Kilkenny champions, Clara moved swiftly through the gears in the second half to deny Danesfort their second win in the last round of the senior hurling league.
It was weeks since clubs sampled action, and prior to this game Clara and Danesfort sat at the bottom of Group A table, but the outcome here was not enough to get either out of the dreaded position.
However, a win is a win and both teams did their utmost to get over the line first.
The opening half exchanges were even. Richie Hogan nudged Danesfort in front with a free in the first minute.
Clara quickly responded, Keith Hogan converting a free. He added another before Conor O’Shea followed with the first score from play.
Richie Hogan was picked up by fellow county man, Shane Prendergast from the start, but he ended up playing very deep and helping out his defence.
He may not have contributed a lot from a scoring perspective, but his ability to master outfield positions was impressive.
Another nod to Shane Prendergast, who was solid at centre back, and out-played anyone he picked up. Perhaps we might see him play in this position for Kilkenny in the ’League next year?
Anyway, back to the game. Both sides were on top defensively, and scuppered any potential goal threats.
Danesfort, as a unit, were impressive. Their link up play was good; the deliveries into the full-forward line were clever and the rewards were three points from Robert Walsh, Paddy Hickey and Des Dunne.
Dunne’s score in particular, in the 21st minute, was possibly the one of the game. Well within his own half back line, he received a pass, steadied himself and struck the ball sweetly over the bar.
Dunne was a late replacement for Ger Dunne and slotted in seamlessly into the half back line, having a great game. Danesfort were worth for their two point lead going into the break.
The score was: Danesfort 0-8, Clara 0-6.
Clara came out for the restart a different animal. The forward line was bolstered by the addition of Liam Ryan, who scored the first point of the half.
This was followed by another from Neal Prendergast. The crucial moment came in the 34th minute when Chris Bolger pounced on a breaking ball and cut through for goal.
The ball was blocked, but it fell to Ciaran Prendergast, who wasted no time in striking the rebound into the Danesfort net.
It would be another 10 minutes before Danesfort got their first score of the half, a Richie Hogan free.
They were unable to cope with the rampant Clara forward line, who, when on form, would trouble any team.
Chris Bolger took over the free taking from Keith Hogan, and he was very accurate. Lester Ryan showed all his prowess and industry in midfield, both contributing scores and lending a hand in defence.
The only worry the champions have now concerns the fitness of their ‘super sub’ Liam Ryan, who limped off with a hamstring injury.
Looking forward, both teams will take stock of their performances and seek improvement.
SCORERS: Clara - Chris Bolger (0-6, four frees); Keith Hogan (0-3, frees); Liam Ryan (0-4); Ciaran Prendergast, John Phelan (1-1 each); Lester Ryan (0-3); Conor O’Shea (0-2); Neal Prendergast, Jack Langton (0-1 each). Danesfort - Richie Hogan (0-6, five frees); Paddy Hogan (0-2); Robbie Walsh, Paddy Hickey, Declan Dunne, Cathal O’Neill (0-1 each).
Clara - Kevin Nolan; Dermot Nolan, Sean O’Shea, Tom Ryan; Neal Prendergast (capt), Shane Prendergast, David Langton; Jack Langton, Lester Ryan; Jason Byrne, Keith Hogan, Conor O’Shea; Ciaran Prendergast, John Phelan, Chris Bolger. Subs: Liam Ryan, Austin Murphy.
Danesfort - Paddy Tynan; Ronan Leahy, Paul Murphy, Darren Booth; Declan Dunne, Paddy Hogan, Phil Walsh; Robert Walsh, Jim Phelan, Colm Phelan, Richard Hogan, Cathal O’Neill; Cillian Treacy, Paddy Hickey, Kevin Ireland. Subs: Gary Tynan, Ger Dunne, James Cunningham.
Referee - Peter Burke (Emeralds).
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