All-Ireland champions, Clare finished strongly, and two points during the closing seven minutes, against one reply from Kilkenny, earned them a narrow 1-16 to 0-18 win in the opening round of the National Hurling League in Ennis today.
The winners had late efforts from Patrick O’Connor and Colm Galvin to seal victory, but attempts for points went wide and Kilkenny were there chasing a draw to the end of what was a very competitive match.
While Kilkenny were disappointed to lose, there were positives, especially with the showing of some of the new players. Padraig Walsh and Jonjo Farrell showed up very well while Brian Kennedy turned in a stylish performance at corner-back.
There was little between the teams during the 70 minutes. The scores were level four times, the last time at 0-17 to 1-14 in the 62nd minute after a point from Clare sub Cathal O’Connell brought them back on terms.
A point from Conor McGrath put them in front before a free by top scorer Colin Ryan proved the golden score that divided the teams in the end. Kilkenny’s last score was a pointed a free from Shefflin.
Ryan was the main man for Clare during the first half. When halt-time was reached with the score at 1-8 (C) to 0-11, he had 1-6 to his credit. Shefflin had 0-7 in the bag for the losers.
Kilkenny had a well struck penalty by Shefflin saved in the 19th minute of the second half. A 65 was conceded in that play, and Shefflin turned it into the equalisng point (1-13 to 0-16).
The Cats upped the pressure when Padraig Walsh shot them in front, but after O’Connell levelled the Banner drove on to victory.
Scorers: Clare - C. Ryan (1-9, seven points frees); C. McGrath (0-3); P. Donnellan, J. Conlan, C. Galvin, C. O’Connell (0-1 each). Kilkenny - H. Shefflin (0-12, eight frees, one 65); P. Walsh, W. Walsh (0-2 each); C. Fennelly, J. Farrell (0-1 each).