THE END goal might be a return to the senior ranks, but a fifth win from five games helped an impressive Clara book their place in the intermediate league final, beating Mooncoin by 0-19 to 0-11, writes Trevor Spillane.
There was a clinical air about their performance as the men in maroon simply overran Mooncoin on their way to the points in Ballyhale on Sunday. The South Kilkennymen, who have struggled for wins this term, had no answer as their rivals took control in the second half, easing their way to an eight point win.
Things didn’t look as rosy for Clara at the start however, as within 11 minutes of throw-in they found themselves without their regular free-taker Keith Hogan. The full-forward had three points to his name by that stage, but limped out of the game when he pulled up clutching his hamstring.
Clara’s stride was checked with that loss, so it was no surprise to see Mooncoin take full advantage. Having trailed by three (0-4 to 0-1) when Hogan left the fray they quickly turned the game their way. A brace of frees from their own sharpshooter Diarmuid Mackey book-ended minor scores for the hard-working Ray Wall and Eoin Hennebry, a run that edged Mooncoin in front by the 17th minute.
Mooncoin’s lead didn’t last for long. Clara had an able replacement in Lester Ryan when it came to scoring frees, the young midfielder converting three before half-time to lead the sides level on 0-7 apiece at the break.
It seemed the tight manner of the game would continue in the second half, but Clara weren’t having that. Boosted by two swift Ryan frees they eased into the lead and began to open up. They were also helped by the breeze, which picked up after the restart and sent some Mackey frees swirling wide of the mark.
It wasn’t just the elements that stifled Mooncoin though. Clara’s strong defence played their part, Neal Prendergast excelling on a half-back line that shut their opponents out of the game. Such was their strength that Diarmuid Mackey was forced to go back into his own half-back line at times to win possession and drive it towards his forwards, only to see the sliotar keep coming back.
With the momentum behind them Clara pushed on to make the result safe. While Mooncoin managed just four points after the restart - three Mackey frees and a fine score from play by Jamie McGrath - the winners bagged a dozen. Brian and Conor O’Shea, Stephen Quinlan and Cillian Phelan all hit the mark to help defend the only 100% record in the intermediate grade and secure a place in the league final against St Lachtain’s.
SCORERS: Clara - Lester Ryan (0-7, frees); Keith Hogan (0-3, 0-1 free, 0-1 65); Cillian Phelan, Brian O’Shea (0-2 each); Conor Phelan, Chris Bolger, Stephen Quinlan, Conor O’Shea, Ciaran Prendergast. Mooncoin - Diarmuid Mackey (0-5, frees); Michael Grace (0-2); Eoin Hennebry, Alan Walsh, Jamie McGrath, Ray Wall (0-1 each).
Clara - K. Nolan, T. Ryan, S. Prendergast, S. O’Shea, D. Langton, C. O’Shea, N. Prendergast, L. Ryan, B. O’Shea, C. Phelan, A. Murphy, C. Bolger, C. Prendergast, K. Hogan, P. Nolan. Subs: B. Nolan for Hogan (inj), 11 mins; C. Phelan for B. Nolan, 38 mins; S. Quinlan for Murphy, 44 mins; D. Nolan for T. Ryan, 58 mins; S. Cassin for S. O’Shea, 58 mins.
Mooncoin - P. Kinsella, C. Daly, N. Mackey, L. Hennebry, T. O’Hanlon, E. Mackey, S. Kearns, A. Walsh, J. McGrath, D. Mackey, E. Hennebry, M. Fitzgerald, D. Purcell, R. Wall, M. Grace. Subs: D. O’Brien for Fitzgerald, 36 mins; C. Fleming for Kearns, 59 mins.
Referee - J. Kennedy (Ballyhale Shamrocks).