IMPRESSIVE Kilkenny champions, Clara, turned a good local victory into a golden one in Leinster when they strolled to success in the provincial club intermediate hurling championship, but they are far from satisfied despite a resounding 3-20 to 0-5 win, writes John Knox.
“That was nice, but we want to drive on,” were the fighting words from Clara manager, Robert Shortall, in the wake of Sunday’s facile victory over hugely disappointing Oylegate/Glenbrien (Wexford) in the Leinster final at wet and miserable Nowlan Park.
Long after the match and scoreline have been forgotten, the fact that Oylegate finished with only 11 men will be remembered as a somewhat amusing fact from the game. Three of the dismissals came in the second half of a match that was without rancour or malice.
The referee, in his defence, ruled in accordance with the ’book, and if he were being marked by an assessor in the stand he probably received a good rating. Two yellow cards had to be followed by a red, and the Oylegate players found that the match official didn’t shirk his responsibility.
There were calls in the stand for the referee to take the poor conditions in account – a rain soaked pitch and wet sliotar and hurleys – but if assessors want rules applied, the ‘whistler’ hasn’t much leeway. No one got any here! Hence the sending offs. It was farcial at times.
Enough of that!
“It was most encouraging the way we won,” Mr Shortall offered in summary. “The lads kept their focus the whole match. Hopefully this will serve us well after Christmas. You have to keep the foot down. You have to do that the higher up you go.”
The newly crowned Leinster champions, the fourth at this level from Kilkenny after Carrickshock, Dicksboro (twice) and St Lachtain’s (Freshford), face Silvermines (Tipperary) in the All-Ireland semi-final on January 27.
“You could never plan for things like this,” Mr Shortall added. “Now that this has happened, there is a massive momentum to build on for next year. I really hope the lads can drive on. I think they feel like they can.
“It is a massive step up to senior again, but I think they are better equipped for it now. There is a transition in Kilkenny and we want to be a part of it. In the next decade these lads can drive on.”
Clara can’t get off the hurling roundabout now, even if it close to the end of the year. They have a commitment in the under-21 hurling championship next weekend, and then football.
“They will take two weeks of a break shortly, but we will do a bit of training over Christmas,” the manager explained.
Leinster didn’t test the Cats all that much, but they showed fair potential and hunger in their wins over Dublin representatives, St Oliver Plunkett’s/Eoghan Ruadh and Oylegate, who were a senior outfit in Wexford in 2011.
This match was heading towards the ‘decided’ stage as early as 10 minutes when Clara were already 0-6 to 0-1 in front. They opened smartly, very smartly actually, and Keith Hogan (3), James Nolan, Conor Phelan and Liam Ryan all found the target early.
Oylegate’s lone scorer, Fergal Doran opened their account from a free in the ninth minute, and he shot two more before the home team bagged a goal. Austin Cleere put his name on it, finishing a good run and pass from James Nolan, the ball hitting the net via the back of the ducking ’keeper (1-8 to 0-3).
Keith Hogan, whose striking was very good in the conditions, landed his last point of the half in the 24th minute before the first player was dismissed after being showing a second yellow card, followed by red.
At half-time Clara led by 1-11 to 0-3. Hogan’s name was on seven of the points.
Fergal Doran pulled back a minor for the losers in the 32nd minute before Jack Langton slipped Liam Ryan a lovely pass before shooting a great point. The next score was Clara’s second goal from Brian O’Shea, who beat the ’keeper from the right edge of the square after Lester Ryan had crossed from the far wing.
With the divide at 2-12 to 0-4 already (the 37th minute) it was all over, bar the size of the winning margin.
For the record, the balance of the dismissals came in the closing quarter. Fans didn’t know whether to be angry or amused by it all. In the end most left the ’Park wondering, wondering how such a placid game threw up such am apparently damning figure.
And what of Clara? They are a fine team. Full-back, John Phelan appears to be developing into something, maybe even a county senior panellist. Jack Langton and Lester Ryan looked very good too, as did Liam Ryan.
The match came down to getting a job done, and didn’t amount to much in terms of putting a genuine value on talent.
Scorers: Clara – Keith Nolan (0-9, frees); Brian O’Shea (2-0); Liam Ryan (0-4); Austin Murphy (1-0); Killian Phelan (0-2); Tom Ryan, Lester Ryan, Conor Phelan, James Nolan, Christopher Bolger (0-1 each). Oylegate/Glenbrien – Fergal Doran (0-5, frees).
Clara – Kevin Nolan, Tom Ryan, John Phelan, Sean O’Shea, Neal Prendergast, Shane Prendergast, David Langton (capt), Jack Langton, Lester Ryan, Conor Phelan, Austin Murphy, Liam Ryan, Brian O’Shea, James Nolan, Keith Hogan. Subs – Conor O’Shea for J. Langton 47th min; Killian Phelan for A. Murphy 47th min; Christopher Bolger for K. Hogan 48th min; Ciaran Prendergast for J. Nolan 48th min; Dermot Nolan for N. Prendergast 51st min.
Oylegate/Glenbrien – M. Shiggins, A. Nolan, F. Heffernan, R. O’Connor, D. O’Mahoney, M. Heffernan, P. O’Mahoney, F. Doran, J. Reck, J. Foley, P. Nolan, M.J. Reck, M. Kavanagh, E. O’Mahoney, P. Doran. Subs – A. Murphy for P. O’Mahoney, inj 14th min; J. McCormack for P. Doran ht; P. O’Connor for J. Foley 48th min; B. Doran for M. Kavanagh 48th min; B. McCormack for D. O’Mahoney 52nd min.
Referee – P. Murphy (Carlow).