Championship games between neighbours are generally tight. So it turned out in Sunday’s first senior hurling semi-final between St Martin’s and Clara.
Three points separated them at the finish with Clara deserving of their place in the final. It was a close opening half, but the winners were the better side after the break.
However, it was not until James Nolan scored a goal in the 54th minute that last year’s intermediate champions took control. Despite this setback John Maher responded with two points for Martin’s, but they needed a goal to catch their neighbours.
They nearly got one right on the final whistle when a ball broke to Canice Maher, but he failed to connect. After early Clara dominance Martin’s thundered into the game in the 13th minute with a Canice Maher goal.
The exchanges were close all the way to the interval with John Maher and Keith Hogan the scoring aces. Maher was particularly prominent throughout the half and caused endless problems for the Clara defence.
Second Half Changes
The winners repositioned all their forwards at the start of the second half. The changes worked well. They shot three early points to go into a two point lead.
That margin remained between the sides until the 50th minute when John Mulhall, who had an excellent second half, pointed to level things. Two minutes later James Nolan, who was having a quiet game up to this, became the key player. After scoring a fine point he popped up to collect a Ciarán Prendergast pass to score a goal.
That score decided the game. There was never much between the sides over the 60 minutes, but the winners had a little more strength and pace in a couple of key areas.
The result of the second semi-final means there will be new champions in Kilkenny this year.
Again it was another case of neighbour against neighbour with Carrickshock finally coming out on top against Balyhale Shamrocks. They deserved to win but it was very uncomfortable for their supporters in the closing stages until Niall Rohan put the tie out of the Shamrocks’ reach with his side’s fourth goal.
This game was played at a higher tempo than the opening encounter with some great scores coming from the two teams.
We have learned never to write off the Shamrocks over the years and it looked to be no different on Sunday as the game headed towards a conclusion.
Carrickshock played into their opponents hands by opting for a more defensive style. It allowed the reigning champions to take control.
A T.J. Reid goal followed by a Henry Shefflin point left a goal between the sides with minutes remaining. It was nervous territory for Carrickshock.
The work rate from the winners attack slackened, but an astute move which saw the introduction of Niall Rohan paid rich dividends. Rohan grabbed a long delivery to shoot a brilliant goal and the ’Shock could finally dream of another county final appearance.
Carrickshock were the better side and the winning margin should have been more comfortable. Michael Fennelly’s absence was a major blow to the Shamrocks, especially given the brilliant display from Michael Rice.
It is now or never for Carrickshock on Sunday week. They had better be careful. To underestimate Clara would be a serious error. Last year’s intermediate champions remain the form team.