|League Final Report|
| Thursday, 5th May 2005|
|Submitted by Clare Champion|
by Seamus Hayes
Kilkenny 3-20 Clare 0-15
Allianz Hurling league final
A KILKENNY victory may well have been what many hurling followers expected in last Monday’s Allianz hurling league final at Thurles, but few would have predicted a 14 point winning margin.
Clare went into the game with five impressive wins in six weeks to their credit and there was good reason for their followers to travel to the Tipperary venue confident that this winning run would continue.
However the forward problems which have been so evident in recent years resurfaced on Monday when the failure of the front six, and particularly the half forwards, to win regular possession was a major reason for this heavy defeat.
With the Cats’ defence dominant, it was only a matter of time until cracks appeared in the Clare backline as the Noresiders came forward in waves. This situation prevailed in the second half as Kilkenny dictated matters scoring 2-13, while conceding just five points.
The loss of Frank Lohan who was yellow carded in the second minute of the second half was a huge blow. While Brian Quinn did nothing wrong when he came in, Lohan had been playing particularly well and his loss was huge.
The final blow came with five minutes remaining when the other corner back Gerry O’Grady was dismissed on a straight red card following a rash challenge on Tommy Walsh. Clare officials and supporters alike will be keeping their fingers crossed that the Crusheen man will be available for their championship opener in a month’s time.
Kilkenny clearly made the short journey to Thurles determined to atone for their only defeat in the campaign to date when Clare were 2-13 to 1-8 winners back in February at Nowlan Park. It was their third win in four years and their twelfth in all in this competition and such was their play on Monday that they will be installed as favourites to add the All-Ireland title in September.
Having been level on five occasions in the first half, nobody would have predicted at half time that the gap would be so great in the second period. True, Clare were struggling in a number of important areas but it was still expected that they would be in contention to the end.
Within ten minutes of the restart, Kilkenny had pulled away and they now appeared to be playing at a much higher gear to the Banner men. They scored 1-9 while Clare could only manage a point and this was a signal for some of the attendance to head for exits.
As expected, Clare had Tony Griffin in their starting line up and he replaced Daithi O’Connell in the only change from the team which beat Wexford last week.
They played with the aid of the breeze in the first half, but Kilkenny opened the scoring with a Tommy Walsh point after just 22 seconds. Niall Gilligan equalised for Clare when he pointed a 35 metre free in the second minute and they went in front when Brian O’Connell pointed in the fourth minute.
In the early period of this game Colin Lynch and O’Connell controlled the midfield exchanges and further points from Sean McMahon (free) and Conor Plunkett had Clare 0-4 to 0-2 in front after seven minutes.
Scores from D.J. Carey and Henry Shefflin levelled the game, before Lynch and Griffin had two excellent points for Clare to leave them 0-6 to 0-4 ahead at the end of the first quarter.
The sides then exchanged points before Kilkenny made the first major break. Henry Shefflin’s shot for a goal was superbly saved by Davy Fitzgerald, one of three top class saves from the Clare netminder on the day, before Frank Lohan was penalised and Kilkenny awarded a penalty. D.J. Carey blasted the sliotar to the roof of the net.
A fortunate break saw Tony Carmody win possession and he pointed to level the game again. They exchanged points twice more before half time with Kilkenny’s equaliser coming from Eoin Larkin whose powerful drive was superbly turned over the bar by Fitzgerald seconds before the half time whistle sounded leaving the score at 0-10 to 1-7.
Although under pressure in a number of areas, there was nothing to suggest that the second half would be so one sided.
The first major blow came with the yellow carding of Frank Lohan who had been ticked in the first half. Kilkenny took the lead when Henry Shefflin pointed a 35 metre free and they should have gone further ahead a minute later but Fitzgerald made an excellent save from Shefflin.
With team captain Peter Barry and his flankers Ritchie Mullally and J.J. Delaney dominant in the half back line, Kilkenny drove forward time and time again and Eoin Larkin fired home goal number two following a D.J. Carey pass to put his side five clear 11 minutes into the second half.
The winners were clearly dictating matters around the field now and the Clare defence was under increasing pressure. Further points from Tommy Walsh, Shefflin, Derek Lyng who was prominent in midfield in the second half, and D.J. Carey left the winners nine points clear going into the final quarter of the game.
By now Clare had Barry Nugent and Daithi O’Connell in their attack but nothing changed except that Kilkenny corner back James Ryall was yellow carded after an off the ball altercation with O’Connell as the Wolfe Tones man ran onto the pitch in place of Andrew Quinn.
The league champions were able to bring in the experienced Michael Kavanagh as a replacement.
They continued to dominate and in the next four minutes they killed off any lingering hopes Clare followers may have had of a comeback by scoring a further 1-3, the goal coming from Shefflin after a lovely pass from Carey. Ten minutes later it was all over and the outstanding Peter Barry accepted the trophy and the man of the match award.
Barry, J.J. Delaney, Noel Hickey, Derek Lyng, in the second half, Tommy Walsh and D.J. Carey were always to the fore for Kilkenny.
Davy Fitzgerald saved Clare from a heavier defeat with three top class saves. Frank Lohan in the first half and Gerry Quinn were always prominent in a Clare defence which was stretched on many occasions. Brian O’Connell and Colin Lynch did well at midfield in the opening half but the forwards struggled throughout and there will certainly have to be a big improvement here if progress is to be made in the championship.
Scorers: Kilkenny: Henry Shefflin (1-7, 0-7 frees), D.J. Carey (1-2, 1-0 pen), Eoin Larkin (1-2), Tommy Walsh (0-3), Martin Comerford, Eddie Brennan (0-2 each), Bryan Barry (‘65), Derek Lyng (0-1 each).
Clare: Niall Gilligan (0-5, 4 frees), Tony Carmody (0-3), Conor Plunkett (0-2), Sean McMahon (0-2, 2 frees), Brian O’Connell, Colin Lynch, Tony Griffin (0-1 each).
Kilkenny: James McGarry; Jackie Tyrrell, Noel Hickey, James Ryall; Ritchie Mullally, Peter Barry (capt) J.J.Delaney; Bryan Barry, Derek Lyng; Martin Comerford, Eoin Larkin, Tommy Walsh; Ritchie Power, D.J. Carey, Henry Shefflin. Subs: Eddie Brennan for Power; Michael Kavanagh for Ryall (yellow card).
Clare: Davy Fitzgerald; Frank Lohan, Brian Lohan, Gerry O’Grady; Alan Markham, Sean McMahon (capt) Gerry Quinn; Brian O’Connell, Colin Lynch; Conor Plunkett, Diarmuid McMahon, Tony Carmody; Tony Griffin, Niall Gilligan, Andrew Quinn. Subs: Brian Quinn for F. Lohan (yellow card), Barry Nugent for Plunkett; Daithi O’Connell for A. Quinn; David Forde for D. McMahon; Dara Clancy for B. O’Connell.
Referee: Ger Harrington, Cork.
Read more articles like this ....