Cats send out warning in final

Kilkenny 3-20 Clare 0-15

Brian Cody's Kilkenny eased emphatically to their third Allianz NHL Division One title in four years in Thurles as Clare slumped to a 14-point defeat on a back of a sorry second half.

The Cats creamed the Banner men - who lost Gerry O'Grady to a straight red card - in the second half and the margin would have been evern greater but for veteran goalkeeper Davy Fitzgerald producing two quality saves.

In search of the county's first league success since 1978, Anthony Daly's Clare were the better side in the first half despite going in level - 0-10 to 1-07 at the break.

Daly's charges, surprise 2-13 to 1-08 winners away to the Cats in March, went 0-04 to 0-02 in front in the opening exchanges with Niall Gilligan, Conor Plunkett, Colin Lynch and Tony Griffin finding their range early on.

DJ Carey soon rallied his troops with a fine drive over and the 'Dodger' - in search of his fifth NHL medal - found the back of the Clare net on 24 minutes when drilling low and home the rebound of Henry Shefflin's penalty shot.

Fitzgerald was on hand again just before the break to deny youngster Eoin Larkin from only yards out.

Tony Carmody (0-02), Gilligan swapped points with Martin Comerford and Larkin in the subsequent minutes to leave the sides level at the interval.

Only seconds into the second half Frank Lohan was unlucky to be yellow carded for a heavy challenge and quickly, Kilkenny stole in front in business-like fashion.

Henry Shefflin, Comerford began clicking and Carey's crafty handpass for Larkin's coolly finished second goal on 46 minutes pushed Cody's men 2-10 to 0-11 in front.

Shefflin notched his fifth point, Derek Lyng tagged on another Kilkenny over, Eddie Brennan, Brian Barry and Larkin from the left flank added further points as the 2003 champions firmly put both hands on the trophy with little over a quarter-of-an-hour remaining.

Carmody drew over Clare's second point of the second half in reply but once more Kilkenny bared the teeth in the final flurry.

Carey set up Shefflin for their third goal on 58 minutes, with a handy ground flick. Clare then lost O'Grady for a striking offence and the corner-back will now miss their Munster championship opener against either Limerick or Tipperary on June 5.

Shefflin and Gilligan traded meaningless frees at the death - leaving Kilkenny to celebrate their twelfth NHL crown and a heavy warning to Division Two finalists Offaly ahead of their Leinster championship clash in six weeks time.

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