After winning six titles on the trot, brave Clara failed to negotiate the first hurdle in the Leinster club senior hurling championship when beaten by Oulart the Ballagh (Wexford) yesterday.
Oulart, who were beaten in the last three Leinster finals, were generally the better team but they had to come from behind to win by 0-20 to 2-11. The winners face Kilcormac Killoughey (Offaly) in the semi-final in two weeks time.
“I am absolutely delighted,” insisted Oulart manager, Martin Storey after points between the 59th and 61st minutes from Garrett Sinnott (2) and sub Conor O’Leary decided the issue.
“It is awful hard to come back after being beaten three years in-a-row. We have lost six Leinster finals, if you count the replay in 1994. We are going to give this a rattle, but there is some team in our way.”
Clara started well, then lost their way, but two goals scored in the third quarter put them into a match winning position. However, they couldn’t maintain the challenge and Oulart, who maintained their well rehearsed ‘keep ball game’, hurled their way to a good win.
The mild weather and good Nowlan Park pitch made it an ideal day for hurling. The winners were slow getting into their stride. Keith Hogan, Liam and Lester Ryan all shared in the scoring as Clara raced 0-5 to 0-1 clear after seven minutes.
Clara looked really good during this period, and were winning the midfield battle. The winners, with Garrett Sinnott in blinding form in attack, slowly got their game together and they pulled back the opposition. On 27 minutes the scores were tied at 0-7 each.
At the break a 30th minute point from David Redmond, after receiving a quick puck-out from goalie Ben O’Connor, divided the sides as Oulart showed 0-8 to 0-7 in front.
Clara levelled within a minute of the restart when the fleet footed Liam Ryan pointed. For a while afterwards Oulart, with the half-back trio of Conor Goff, Paul Roche and Lar Prendergast dominant at one end and
Sinnott and Des Mythen causing havoc at the other controlled the game and they put together a well deserved 0-13 to 0-9 lead by the end of the quarter.
Battling Clara stormed back. Two points from Conor Phelan helped them hang in the game. Then they plundered goals through Chris Bolger (42nd minute) and James Nolan (46th minute) to get 2-11 to 0-14 in front heading into the closing 12 minutes.
Sinnott and Mythen then combined for the latter to score. The former landed a point before Rory Jacob nabbed the equaliser in the 58th minute (2-11 to 0-17). Oulart drove on. Points from man of the match Sinnott (2) and
Conor O’Leary decided the issue.
Scorers: Oulart the Ballagh – G. Sinnott (0-6); D. Mythen (0-4); N. Kirwan (0-4); R. Jacob (0-3); D. Redmond (0-2); C. O’Leary (0-1). Clara – K. Hogan (0-4); J. Nolan, C. Bolger (1-0 each); Liam Ryan (0-3); Lester Ryan, C. Phelan (0-2 each).
Referee – J. McGrath (Westmeath).