Clara and Carrickshock to square off

The way has been cleared for the Kilkenny SHC semi-finals.

Champions Clara will face Carrickshock while St Martin’s (Muckalee) take on in-form Ballyhale Shamrocks in a big double-header in Nowlan Park on Sunday.

Attendances have been showing a post All-Ireland final boom, with the quarter-finals between Shamrocks Ballyhale and Danesfort and Carrickshock and Rower-Inistioge attracting massive crowds.

In Kilkenny the gate money is shared by clubs up to the semi-final stage, when it starts to go the county board, so clubs have been reaping the benefits in recent weeks.

The draws were made last night and they threw up interesting pairings.

Ballyhale Shamrocks, who have an attack sporting five senior All-Ireland medal winners, look the most serious threat to champions Clara.

The Shamrocks showed no mercy when locking horns with Danesfort, the club of Hurler of the Year, Richie Hogan, in the delayed quarter-final.

The Shamrocks would have been firm favourites against a side that depends to a large extent on Hogan and fellow All-Star, Paul Murphy, to survive but no one would have predicted the early devastation.

Within eight minutes, Shamrocks were already 2-4 to 0-1 ahead, with young Brian Cody, the only man in their attack not to have won a senior All-Ireland, grabbing the goals. Colin Fennelly was on fire, and created the openings for both scores.

Fennelly created a third goal for TJ Reid before bagging one himself as Shamrocks galloped into an interval lead of 4-15 to 0-6 while playing with the wind.

Danesfort improved after the break, but they never looked like getting near opponents who eventually won by 5-23 to 2-13.

Shamrocks appear to have the artillery to outgun the rest, but getting the balance right in defence remains their biggest challenge.

The Carrickshock and the Rower game was a replay, and it needed extra-time before Carrickshock won a tough, fierce-tackling and uncompromising tie by 1-13 to 0-15. The clinching score was a point from a free by Jamie Power, brother of Richie, five minutes from the end.

The Rower can consider themselves unlucky. They lost star attacker Michael Grace to injury just before half-time after he had already scored four points and made several big plays.

They were 1-4 to 0-5 behind after playing with the wind, but they improved after the turn. However, poor shooting left them down.

Rower were still behind (1-9 to 0-7) entering the closing 10 minutes, but a rush of points from the Joyce brothers, Kieran and Conor, saw them draw level at 1-9 to 0-12 at the end of normal time.

The lead changed hands a couple of times during extra-time, but Carrickshock, who were inspired by the great ball winning ability of John Power, got their noses in front when it mattered.

On this performance, Carrickshock, who are without injured former All-Star, Michael Rice, who is sidelined with a cruciate ligament injury, will have to find another gear if they are to repeat last year’s feat of reaching the final.

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