Clara are flying, but no championship in the bag this early in the season

In THE face of this massive win one could begin to think that the intermediate championship was a foregone conclusion, but as we spoke to the Clara manager after this third round league game in Bennettsbridge on Saturday, he practically laughed in our faces for even contemplating the idea.

And you know, being the pragmatist that he is, Robert Shortall would be well entitled to express his opinion on the matter as he did.

“Look, I have never known any team to win a championship in the month of May,” the Clara chief said. “Even the great Kilkenny team have never managed to win a championship at this time of year. Of course we played well, but we are a long way from the finished article.

“During the first half we didn’t allow the Callan lads to settle. We were quietly confident going in at half-time, and I suppose Keith’s (Hogan) five early frees at the start of the second half gave Callan a huge hill to climb. I know we have won our first three games, but there is an almighty long way to go until next October and there will be plenty of twists in the plot yet.”

Won most battles

There was scarcely a position on the park where a John Lockes (Callan) player even broke even with his Clara opponent. One could disassociate Michael Gordon, John O’Neill, Eoin McGrath in the second half, Cathal Byrne and Shane Bergin from such an observation.

The Clara half back line of Neil Prendergast, the immaculate David Langton and Shane Prendergast won the majority of ball that came their way during the 63 minutes of the game’s duration. Lester Ryan and Jack Langton did a similar job around the midfield area, while Conor Phelan, Ciarán Prendergast and Liam Ryan tore the heart out of the John Lockes half back line.

And then there was Keith Hogan. Hogan drilled over 13 points for his side. Ten came from trees, with one from a 65. Everything the man touched turned to gold. He really had the Midas touch on the evening.

The Callan ploy of driving ball into forwards who were decidedly at a height disadvantage with their Clara markers was puzzling. Too often the ball was well worked down to a waiting Clara defender, who effected very positive, thoughtful clearances.

While a couple of the John Lockes attackers showed commendable determination and fortitude, it was clear that too many of them were contented to play the supporting role.

Clara started in whirlwind fashion. But by the 16th minute, despite their superiority, they were still only leading by a couple of points as the game entered the second quarter. However, an obvious gear change by the winners during the second quarter gradually put plenty of clear water between themselves and John Lockes.

Great enjoyment

As the game went into added time for the first half, a long ball, delivered into a corner led to a race for possession between the diminuitive Shane Bergin and the powerful John Phelan. The ensuing body clash brought great enjoyment to a section of the patrons, but Bergin came away with the ball.

Thundering by two Clara defenders, Bergin hammered a bullet beyond the despairing dive of goalie Kevin Nolan, leaving the scoreboard reading Clara 0-13, John Lockes 1-4 at half-time.

That goal seemed to revitalise the losers as they came out for the second moiety. However, that expectancy was short lived as the concession of frees made life that little bit easier for the winners with the likes of Hogan in such good shooting form.

It was all Clara to the finish with John Lockes only managing two points during that second half. The Callan lads would want to forget this one. It was three wins on the bounce for the winners, and they are improving with every game.

Clara - Kevin Nolan, Tom Ryan, John Phelan, Sean O’Shea, Neil Prendergast, David Langton, Shane Prendergast, Lester Ryan, Jack Langton, Conor Phelan, Ciarán Prendergast, Liam Ryan, Ben Nolan, Keith Hogan, Chris Bolger. Subs - Brian O’Shea for C. Bolger 42nd min; Tom Langton for J. Langton 50 min; Stephen Quinlan for C. Prendergast 50 min; Michael Bergin for B. Nolan 58 min; Dermot Nolan for C. Phelan 58 mins.

John Lockes - Paul Morrissey, Eoin Fahy, John O’Neill (capt), Michael Gordon, Owen McGrath, Jason Corcoran, Paddy Kennedy, John Paul Corcoran, Matthew Holohan, Cathal Byrne, Brendan Grace, Ger Shelly, Dan McCormack, Simon Burke, Shane Bergin. Subs - James Power for Grace 45th min; Niall Hennessy for Holohan 45th min.

Referee - Pat Dunphy (Carrigeen).