LEINSTER intermediate champions, Clara kept the good times rolling when they stormed past Barrow Rangers of Paulstown in this Northern under-21 hurling hurling championship tie on Saturday in a demanding game in whick the action was relentless.
Barrow Rangers never made it easy for the dynamic Clara side, and if the injured Richie Doyle had been playing the outcome may have been different. Cathal Kenny got the first score of the game after just 15 seconds, his snapshot quickly putting ’Rangers into an early lead.
Although the ground was rock hard and each breath hung in the biting December air, the game was one of eye catching skill and dashing speed. Chris Bolger got Clara rolling when he shot over after three minutes.
In the opening exchanges, Clara were struggling to find their range, hitting a number of wides. Kenny and Bolger converted placed balls before a great effort by Jack Langton split the post from all of 80 metres. The winneres struck a decisive blow in the 14th minute. The buzzing Ciaran Prendergast was blocked down when trying to shoot over.
Instantly he gathered the ball and made a burst towards goal, his pace helping him out-stripping his marker easily. He floated a hand pass to Bolger, whose finish into the top left corner was exquisite. Thomas Whitely responded with a point, but Clara were picking up momentum, their pace around the wings really setting them up in the attack.
None were battling as hard as Cathal Kenny, however. The county under-21 player shot over his second point after some tough grafting. Kenny pointed a free but Clara shot over four without reply.
First Ciaran Prendergast blazed over from close range. A brace of Brian Prendergast frees and another score from Bolger pushed them well ahead. The full-forward then set up Eoin Curtis for the game’s second goal. The target man Prendergast drifting out and left space for the corner man to run into. Prendergast delivered a low ball that skipped along the ground to the number fifteen.
His first touch failed him, but he pulled instead and the ball shot into the net. At half-time Clara led by 2-8 to 0-7.
They had controlled the game for the first half hour, and looked at ease at the break. Ciaran Prendergast pointed twice soon after the restart and fine frees from Conor O’Shea and Cathal Kenny meant that Clara were now nine ahead with 15 to play. It was Kenny who spearheaded the fightback for ’Rangers, his work rate and shooting prowess giving his team a fighting chance.
He shot over twice and created another in five minutes before Nicky Crane quickly stemmed the tide with a fine score from distance. Kenny and Ciaran Doyle sent over scores for the Paulstown side, but Chris Bolger wrapped up a convincing Clara performance to leave his side five points to the good at the final whistle.
Clara face St Lachtain’s of Freshford next, and they will be more than happy to face a side that they thrashed in the intermediate semi-final this year.
Clara - N. Kehoe, J. Dowling, P. Nolan, T. Byrne, P. Galvin, C. O’Shea (0-1, free), S. Cassin, B. Carrigan, J. Langton (0-1), C. Bolger (1-5, 0-2 frees), N. Creane (0-1), C. Phelan, C. Prendergast (0-3), B. Prendergast (0-2, frees), E. Curtis (1-0). Subs - D. Carroll.
Barrow Rangers - G. English, J. Brennan, K. Brennan, C. Breen, E. Prendergast, S. McDonald, T. Brennan, A. Nolan, C. Doyle (0-1), M. Whitely, C. Kenny (0-12, 0-7 frees), C. English, P. Treacy, T. Whitely (0-1), C. Brennan. Subs - B. Hanlon (0-1), R. Heffernan.