Clinical Clare turned on the style at Semple Stadium to win their second All-Ireland U21 hurling title on Saturday night.
They laid on an irresistable second half performance to deny the Cats what would have been a record 12th title.
Solid at the back, creative and incisive in all the key areas, and deadly in the art of finishing, the Banner boys delivered in spades for managers Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor, and in doing so gave a massive boost to the development strategy currently being overseen by senior boss Davy Fitzgerald, who already has 10 of these talented hurlers in his set-up.
Kilkenny led by three points at the halfway stage, but they just couldn’t live with t dash and verve of their opponents in the second period.
Cathal O’Connell helped himself to a 1-6 tally, while defenders Patrick O’Connor and Seadna Morey rose to the challenge in magnificent fashion.
Kevin Kelly had Kilkenny ahead after just 10 seconds but Clare responded with points from Cathal McInerney, O’Connell and wing back Seadna Morey.
And the Banner got in for a goal in the sixth minute when Conor McGrath sent Cathal O’Connell in and he flashed a superb finish past Dylan Walsh.
John Power thumped over Kilkenny’s second score, but a couple of superb long range efforts from Colm Galvin and Patrick O’Connor eased the Banner in to a 1-5 to 0-2 lead.
But the game turned in favour of the Cats in the second quarter, with Geoff Brennan firing over along range point, and Walter Walsh bringing a superb save from Ronan Taffe, who deflected his stinging shot over the bar.
Kelly’s third point narrowed the gap to two, and in the final three minutes of the half, they stunned Clare with two goals.
First John Power won the penalty that he blasted home himself, and in stoppage time, Ger Aylward got in behind his marker to first-time to the net, giving his side a 2-7 to 1-7 interval lead.
But Clare were back in front within four minutes of the restart, intense pressure bringing them four quick-fire points, three of them from O’Connell.
With Seadna Morey and Patrick O’Connor performing heroically in their defence, Clare stepped up the intensity, and when skipper Conor McGrath smashed home their second goal on 44 minutes, they led by four.
O’Connor made a vital interception to deny Aylward as Kilkenny pressed in the closing stages for the goal that would bring them back into the game.
But with McGrath and Shane Golden having stretched the advantage to six, it was looking good for the Banner.
They could have had a third goal in the dying stages when O’Connell brought a superb save from Walsh, and there was another exceptional moment at the back, with Paul Flanagan stepping in to repel the Cats once again.
Clare scorers: C O’Connell 1-6 (4f), C McGrath 1-1, C McInerney 0-4, T Kelly, A Cunningham, P O’Connor, S Morey, C Galvin, S Golden 0-1 each
Kilkenny scorers: J Power 1-1 (1-0 pen), G Aylward 1-1, K Kelly 0-6 (3f), W Walsh 0-2, G Brennan 0-1.
Clare: R Taaffe, P Flanagan, D McInerney, K Ryan, P O’Connor, C Ryan, S Morey, C Galvin, S Golden, T Kelly, P Collins, A Cunningham, C McInerney, C McGrath, C O’Connell.
Subs: P Duggan for Cunningham, N Arthur for Collins
Kilkenny: D Walsh, J Corcoran, W Phelan, B Kennedy, L Harney, R Doyle, J Lyng, G Brennan, C Buckley, K Kelly, J Power, O Walsh, G Aylward, P Walsh, W Walsh.
Subs: M Gaffney for O Walsh, C Kenny for P Walsh
Referee: D Kirwan (Cork)