Banner’s rise irresistible

Clare 1-17 Tipperary 2-10
Clare put together back-to-back Munster U21 hurling titles last night at Semple Stadium, and well deserved it was.

On a perfect evening for hurling, the Banner lads were too quick, too slick, too sure and too well drilled (kudos again to joint managers Gerry O’Connor and Donal Moloney) for a Tipperary side that began to click into gear only when the game was already gone.

It was always going to be a big ask for the home side, though, Clare backboned by 10 of last year’s All-Ireland-winning side, six of whom are now regular starters with the senior team which on Sunday week will contest the All-Ireland semi-final against Limerick.

That experience showed and all six of their big guns were on fire, none more so than full-back and man of the match David McInerney.

Outside him, Alan O’Neill (surely a star of the future) was in superb form, flying wing-back Seadna Morey making several forays up the wing (unlucky to get a second yellow card in the dying minutes but lucky not to have seen straight red for his first yellow, a badly mistimed strike on the helmet of Niall O’Brien, one of Tipperary’s few stars on the night).

In midfield the senior pairing of Tony Kelly and Colm Galvin simply blew Tipp off the park, while up front the giant Peter Duggan got the lone Clare goal (a fine double on a long O’Neill free) and the quicksilver pair of Podge Collins and Cathal O’Connell gave the lie to the adage that a good big ’un will always beat a good little ’un — not last night they didn’t, because those two did untold damage to Tipperary.

Tipp it was who were first off the mark, a pointed free from exactly halfway by their lone senior star Jason Forde in the first minute, but that was to be as good as it got for the home side in that opening half. Forde would be on the mark again on five occasions before half-time, all from placed balls, but no other Tipp player would score. Clare, in comparison hit 17 shots in that half, giving a return of 1-9. O’Connell did most of the scoring, most of that from placed balls, but Kelly, Collins and Cunningham also chipped in with points, Duggan’s goal coming in the 18th minute.

Into the second half, and it didn’t get any better for Tipp. They brought on the cavalry, used all five subs, and dual minor star Colin O’Riordan looked particularly impressive, making a series of outstanding catches.

When they did finally start to show some of the form that saw Cork blitzed for five goals at this same venue only a few weeks ago, however, it was all too late.

Captain Niall O’Meara and Forde combined for their first goal, in the 45th minute, closing what had been a widening gap to just five points (1-14 to 1-9), but by the 53rd minute a composed Clare had again extended the lead to a comfortable seven (1-17 to 1-10).

Tipp were now forced to go for goals but with team captain Paul Flanagan and the tigerish Jack Browne in fine form alongside McInerney, the home side found themselves denied time and again. Even when they finally did break through — Forde again with a blistering shot from point-blank range in the 55th minute — keeper Ronan Taaffe was up to the task.

Tipp did goal for a second time, Forde with a well-struck penalty, but it was mere consolation.

Onwards and upwards then for Clare hurling, Munster titles starting to accumulate at the lower levels. On this display, it’s only a matter of time before the big one comes.

Scorers for Clare: C O’Connell 0-8 (6f); P Duggan 1-0; T Kelly, C Galvin, P Collins, A Cunningham 0-2 each; S O’Donnell 0-1.

Scorers for Tipperary: J Forde 2-7 (0-6f, 1 65, 1-0 pen); L McGrath 0-2 (1f); N O’Meara 0-1.

CLARE: R Taaffe; P Flanagan, D McInerney, J Browne; S Morey, A O’Neill, S O’Halloran; T Kelly, C Galvin; P Duggan, P Collins, S O’Donnell; D O’Halloran, A Cunningham, C O’Connell.

Subs for Clare: J Shanahan for D O’Halloran (54); C Malone for Duggan (56); N Arthur for Cunningham (60).

Tipperary: D Mooney; M Breen, A Ryan, C Barrett; J O’Dwyer, T Hamill, S Kennedy; J Cahill, B Stapleton; J Forde, N O’Meara (c), T Heffernan; L McGrath, B Walsh, A McCormack.

Subs for Tipperary: J McGrath for Heffernan (28); C O’Riordan for Cahill (35); T Gallagher for Walsh (41); J Meagher for Stapleton (48); M O’Brien for McCormack (57).

Referee: S Hourigan (Limerick).

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