Banner’s early dazzle sees Cats blindsided

 Kilkenny 1-18 Clare 2-18... Deep in injury time there occurred arguably the most noteworthy event of a first half full of noteworthy events. Kilkenny scored their first point from play of the afternoon.

Banner’s early dazzle sees Cats blindsided

The clock read 37:35 and the scorer was Pat Lyng, who’d come on as a substitute.

The number of Clare men who’d already scored from play? Seven. The number of Clare men who’d finish the half having scored from play? Eight, as David Fitzgerald popped up moments after Lyng’s effort and found the range from distance to send the visitors in leading by 2-12 to 1-7.

Whatever statistical method one chose to slice and dice it, this had been emphatically one-sided stuff. Clare were dazzling, Kilkenny limp and leaderless.

Quite how the Banner failed to kick on from there and win comfortably can be filed under the heading of One of Those Things. Sometimes matches go that way, for no obvious reason, and this match did.

The turnaround that followed on the resumption was more than merely a change of ends; the hosts predictably raised their intensity levels and, hand in hand with that, their opponents drove 12 wides, most of them bad and unnecessary ones from distance.

Kilkenny spent the closing ten minutes charging in Donal Tuohy’s direction, albeit rarely threatening to beat him. Still, it wasn’t until Niall Deasy landed a fine injury-time point from the right that the men in saffron and blue could take a deep breath and finally relax.

When they were good yesterday they were very good indeed, as demonstrated by the 2-5 without reply they rattled off between the seventh and 18th minutes. “We’ve the capability of doing that,” their joint manager Donal Moloney mused afterwards.

“We were really keen on starting well and they did. Ultimately that daylight proved insurmountable for Kilkenny.”

While Clare “would want to be much more efficient” than they were in the second half, he added, two wins from their opening two outings of the league left him with little room for complaint.

“We were delighted with the fight shown by our players. They applied themselves brilliantly in so many ways over the two games.”

The sides were level at 0-2 each when the winners went into overdrive. Shane O’Donnell triggered the rush with a goal right out of the top drawer. He drifted out to receive a pass from Tony Kelly, turned Paddy Deegan, sped past Cillian Buckley, kept going, feigned to pull in order to avoid being hooked – and sent a rasper to the top corner of Eoin Murphy’s net.

Cathal Malone, Peter Duggan (free), John Conlon and David Reidy followed up with points and a second goal arrived when Eoin Murphy butterfingered Reidy’s delivery from distance into his own net. Midway through the first half the lead stood at 11 points, 2-7 to 0-2.

Bill Sheehan’s goal, an overhead flick from the edge of the square, was the home team’s first score in 16 minutes and a series of frees by Alan Murphy served to keep them afloat.

They started the second half with points by Martin Keoghan, Murphy (free) and Walter Walsh, the only Kilkenny forward able to make an impression in the physical stake, but at the three-quarter stage they appeared to have run out of gas.

They kept plugging away nonetheless, the one aspect of their performance that their manager will take heart from, and with Richie Leahy getting on plenty of ball at midfield the last quarter was theirs in terms of possession.

With four minutes remaining, and the 6,416 attendance having found its voice, the gap was somehow down to an improbable two points. Then Murphy missed a 65’ and Deasy closed it out at the other end.

Brian Cody was left to rue his charges’ poor start to the archetypal affair of two halves. “In the first half the game went away from us very, very much. Clare were totally on top almost, you could say. We were eight points down at half-time but obviously the reaction in the second half was very, very good. We really went at it, great honesty in the team, great drive. We created a lot of scores and really got back into the game. Very, very happy with the second half and very disappointed with the first half.

“We upped our effort in the first half and you’d wonder why our effort needed to be upped, it shouldn’t need to be upped, but I mean that’s hurling and things go funny sometimes. I suppose in the overall context of the game we were very competitive in the second half and very, very close to maybe getting something out of it. But in the overall game, we didn’t do enough to get it.

Summed it up perfectly. The clearly better team won. The only matter for debate was the curious narrowness of the margin.

Scorers for Kilkenny:

A Murphy 0-10 (8 frees, 2 65s); B Sheehan 1-0; W Walsh and M Keoghan 0-2 each; E Murphy 0-2, frees; R Leahy and P Lyng 0-1 each.

Scorers for Clare:

D Reidy 1-3; P Duggan 0-5 (3 frees, 1 sideline); S O’Donnell 1-0; J Conlon 0-3; C Malone 0-2; D Fitzgerald, S Morey, C Galvin, T Kelly and N Deasy 0-1 each.

KILKENNY:

E Murphy; J Holden, P Walsh, P Deegan; C Buckley, R Lennon, J Lyng; J Maher, O Walsh; J Donnelly, R Reid, R Leahy; B Sheehan, W Walsh, A Murphy.

Subs:

E Morrissey for Lyng, 20 mins; P Lyng and M Keoghan for O Walsh and Reid, 25; C O’Shea for Lennon, 43; L Blanchfield for Donnelly, 61.

CLARE:

D Tuohy; J Browne, C Cleary, P O’Connor; D Fitzgerald, D McInerney, S Morey; C Galvin, T Kelly; C Malone, J Conlon, D Reidy; S O’Donnell, P Duggan, P Collins.

Subs:

M O’Malley for Fitzgerald, 55 mins; I Galvin for Collins, 60; N Deasy for Malone, 66; J McCarthy for Duggan, 71.

Referee:

J McGrath (Westmeath)

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