*Tony Kelly on the attack for Clare. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
At no stage during Saturday’s All-Ireland senior hurling championship quarter final did Clare think that their season was over, according to team captain Tony Kelly.
“The lads have instilled in us all year to keep going. Did we think it was over, we didn’t, it was just keep going and keep going. We kept plugging away, Any time we went on a run they seemed to get a goal which lifted them. We really upped it in the last ten to fourteen minutes”, the Ballyea clubman said.
Commenting on their overall display he said “overall, the work rate you couldn’t fault, the execution rate of the things we’re very good at, we were poor at for a lot of the game, easy chances missed, taking the wrong option up front but the workrate, even in the first half, was excellent, we kept plugging away and dug it out in the end which was huge”.
He agreed that there was “a massive contribution off the bench, Rodgers, Shan, and Meehan when they came on and Cian Nolan was very good as well. It was a huge contribution which gave us energy at the right time when we probably didn’t have it. That extra energy was huge to us”.
The team captain felt that their exertions in the Munster final two weeks earlier “had no real bearing out there. It was the easy things that we are normally good at, the execution was poor, poor shooting, poor options, sloppy passing, the workrate was there and thankfully it was. If the truth be known we were probably lucky to go in level at half time. Coming down the home straight we really upped it and our hurling really improved and our bench was great”.
Continuing, he said “we knew ourselves that there was more in us, we were miles off in the first half especially around the middle third in terms of getting on the ball and using it. There were a number of us well below par in that first half, we were below par today but, thankfully, we came out with the result which was huge. They are the best wins. We said at half time these are the ones that you have to grind out. It’s grand playing well and winning, it’s when you are not at your best, not at your peak that you must grind it out and chip away. I know we got a goal at the end which was massive but a lot of it were points which kept the scoreboard ticking”.
Returning to Croke Park brings immense satisfaction, the St Flannan’s school teacher noted. “It’s massive, we haven’t played there too often. Some lads have only played there once and a few of us maybe three or four times. That was a massive reward to get to Croker and get to the last four. That’s where you want to be, we are delighted to be there”.