They doubled their advantage through Cian Kenny on five minutes, the midfielder was lively in the early proceedings and had a second point to his name by the tenth minute.

Chief marksman Aidan McCarthy had Clare’s first score. David Reidy was found in possession after a quick short puckout, a ruck then formed which was won by Cathal Malone who popped to McCarthy, he grabbed his chance when it presented on this occasion but also in regaining a place on the starting fifteen in place of Aron Shanagher.

McCarthy reduced the deficit to a single point when adding a free but then Kilkenny hit three points without reply, Kenny’s second was followed by Paddy Deegan and David Blanchfield as the Leinster champions began to show a clinical side when it came to punishing mistakes by Clare. This period of dominance included Carey’s goal chance and they instead had to settle for a white flag, with TJ slotting the 65m free.

It was a two point margin by the sixteenth minute after points from McCarthy and Reidy before the freetakers exchanged scores.

Superb skill was demonstrated by Eoin Cody when he hit the opening goal of the contest on twenty four minutes, he glided past Adam Hogan and then in a sea of hurleys he managed to produce a Wimbledon-like strike to finish what will be one of the goals of the season and in the process carve out a five point lead.

They had a point from Billy Ryan which was cancelled out by another McCarthy free before David Fitzgerald was on the mark with twenty nine minutes played, David McInerney winning a turnover to secure possession to provide the assist for Fitzgerald. TJ Reid and Billy Ryan had two of the final three scores of the half, sandwiched between a David Reidy score to leave it 1-10 0-8 as Liam Gordon’s half-time whistle sounded in Croke Park.

By the fortieth minute, Clare had reduced the deficit to two points, David Reidy, Peter Duggan and Shane O’Donnell all splitting the posts as the comeback began. Carey and Fitzgerald traded scores but then Kilkenny hit 1-1 without reply, TJ Reid converting a sideline cut and then Billy Ryan benefitting from a blunder at the backline on forty six minutes to get the second goal of the game.

A swift response followed from Clare as Tony Kelly opened his account and McCarthy added another free after Mark Rodgers was fouled in possession.

John Donnelly did well to execute a shot on forty eight minutes and he was pleased when it went between the posts but again Clare came back with two points in a row, this time it was McCarthy and Rodgers that raised the white flags.

Eoin Murphy did well to stop McCarthy from getting a goal on fifty two minutes but he soon added a free to bring it back to two points but it was clear the momentum was firmly with Clare. At this stage, they received a lift with the introduction of Taylor.

Reid and Donnelly made it a four point game by the fifty seventh minute but Clare replied with scores from Tony Kelly and substitute Ian Galvin.

Indeed Reid’s free on fifty seven minutes was their last contribution to the scoreboard as they coughed up five scoreable opportunities from here to the finish.

On the other hand, Clare were growing in confidence aided by a strong saffron and blue contingent among the 39,241 supporters in Croke Park.

McCarthy made it a one point gap with a placed ball on sixty two minutes but Mark Rodgers levelled matters and lifted the crowd further on sixty three minutes. McCarthy then shoved Clare ahead for the first time in the entire game on sixty eight minutes but the final score of the contest arrived courtesy of Tony Kelly with seventy one minutes on the clock.

Scorers Clare: A McCarthy (0-11 10f), D Reidy (0-3), T Kelly (0-3), D Fitzgerald (0-2), M Rodgers (0-2), P Duggan (0-1), S O’Donnell (0-1), I Galvin (0-1)

Scorers Kilkenny: TJ Reid (0-7 4f 1’65 1SC), B Ryan (1-2), E Cody (1-0), J Donnelly (0-2), C Kenny (0-2), P Deegan (0-1), D Blanchfield (0-1), M Carey (0-1).

Clare:
1: Eibhear Quilligan (Feakle)

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

5: Diarmuid Ryan (Cratloe)
6: John Conlon (Clonlara)
7: David McInerney (Tulla)

8: David Fitzgerald (Inagh/Kilnamona)
9: Cathal Malone (Sixmilebridge)

10: Tony Kelly (Ballyea)
11: Mark Rodgers (Scariff)
12: Peter Duggan (Clooney/Quin)

13: Aidan McCarthy (Inagh/Kilnamona)
14: Shane O’Donnell (Éire Óg)
15: David Reidy (Éire Óg)

Subs:
21: Ryan Taylor (Clooney/Quin) for Malone (49)
22: Ian Galvin (Clonlara) for Fitzgerald (56)
23: Aron Shanagher (Wolfe Tones) for Reidy (60)
20: Darragh Lohan (Wolfe Tones) for Duggan (72)

Kilkenny:
1: Eoin Murphy (Glenmore)

2: Mikey Butler (O’Loughlin Gaels)
3: Huw Lawlor (O’Loughlin Gaels)
4: Tommy Walsh (Tullaroan)

5: David Blanchfield (Bennetsbridge)
6: Richie Reid (Ballyhale Shamrocks)
7: Mikey Carey (Young Irelands)

8: Cian Kenny (James Stephens)
9: Paddy Deegan (O’Loughlin Gaels)

10: Adrian Mullen (Ballyhale Shamrocks)
11: TJ Reid (Ballyhale Shamrocks)
12: John Donnelly (Thomastown)

13: Martin Keoghan (Tullaroan)
14: Billy Ryan (Graigue Balllycallan)
15: Eoin Cody (Ballyhale Shamrocks)

Subs:
23: Walter Walsh (Tullagher Rosbercon) for Keoghan (56)
22: Tom Phelan (Conahy Shamrocks) for Mullen (62)
21: Conor Fogarty (Erin’s Own) for Ryan (66)

Referee: Liam Gordon (Galway)

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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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