CLARE’S Tony Carmody scored a first-half goal, went off injured minutes later but raised the rafters at the end of this final when he lifted the All-Ireland IHC trophy.
The wily centre-forward was one of the more experienced members of a Clare team which ended up winning this competition for the first time in the county’s history and grinned from ear to ear as he held the cup after his side’s defeat of Kilkenny.
"We were the last Clare team left in any competition this year and, for the first time winning an All-Ireland at this grade was absolutely brilliant," the captain said.
After a slow start which saw them conceding 1-1 courtesy of a Paul O’Flynn goal and pointed free by Michael Grace, Clare quickly settled into this Saturday evening final in Thurles and a fine goal by Carmody set the tone for their performance.
He was unfortunate to injure himself while scoring, blasting a low shot to the net after emerging with the sliothar from a scramble of players and he subsequently had to exit the proceedings minutes later.
But that goal gave them a two-point lead and they remained in front for the rest of the game. A flurry of points towards the end of the first-half put them four in front at the break and, when Daire Keane got their second goal shortly after the resumption, they looked comfortable.
By the end, all their players from midfield through to the forward line had scored as they tacked on more points and ended up winning with plenty in hand.
Clare had the tougher route to this, their first ever All-Ireland decider at the intermediate grade, disposing of Cork, Limerick and Galway along the way while Wexford provided Kilkenny with their only challenge in the Leinster final.
Clare team manager Kevin Kennedy said afterwards that he and some of the players: "have been years involved with this panel" and they were delighted to eventually take the ultimate prize.
"It’s an All-Ireland for Clare and we don’t win that many of them," he pointed out.
"I think today, Tony Carmody was going to have an exceptional game and it was a major loss when he had to come off, but we have a panel of 31 players."
As Tony Carmody put it, he was personally "disappointed" to have to come off, but: "There are no heroes here and everything was geared around team work. At the end of the day it was about the team winning."
Shane Golden and Ronan Keane proved too strong in the centre of the field, winning much possession, while Joe O’Connor and Niall Gilligan in the forwards and the impressive Patrick Kelly and Michael Hawes at the back all turned in solid displays.
Scorers for Clare: T Carmody, D Keane 1-0 each, N Gilligan 0-3 (2fs), J O’Connor, P Hickey, S Golden 0-2 each, M Duggan, K Dilleen, R Keane, D O’Rourke 0-1 each.
Scorers for Kilkenny: P O’Flynn 1-2, E Hickey, G Aylward, S Burke (2fs) 0-2 each, S Byrne, M Grace (f), C Conway (f) 0-1 each.
CLARE: A Fahy; M Earley, P Kelly, A Brigdale; K Moynihan, M Hawes, J Fennessy; R Keane, S Golden; M Duggan, T Carmody, K Dilleen; J O’Connor, N Gilligan, P Hickey.
Subs: D Keane for T Carmody, P Fitzpatrick for K Moynihan, D O’Rourke for M Duggan, S Chaplin for S Golden, C Tierney for N Gilligan.
KILKENNY: R O’Neill; W Phelan, M Walsh, S Phelan; L Harney, PJ Rowe, S Byrne; M Grace, W O’Dwyer; P O’Flynn, S Kenny, JJ Farrell; G Shelly, E Hickey, A Stapleton.
Subs: G Aylward for A Stapleton, S Burke for JJ Farrell, O Walsh for S Kenny, C Conway for W O’Dwyer, N Kenny for E Hickey.
Ref: Diarmuid Kirwan (Cork).