TAKING the direct route paid off as Clara moved into the semi-finals of the northern junior hurling championship.
Slick and determined, Clara were full value for their four-point win over an off-colour Barrow Rangers (Paulstown) in Gowran on Saturday evening. Rangers were over-reliant on hand-passing and the short game, a tactic which broke down and resulted in the concession of a series of frees. Many of these were punished by an accurate Shane Cassin.
Meanwhile, at the other end, the Rangers forward line were starved of possession. The only goal of the game, scored by Chris Bolger in the 25th minute, proved to be the crucial score in this tie as Rangers were never able to pull it back.
Martin Dormer opened the scoring for Rangers with a great point from midfield. Peter Nolan and Killian Phelan replied with similar scores for Clara before Cathal English levelled matters following an excellent line ball from Jason Holden.
Two pointed frees from Cassin put Clara ahead again. Thomas Brennan reduced the deficit when he drove over the bar with a goal at his mercy, a real let-off for the relieved Clara. Cassin then had a great score from play to which Dermot Maher replied with a like score.
Rangers went for broke when, from a 65, they decided to go short. The ball was intercepted, sent down the field and put over the bar by Cassin. Phelan added another point before Christopher Bolger was allowed the freedom of the park and duly finished to the net. Cathal English and Shane Cassin exchanged points, but that late surge proved sufficient to leave Clara six ahead at the break (1-8 to 0-5).
Rangers tried to shake things up in the second half, introducing two substitutes after the break. Although two Dermot Maher frees reduced the deficit early in the new half, scores which reflected the Rangers’ pressure, an unnecessary free gave Shane Cassin the chance to stretch the lead once more. Maher did add two more points for Rangers, cutting the gap to three, but that was as near as they would get.
Brian Prendergast, who had tried hard all evening with little return, got on the scoresheet following a sweet line ball from Colm Meaney. Peter Nolan stretched the lead with another point, before Maher pointed a free and a 65 to reduce the deficit to a goal again on 50 minutes. Clara moved a little further away again as Cassin pointed a free and 65 for Clara, scores which helped ease the tension as Rangers put on a belated spurt of pressure.
The Barrow side refused to throw in the towel, but found luck was not on their side. A 20 metre free from Dermot Maher was stopped on the line, while two other goal chances went abegging before Martin Bambrick had the last say with a point.
Best for Clara were Tom Langton, Colm Meaney, John Phelan, Shane Cassin, Christopher Bolger, Brian Prendergast and Peter Nolan. For Rangers John Kealy, William Hennessy, Ciaran Doyle, Dermot Maher and Thomas Brennan made an impression.
Clara - Kevin Nolan, Thomas Byrne, Tom Langton, Declan Rafter, Colm Meaney, John Phelan, Michael McDonald, Killian Phelan (0-2), Christopher Bolger (1-0), Conor Phelan, Peter Nolan (0-2), Shane Cassin (0-8), Ben Nolan, Ciaran Prendergast, Brian Prendergast (0-1). Sub: Jack Langton.
Barrow Rangers - J.J. Staunton, Kevin McDonald, John Kealy, Sean McDonald, William Hennessy, Patrick Purcell, Ciaran Doyle, Martin Dormer (0-1), Jason Holden, Martin Bambrick (0-1), Thomas Whitely, Dermot Maher (0-7), Cathal English (0-2), Thomas Brennan (0-1), Michael Whitely. Subs: Tom Brennan, Shane McEvoy, Paddy Barcoe.
Referee: John Direen (O’Loughlin Gaels).