*Colm O’Meara embraces Aidan McCarthy. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

CHIEF marksman Aidan McCarthy explained that the simple message was driven home to Clare at half time to step up or else their second half showing would be their final piece of championship hurling for 2024.

After failing the set the world alight in the opening half of Saturday’s All-Ireland SHC semi-final, Clare trailed Kilkenny by five points but a considerable improvement followed on the restart. Brian Lohan’s side outscored the Leinster champions 0-15 1-16 and kept them scoreless from the fifty seventh minute until the final whistle to advance to the All-Ireland final.

Speaking following Clare’s two-point win, Aidan outlined, “We came in after the first half and we were under pressure, in the second half we came out and we drove into Kilkenny, it was the only option because it would have been our last thirty five minutes of the year if we didn’t do it, we’re delighted to get over the line and we fought for every ball”.

Offering his views for Clare’s poor half, the AIB employee stated, “It might have been a bit of nerves at the start of the game, we haven’t played in Croke Park since last year whereas Kilkenny are here nearly every week in Leinster, we put the shoulder to the wheel in the second half, we had thirty five minutes or else our season was over that is the way we looked at it”.

For Clare’s quarter-final win over Wexford, McCarthy was dropped for Aron Shanagher, he regained his starting jersey for the Kilkenny game and grabbed the opportunity given to him by Brian Lohan and the management team, finishing with 0-11 to his name, nine of which were frees but many from difficult angles. “Brian told me during the week that I was back in, I was delighted and to be able to contribute to the scoreboard was great, I’m thankful that we got the win and that we’re through to the final”.

Aidan McCarthy. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

Key to turning around Clare’s fortunes was giving a decent supply of ball to the inside forward line. “We’ve done all the mental work and physical work, we’ve all the work done, it is just about getting the boys right and getting the game plan right, we put the shoulder to the wheel and get the ball into the forwards to do the damage and we did today thank God”.

McCarthy continued, “Fifteen on fifteen is the way we play and it is the when we play our best hurling, having a sweeper or a man back doesn’t suit us so when we go man on man with every team we seem to have the better hurlers and we can out hurl anyone and today we played to our potential”.

Following successive semi-final defeats to Kilkenny, the Inagh/Kilnamona man was very pleased that Clare came out on the right side of an encounter with the Cats. “We’re absolutely over the moon, we came up here the last two years and Kilkenny gave us two lessons basically the last two years and they taught us how to get to finals, in the Munster final we were down and the dressing room was a very low place, we got back on the horse against Wexford, we got a bit more bite in the group and got two good week’s training, we came up here looking to attack Kilkenny”.

Familiar opposition awaits in the All-Ireland final whether it is Limerick or Cork that McCarthy and Clare will face off with. “There’s only a puck of a ball between any team, it will be Cork or Limerick so we will put our shoulder to the wheel and work in training to see what happens. Whichever team will be a serious battle and a challenge so we’re looking forward to it”.

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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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