Kilkenny champions, Clara, took a confident first step in the Leinster club intermediate hurling championship in Dublin on Sunday and they ended up in the Leinster final, beating Dublin champions St Oliver Plunkett/Eoghan Ruady by 1-12 to 0-8.
The Noresiders were good winners over Dublin champions, St Oliver Plunkett/Eoghan Ruadh and their prize was a home draw in the provincial final at Nowlan Park on Sunday (2pm) against Oylegate Glenbrien (Wexford).
Clara were trap to line winners against Plunkett’s, who lost a lot of ground in the early stages and never looked like clawing it back. Victory means the Cats are already in bonus territory relative to their last venture in the competition in 2007 when they tumbled out in their first game.
The home side were rocked when they conceded a goal after only three minutes. Liam Ryan delivered the ball into the danger area, and after controlling it well top scorer, Keith Hogan, drove it to the back of the net.
Within two minutes Conor Phelan and Hogan lashed over points without reply to give the Kilkenny champions a firm footing in the match. The Dubs opened their account in the fifth minute with a point from a free by their main marksman, Stuart Mullin (1-2 to 0-1).
Clara conceded the next score also, this time to Niall Murray after an assist by Kevin Sexton. The winner replied through the on-fire James Nolan, who was put into a scoring position by a nicely weighted pass from Conor Phelan.
The losers hit back through Mullin, but that score drew a quick response from Clara and the probing James Nolan. An exchange of scores after that left the visitors leaders by 1-8 to 0-4 at half-time.
James Nolan did really well for Clara during that half, and he helped himself to three points from play. Keigh Hogan landed 1-3, which was fair going too.
The weather had been dry but very cold during that half. Late in the second half the rain began to fall, and as the conditions deteriorated the hurling became more testing. Clara, however, kept their gaze firmly fixed on the finishing line, and they were good winners in the end.
St Oliver’s really took the game to the opposition after the turn. They opened with a hat-trick of points from free by Stuart Mullin to slice the visitors lead to 1-8 to 0-7.
Clara held their nerve. Their first score of the half didn’t arrive until the 43rd minute when Keith Hogan drilled over a free, but there was no panic in the ranks and they played their way out of trouble nicely. St Oliver’s kept up the pressure, and a score from centre-back Paddy Bergin, after running on to a short free from Mullin, saw them maintain a good strong rhythm to their game.
Slammed door shut
Clara slammed the doors after that, and the home team was kept scoreless during the closing 14 minutes. During the same period the visitors threw over points through Lester Ryan, with Killian Phelan providing the killer pass, Conor Phelan and Keigh Hogan (free) to run out good winners.
Both teams wear maroon jerseys, so both changed their strip. Clara, who also changed strip for the Kilkenny county final, played in their second colours of green and white.
Scorers: Clara - Keith Hogan (1-5, four points frees); James Nolan (0-3); Conor Phelan (0-2); Liam Ryan, Lester Ryan (0-1 each). St Oliver Plunkett/Eoghan Ruadh - Stuart Mullin (0-6, frees); Paddy Bergin, Kevin Sexton (0-1 each).
Clara - Kevin Nolan, Tom Ryan, John Phelan, Sean O’Shea, Neal Prendergast, Shane Prendergast, David Langton, Jack Langton, Lester Ryan, Conor Phelan, James Nolan, Liam Ryan, Keith Hogan, Austin Murphy, Chris Bolger. Subs - Conor O’Shea (blood sub) for Jack Langton; Ciaran Prendergast for Liam Ryan; Killina Phelan for C. Bolger; Brian O’Shea for A. Murphy; Peter Nolan for J. Nolan; Paddy Galvin for K. Hogan.
St Oliver Plunkett/Eoghan Ruadh - Joe McDonald, James Smith, Dermot Brennan, Eanna Boland, Adrian Bard, Paddy Bergin, Paddy Carlan, Kevin Fitzsimmon, Finn Dunleavy, Stuart Mullin, Niall Murray, Shane Bonfield, Liam Corbett, Kevin Sexton, Dillon Burke. Subs - Conor Mcdonald, Rea Boland, Oisin Boland, Kian Walsh.