THERE was a serious, serious amount of parish pride on show here because never in the three seasons that have passes since they climbed into the senior division have Clara produced a performance filled with such fire and brilliance as they did when dismantling Graigue-Ballycallan at Bennettsbridge.
Because dismantle the opposition all action Clara did on Saturday when they ran the legs off Graigue, especially during the opening half, and scored points to beat the band as they claimed their first win of the season in the senior hurling league, and against a heretofore unbeaten side at that.
Where this Clara performance came from I haven’t much clue, apart from speculating that pride might have been the spur after the hurt of two hollow earlier showings.
The winners mesmerised as they out-ran, out-thought, out-fought and out-hurled Graigue from the moment the ball was thrown-in.
If Clara can ride the wave of happiness and satisfaction from now until the fourth round on July 10 against Dunnamaggin they could turn their season right around. We could have seen the start of something big here such was the quality of Clara’s hurling.
For the first time since they won the intermediate championship in 2007, Clara gave us all a hint of the latent promise within their squad. That promise has been spoken about. This was the talent unleashed, given free expression.
In the end the score line flattered Graigue big time. They pulled back goals through Kevin Cleere (free) and Darragh Murphy in the 56th and 61st minutes respectively, but by that stage Clara legs were beginning to tie up after burning up the pitch during the hour.
The game simply exploded into one constant blast of scores from the winners. On three minutes the free running James Nolan was put goal side of the Graigue defence by a lovely flicked pass from Conor Phelan, and he beat ’keeper, P.J. Pollard all ends up.
Wind assisted Clara were off! Eoin O’Shea, James Nolan (2) and Keith Hogan (two free) all hit the target before 10 minutes had passed (1-5 to 0-1).
None of the Graigue defenders or midfielders could catch hold of their opponents as the winners ran here and there creating buckets of space all over the place. Under pressure Graigue were restricted to two points from Eddie Brennan and Darragh Egan (free) during the quarter.
The second quarter opened with Conor Phelan and Egan trading points. James Nolan and John Purcell followed suit. But the urgency in Clara’s play was simply too much.
In the 22nd minute both Conor Phelan and Liam Ryan, what an incredible match he played, shot scores as the scoreboard read: 1-11 to 0-4.
My notes confirmed the 12 scores, but there were five wides as well. Work out the dominance from those figures.
The pounding of the losers continued with superb points from Eoin O’Shea, after dancing through three would be tackles, and Liam Ryan, who fielded a long clearance from Lester Ryan in the left full back position before hitting the target from 50 metres.
The same Ryan rounded off the scoring in this half with a late point, which left Clara leading by an astonishing 1-14 to 0-4. Wait for it – they posted nine wides as well. That was some number of chances to create during one half!
To be fair to Graigue, they regrouped as best they could during the break, but not even the Leinster rugby heroes, the kings of second half comebacks, could have saved this game.
Ten minutes into the half Graigue had made some gains, James Smith, Darragh Egan, Kevin Cleere (65) and John Purcell all having hit the target. Still they were 0-8 to 1-16 down, although they were chasing hard and they had stalled the Clara charge.
There were still 11 scores to come, and two of them were Graigue goals. Clara always kept the margin safe, however.
The losers threw everyone and everything forward, but on the times they breached the Clara last line of defence they found goalie Kevin Nolan in inspired form, or with luck running his way. It didn’t matter. There was undoing the harm that that been inflicted during the first period.
The Clara heroes? Look at the team sheet from 1 to 15 and acclaim them all. Magnificent, in the game of your life class, were Liam Ryan, James Nolan, Tom Ryan and David Langton. A mere two of their scores were from frees, by the way.
James Ryall was a stout battler for the losers; second half sub Kevin Cleere did well and Ciaran Hoyne struck a lot of ball during the closing half. Besides, all would expect to do better.
Scorers: Clara – James Nolan (1-4); Liam Ryan (0-6); Keith Hogan (0-4, two frees). Lester Ryan, Eoin O’Shea, Conor Phelan (0-2 each); Stephen Quinlan (0-1). Graigue-Ballycallan – Kevin Cleere (1-4, 1-2 frees, 0-2 65s’); Darragh Murphy (1-0); Darragh Egan (0-2, frees); John Purcell (0-2); Ciaran Hoyne (0-1, free); Eddie Brennan, James Smith, John Hoyne (0-1 each).
Clara – Kevin Nolan, Tom Ryan, Shane Prendergast, Sean O’Shea, Neal Prendergast, David Langton, David Prendergast, Stephen Quinlan, Lester Ryan, James Nolan, Eoin O’Shea, Liam Ryan, Keith Hogan, Conor Phelan, Killian Phelan. Sub – Brian Phelan.
Graigue-Ballycallan – P.J. Pollard, Adrian Burke, James Ryall, Darragh Walton, John Cleere, Dermot Hoyne, Ciaran Hoyne, Dermot Ryall, Jimmy Murphy, Eddie Brennan, James Smith, Paddy Kennedy, Darragh Egan, John Hoyne, John Purcell. Subs – Kevin Cleere, Willie O’Connor, Darragh Murphy.
Referee – Pat Dunphy (Carrigeen).