Ballyhale Shamrocks 1-27
If Ballyhale Shamrocks are to maintain the same level of form and focus as they showed in the St Canice’s Credit Union Kilkenny Senior Hurling Championship quarter-final on Sunday afternoon, it is looking ominous for whoever stands in their way of yet another county title.
Tullaroan will be the opposition that awaits in the semi-finals following a brilliant victory against Clara.
It was the 2013 and 2015 champions who started the stronger of the two teams with David Langton and John Murphy getting early scores in front of a smaller than expected crowd at UPMC Nowlan Park.
That was as good as it would get for them, however.
Ballyhale Shamrocks responded through their intercounty stars Adrian Mullen and TJ Reid (2 frees) as they began to find space in the early stages, something that audibly worried the Clara contingent.
They were right to be concerned, as goalkeeper Kevin Nolan gift wrapped a chance for Mullen who wasn’t going to miss an easy opportunity to get the first goal of the game.
He immediately followed that up with a wonder score from the sideline.
Trailing by 1-05 to 0-02 within ten minutes, Clara needed to find their rhythm swiftly and they did as John Murphy and then Jason Byrne got fine points.
Neither side seemed to be carrying any nerves as the supporters who made the trip into Kilkenny city witnessed an open and fluid encounter.
Darragh Corcoran and Paddy Mullen restored Pat Hoban’s side six-point advantage before Byrne slotted over his second and third free of the day to make it Shamrocks 1-07 to 0-05 Clara midway through a lively opening period.
Eoin Cody (2), Adrian Mullen and Colin Fennelly proved too hot to handle as the county champions eyed possibly ending the game as a contest before half-time.
That did not materialise however, as Liam Ryan led the Clara charge with two good points, while Mullen continued his seemingly unstoppable form as he got his fourth point of the opening 30 minutes to give himself a personal tally of 1-04.
Corcoran, Cody and an unusually quiet Reid added a further three points for the Shamrocks before the interval to make it a ten-point game heading into the second half, Ballyhale Shamrocks 1-16 to 0-09 Clara.
Clara could not make any inroads despite their best efforts in the second half as the five-in-a-row chasing Shamrocks showed exactly why they have been so dominant in recent times.
Everything was at this all-conquering side’s ease, with the usual names of Reid, Cody, Mullen and Fennelly causing all sort of trouble to a hapless Clara backline.
The excellent Liam Ryan and Conor O’Shea tried in vein to lead the comeback for the shield champions, but they simply could not live with what their opponents had to offer as they trailed by 1-22 to 0-13 as a one-sided affair entered its final quarter.
The spark and edge to the game completely evaporated in the last 15 minutes as the damage had been done to a disappointed Clara side.
Some of the crowd started to disperse and the majority who remained stayed silent for the remainder of the clash as everyone associated with Clara accepted their fate long before the full-time whistle.
The Shamrocks will now face league champions Tullaroan in next weekend’s semi-final.