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Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Semi Final – Kilkenny 1-20 Clare 0-14
Kilkenny cruise into the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 final
Report from the RTE.ie web site
Kilkenny cruised into the Allianz HL Division One final with a storming second-half performance that shattered the hopes of plucky Clare, winning on a final scoreline of 1-20 to 0-14. Richie Power hit five points, but had a penalty saved, as Kilkenny went in at the break ahead by 0-8 to 0-7, with Conor McGrath also striking five for Clare. Matthew Ruth netted the only goal of the game for the Cats four minutes into the second half, and they finished the job off clinically, with Power bringing his tally to nine points and Ruth bagging 1-4.
Davy Fitzgerald’s banners side competed on equal terms with the mighty Cats in the first half, but the gulf in class was ruthlessly exposed in the second period as Brian Cody’s men took their opponents apart. After Ruth scored the only goal of the game, the floodgates opened, and Power helped himself to a nine-point haul as Kilkenny won by nine. McGrath swept over a couple of early frees to give Clare a measure of confidence, but the Cats were ahead by the ninth minute, thanks to Colin Fennelly’s splendid long-range strike.
Pat O’Connor and Donal O’Donovan stood firm at the back as Kilkenny continued to press, and after Power had shot Kilkenny into a two-point lead, the banner came back again to level with scores form Sean Collins and Nicky O’Connell, who drove a long-range free between the uprights. O’Connell and Patrick Donnellan were important figures around midfield as Clare battled to gain the upper hand, but they received a let-off in the 21st minute when Eoin Larkin finished to the net after being sent in by Fennelly. But referee Alan Kelly disallowed the goal and instead awarded a penalty for Brendan Bugler’s foul on Larkin.
Power stepped up, but his strike was kept out by Donnellan when a three-pointer would have eased his side four clear. Power did make amends with his fourth point from a free, but McGrath duly brought his tally to four with two points, one a superb effort from play, to bring the sides level on 0-06 each in the 27th minute. Power arrowed over a stoppage-time free to ease the All-Ireland champions ahead once again, 0-8 to 0-7 at the break.
And they grabbed a goal four minutes into the second half. Larkin again the man causing mayhem as his angled shot was saved by goalkeeper Patrick Kelly, but Ruth nipped in to finish to the net from close range. Ruth and Fennelly tagged on points, and suddenly Clare found themselves trailing by five. Clare needed a big response, and while they did pull back points through Liam Markham and O’Connell, Kilkenny were able to pick off points with relative comfort, opening out a six-point lead through TJ Reid.
Tommy Walsh imposed himself on the game in typical fashion at the back as Brian Cody’s side grew in stature, with Cillian Buckley an immense figure in the central area. Power was still hitting the target from frees and play, and Larkin finally got his name on the scoresheet as the margin grew to nine with ten minutes to play. The damage could have been greater, but for the heroic defending of O’Donovan and Cian Dillon, and Clare staged a minor revival to pull back scores through Colin Ryan and Donnellan. But it was to be Kilkenny’s day, and they hit the game’s last three scores, with Fennelly, substitute Kieran Joyce and Ruth all hitting the target.
Kilkenny scorers: M Ruth 1-3, R Power 0-9 (7f), C Fennelly 0-4, J Mulhall, E Larkin, K Joyce, TJ Reid 0-1 each.
Clare scorers: C McGrath 0-6 (5f), C Ryan 0-3 (2f), N O’Connell 0-2 (2f), L Markham, P Donnellan, S Collins 0-1 each.
Kilkenny: D Herity, P Murphy, J.J. Delaney, J Tyrrell, T Walsh, B Hogan, R Doyle, M Fennelly, C Buckley, T.J. Reid, R Power, J Mulhall, C Fennelly, E Larkin, M Ruth.
Subs: M Bergin for Larkin, K Joyce for Walsh, C Fogarty for Doyle
Clare: P Kelly, D O’Donovan, C Dillon, C Cooney, B Bugler, P O’Connor, L Markham, N O’Connell, P Donnellan, F Lynch, S Collins, E Barrett, C Ryan, C McGrath, J Conlon.
Subs: J Clancy for Lynch, A Cunningham for Barrett
Referee: A Kelly (Galway)
Kilkenny craft keeps Banner in check
Kilkenny 1-20 Clare 0-14
By Fintan O’Toole for the Irish Examiner newspaper
Kilkenny progressed with their customary assurance yesterday at Semple Stadium but received an adequately stern examination from Clare to earn their right to a spot in the final. This was a game that boiled down to two sides in differing stages of development. When they needed to close out the game in the second half, Kilkenny were able to draw on the defensive nous of JJ Delaney and Brian Hogan, the midfield power of Michael Fennelly and the attacking prowess of Richie Power. The level of experience they have stockpiled in recent seasons was instrumental in ensuring this game metamorphosed into a one-point advantage for Kilkenny at the interval to a nine-point margin by the final whistle.
Clare will not be too downhearted in defeat. Their mission statement this spring was to achieve promotion to Division 1A and their recent riveting success over Limerick meant that aim had already been realised. Yesterday was a bonus match and crucially a chance to pit themselves against a higher class of hurling opposition. For a team still in a burgeoning state, this was an important tussle for a duo like Aaron Cunningham and Seadna Morey who were sprung from the bench late on. This time last year they were eligible for the minor grade and studying for their Leaving Certificate. Clare need time to develop and in manager Davy Fitzgerald’s eyes the most important aspect to this game was avoiding the type of mauling Kilkenny inflicted on Galway a couple of weeks ago.
“We have a very young team and the most important thing is that we weren’t blow off the field. “What they did to Galway a few weeks ago will be on Galway’s mind every time they play them from now. Getting 3-26 to 10 points, that’s what they did to them and they’re capable of doing that every time they go out. We hung in there fairly okay I thought. Naturally it’s a big step. I don’t think physically we were blown out of it.”
Fitzgerald’s point was a salient one as Clare brought a ferocity to their approach from the outset. That was reflected in the physical nature from the opening moments when they stood up to Kilkenny. The shuddering collision between Clare’s Cian Dillon and Kilkenny’s John Mulhall in the 18th minute that led to both players departing the pitch as blood gushed from head wounds was indicative of the early exchanges.
In the second half the sting was largely taken out of the match as Kilkenny’s superiority came to bear. The Clare defence stuck to the Kilkenny attack with determination and did not allow themselves to be prised apart during the first half. They only trailed by 0-8 to 0-7 at half-time after being sustained by the free-taking of Conor McGrath and the clever scything runs of Sean Collins at centre-forward. There was fortune for Clare in the 21st minute when the referee awarded a penalty for a foul on Eoin Larkin despite the James Stephens man finishing to the net and subsequently inspiration for the Banner when captain Pat Donnellan got down well to beat away Richie Power’s penalty effort.
Kilkenny were uncharacteristically wasteful in their forays forward in the first-half but they sharpened their accuracy in the second-half. Matthew Ruth’s goal, which Clare were rightly aggrieved by with the decisions in the build-up to it, in the 40th minute helped settle them. They shot six out of the seven points registered in the game between the 50th and 60th minute. That essentially put the game to bed. Clare had been left reeling by the concession of that goal and Kilkenny took over with Richie Power prominent. Clare looked unlikely to raise a green flag themselves and it was not until injury-time that they had their best chance when substitute Jonathan Clancy’s piledriver was bravely smothered by Kilkenny netminder David Herity.
The theme of newcomers to senior hurling was not just restricted to the Clare line-up on the day, with the performance of Cillian Buckley in the Kilkenny midfield area something for Brian Cody to cherish. The Dicksboro player raised the Irish Press Cup at minor level against Clare in September 2010 and he enjoyed another fruitful afternoon against the Banner here. Matthew Ruth was another to catch the eye as he contributed 1-3 from corner-forward and their development provides plus points for Kilkenny heading into another league decider.
Scorers for Kilkenny: R Power 0-9 (6fs), M Ruth 1-3, C Fennelly, M Fennelly 0-2 each, J Mulhall, TJ Reid, K Joyce, E Larkin 0-1 each.
Scorers for Clare: C McGrath 0-6 (5fs), C Ryan 0-3 (2fs), N O’Connell 0-2 (2fs), S Collins, P Donnellan, L Markham 0-1 each.
Subs for Clare: E Glynn for Dillon (blood) (18), Dillon for Glynn (21), J Clancy for Lynch (61), A Cunningham for Barrett (61).
Subs for Kilkenny: M Bergin for Mulhall (blood) (18), Mulhall for Bergin (24), Bergin for Larkin (63), K Joyce for Walsh (63), C Fogarty for Doyle (64).
Referee: Alan Kelly (Galway)