Clara won the title for the first time on Saturday when the outscored and outclassed James Stephens by 0-24 to 1-13. The season thus far has been one of virtually all highs for Clara, who included championship kings Ballyhale Shamrocks among the team they have beaten.
The Village shared parity at 0-4 each after eight minutes, but once the flying Liam Ryan pointed Clara back in front moments later they led all the way home. The winners were 0-15 to 0-7 in front at half-time after playing with the fresh breeze.
James Stephens, who were overly-reliant on county star Eoin Larkin for scores – he shot 0-10 – got back to within three points of the opposition with ten minutes left, 0-19 to 1-13, but Clara simply slipped through the gears again.
Lester Ryan, who was brilliant in midfield, lashed over two long-range points and then Liam Ryan, who shot six points from play, added third to up the divide to a match winning 0-22 to 1-13.
Both teams are already through to the championship quarter-finals by virtue of the fact they qualified for the league final. These games will be played the weekend after next.
They were joined by Ballyhale Shamrocks, Carrickshock, St Martin’s (Muckalee), Erin’s Own (Castlecomer) and Dicksboro. The final places will be taken by O’Loughlin Gaels or Tullaroan, who played a 1-11 (O’L G) to 0-14 draw in their first round game, with the former needing a late equaliser.
The relegation final will be between JJ Delaney’s Fenians (Johnstown) and Eddie Brennan’s Graigue-Ballycallan, who were beaten by Dicksboro and Erin’s Own respectively in the crucial first round, relegation semi-final games.
The quarter-final draws will be made this evening.