Clara 1-15 Carrickshock 2-10
Clara’s meteoric rise in the Kilkenny club scene reached its zenith yesterday with a dramatic final victory over Carrickshock.
This month two years ago they had lost their senior status to Tullaroan only to shoot straight back up last season and add an All-Ireland Club IHC title last February.
But they weren’t fancied coming into this game, Carrickshock heavily tipped to finally bridge a 62-year gap to their last success.
With four minutes of normal time left, Clara’s opponents, even with Richie Power anonymous for spells, looked best placed to win a dour affair when they went two points up through Damien Walsh and John Power scores.
They also had a goal disallowed in the 51st minute after Michael Rohan was adjudged to have hand-passed the ball to the net.
But it was Clara who stole the initiative when a free was brought in closer by referee Sean Cleere and Lester Ryan, instead of usual free-taker Keith Hogan, netted from 20 metres after his venomous shot was deflected to the net. Three minutes later and the Kilkenny midfielder flew over a point to give Clara a two-point cushion, which turned out to be more than enough as a Richie Power free was cancelled out by sub Chris Bolger’s injury-time strike.
In front of a 8,646 crowd in Nowlan Park, it was Clara who won their first county title since 1986 and they earned it simply by taking their chances when Carrickshock, who posted 10 wides to Clara’s six, did not.
The sides were level on eight occasions over the 63 minutes of action including the break when a wind-assisted Clara looked to be going in three points to the good, only for Brian Donovan to snap a goal with the penultimate puck of the first half.
That made it 0-11 to 2-5 but Carrickshock then failed to make much in-roads with the benefit of the conditions.
Michael Rice, their best player, pushed them ahead in the 36th minute but Keith Hogan fired back with his ninth free a minute later.
They were the only two scores in the third quarter as both sides struggled with basic skills that had nothing to do with the soft underfoot conditions. Richie Power was off-target with a relatively easy free in the 45th minute.
Keith Hogan made no mistake with one of his own three minutes later to put Clara ahead, only for Donovan to hit back almost immediately.
Walsh and John Power sent over points to give Carrickshock a two-point lead until Ryan stepped up to that free and irrevocably changed the game.
Clara could have been forgiven for kicking themselves at half-time, such was the cheap manner in which they surrendered a three-point lead.
A long ball in, two minutes into injury-time, was broken down and Donovan was the quickest to anticipate, having scored Carrickshock’s first point from play just seconds beforehand.
Clara had been the better side in the first half although it wasn’t difficult given the lack of intensity and vigour.
Until the 19th minute, the only score from play was John Power’s goal, almost an identical score to Donovan’s later effort when a Rice free was broken down and he found the net.
That fifth minute effort put Carrickshock 1-0 to 0-1 ahead but they found themselves in arrears just six minutes later when Hogan reeled off a fourth point, a second free having floated over two earlier 65s.
A couple of Richie Power frees either side of another from Hogan restored parity in the 18th minute. What followed for the next six minutes was tit-for-tat exchanges on the scoreboard as Carrickshock hauled back Clara on the two occasions they snuck ahead.
Carrickshock also had a penalty claim turned down in the 21st minute when Mark O’Dwyer appeared to be fouled in the area but Cleere awarded a free instead.
Clara then enjoyed an impressive spell when Hogan’s fourth successful free was followed by a delightful Liam Ryan point after a fine solo down the left wing.
From the resultant puckout, Richie Power lost out on a ball and it was quickly transferred to Hogan to split the posts.
He added another free in the 30th minute, the consequence of John Tennyson losing control of a ball, to send Clara four points ahead.
Donovan on his own levelled up the game by the interval but Carrickshock never really gained from it.
Clara, on the other hand, never lost focus of what was on the line.
Scorers for Clara: K Hogan (0-10, 7 frees, 2 65s); Lester Ryan (1-1, 1-0 free); J Langton, A Murphy, Liam Ryan, C Bolger (0-1 each).
Scorers for Carrickshock: B Donovan (1-2); John Power (1-1); R Power (0-4, frees); M Rice (0-2); D Walsh (0-1).
CLARA: K Phelan; T Ryan, J Phelan, S O’Shea; N Prendergast, S Prendergast, D Langton; L Ryan, J Langton; C Phelan, K Hogan, L Ryan; A Murphy, J Nolan, C Prendergast.
Subs: D Walsh for P Mulcahy (43); N Tennyson for P Tennyson, N Rohan for Jamie Power (both 56).
CARRICKSHOCK: J Butler; J Murphy, J Dalton, D Franks; J Cahill, J Tennyson, P Tennyson; M Rice, P Mulcahy; John Power, R Power, Jamie Power; B Donovan, M O’Dwyer, M Rohan.
Subs: C O’Shea for J Nolan (50); C Bolger for A Murphy (56).
Referee: S Cleere (O’Loughlin Gaels).