Spectators at St. John’s Park on Sunday witnessed both the best game and
biggest shock of the Kilkenny Senior Hurling Championship to date as league
finalists Clara’s 2021 season prematurely ended at the hands of a gallant and
brave Tullaroan side.
It was an encounter that had the edge that only championship can bring right
from the outset as a nervy start transformed into a glorious spectacle for a
boisterous crowd in the tight and atmospheric surroundings at
the home of yesterday’s victors O’Loughlin Gaels.
The first half ebbed and flowed as a game largely dominated by frees saw
both sides lack a clinical edge from play, 0-04 to 0-04 at the first half water
The second quarter took on almost the exact same pattern as the first.
Tullaroan, buoyed by their in-form forwards Shane Walsh and Dylan Simpson
seemed to have finally grabbed a stranglehold on a relatively low-scoring
encounter before Clara had their strongest spell of the opening 30 minutes to
claw back a two-point deficit in additional time as they found themselves level
at the interval, 0-08 to 0-08.
It was Clara who got off to the perfect start to the second half as they
wasted no time in going for the jugular, bagging the first goal of the
encounter to move into the lead.
That did not serve to spark Kevin Ryan’s side into life, however, as Mossy
Keoghan, Tommy Walsh and Simpson got crucial scores to bring Tullaroan back
into the game and back on level terms just in time for the second half water
break, 1-12 to 0-15.
Neither team looked as though they wanted to take control of the game as the
fear of exiting the championship had dawned on both sets of players who began
to make uncharacteristic mistakes due to the severe pressure of knockout
They once more entered into a to-and-fro as they were both happy to exchange
points as the end of normal time loomed.
But that all changed in the 58th minute as Clara scored theirs, and the
game’s second goal following some good build up play that culminated in what
looked as though would be the key moment in a classic.
However, Tullaroan refused to accept their fate as two late and dramatic
points made it 0-22 to 2-16 right at the death.
That was the end of the scoring in normal time as two tired but committed
teams prepared to go again.
It was an extra-time period that would belong to the 2019 intermediate
champions as Tullaroan’s previous championship game against Erin’s Own stood to
them in comparison to a Clara side who were playing in their first knockout tie
for a year.
The first half of extra-time was a near carve and copy of the first half in
normal time – short on scores and high on tension. They key difference was a
Tommy Walsh goal midway through the opening ten minutes as the experienced
centre forward dispatched of the opportunity. Tullaroan had moved into a
four-point lead at half-time, 1-24 to 2-17.
Despite their best efforts, Clara could not recover due to a combination of
their own inability to create goal scoring chances and Tullaroan’s defiance
throughout the second half of extra-time as a flurry of late scores saw them
advance to the semi-final with a deserved seven-point victory.