Clare have defeated Kilkenny in a sun-drenched Cusack Park in Ennis on Saturday afternoon in what was the final game of both sides Allianz National Hurling League Division 1B campaign.
Kilkenny had secured top spot prior to Saturday’s encounter but the victory for Clare will increase their confidence levels ahead of the championship.
Late inclusion for Clare David McInerney got the first score of the game that was almost immediately cancelled out by Richie Leahy who had recovered from an injury earlier in the season to start against the Banner County. Ballyhale Shamrocks forwards Adrian Mullen and Eoin Cody added to the scoreboard for Brian Cody’s men but points from Tony Kelly (free), Diarmuid Ryan, Aidan McCarthy and David Reidy gave Clare a 0-05 – 0-03 lead just after the ten-minute mark.
Billy Ryan and Aron Shanagher exchanged points before Clare took control of a cagey affair. Tony Kelly travelled from the midfield to fire straight past Eoin Murphy and into the left top corner for the first goal of the game. Moments later Kelly took advantage of a Paddy Deegan foul on Mark Rodgers to ruthlessly dispatch of a penalty and move Clare seven points ahead.
Those quickfire Kelly goals sparked a lethargic Kilkenny team into life with TJ Reid, Adrian Mullen and the returning Walter Walsh clawing back the early deficit. Both sides went blow for blow midway through the first half as McCarthy and Rodgers extended Clare’s lead before Kilkenny captain Mullen and Graigue Ballycallan sharpshooter Billy Ryan pointed for Kilkenny.
Three Reid frees and a score from play from Richie Reid cut Clare’s lead to a single point at half time, 2-09 – 0-14.
Diarmuid Ryan and David Reidy increased their tallies for Clare at the beginning of the second half, but Kilkenny took the lead for the first time in the game thanks to four unanswered points from Eoin Cody, Michael Carey and TJ Reid (2). Another long-distance score from Richie Reid was sandwiched between two frees from 2013 hurler of the year Kelly as Clare drew level.
The key moment in the game came soon after Kelly’s frees as David Reidy and Aron Shanagher moved Clare ahead with back-to-back scores without reply from the away side. Amazingly, Tullaroan forward Martin Keoghan got Kilkenny’s first goal of the game almost immediately after as Kilkenny refused to back down against an impressive Clare team.
Three consecutive Reid frees moved Kilkenny one point ahead of Brian Lohan’s men as the game entered its final stages, 4-14 – 1-24. However, it was Clare who finished the stronger of the two sides as Shane Golden, Aidan McCarthy, Tony Kelly, Garry Cooney (2) and Ryan Taylor saw Clare compliment their best performance of 2021 with their best result to date.
Next up for Kilkenny is a clash with the winner of Laois and Wexford in the Leinster Senior Hurling Championship semi-final.