Second-half fightback gives Kilkenny minors the title

Kilkenny 2-10 Clare 0-14

Kilkenny 2-10 Clare 0-14

Kilkenny staged a raging second-half revival to lift the All-Ireland minor hurling title in a riveting decider at Croke Park.

Clare looked set to pull off a shock when they raced into a six-point lead with a confident first-half performance.

But they were hit by a double blow early in the second half, when the predatory Michael Brennan drilled home two goals.

The Banner lads battled to the end, but never looked like finding the net, and those two precious strikes proved decisive for Richie Mulrooney’s side.

Kilkenny struggled to break down a superb Clare defence throughout the first half.

Corner back Seadna Morey along with full back and captain Paul Flanagan in particular laid on supreme displays at the back, halting a series of attacks and creatively turning defence into attack.

Cillian Buckley and Owen McGrath, from a free, were on target early on as Kilkenny got off to a positive start.

But it was soon evident that Clare were up for the game, their workrate and defensive steel helping them get on top.

Kilkenny were unable to break down a steadfast Clare defence, with corner back Morey and full back Flanagan repeatedly thwarting their opponents.

Once Clare got their momentum going, confidence grew and momentum built.

Midfielder Tony Buckley and centre forward Paudge Collins were immense figures in the middle of the field, and a rampant Banner side picked off seven points on the spin.

Darragh Keane and David O’Halloran swung over magnificent scores from distance, with Niall Arthur, Collins and wing back Enda Boyce also on target.

Kilkenny did mount a series of attacks, but were unable to add to their early scores, and they missed a penalty, John Power’s effort cleared away by Flanagan.

Kilkenny went 22 minutes without scoring, but staged a revival late in the half with scores from Power and Owen McGrath.

Clare led by 0-9 to 0-5 at half-time, but Kilkenny were right back in it within five minutes of the restart when Ger Aylward rose high to fetch before sending Michael Brennan in for a well taken goal.

And Brennan showed his footballing skills in the 42nd minute when he picked up a loose ball before darting through to finish with the boot, bringing the sides level at 2-5 to 0-11.

And the young Cats eased in front with a superb Kevin Kelly point, hoisted over from wide on the left, followed by an identical effort from Aylward.

Kelly and Cillian Buckley stamped their authority on the game as a resurgent Kilkenny side pushed three clear, with O’Halloran keeping the Banner lads in touch, bringing his tally to five.

Substitute Aaron Cunningham also tagged on a point, but stoic defending from Willie Phelan, Brian Kennedy and Luke Harney averted a series of dangerous situations.

As Clare, just one point behind, desperately went for a goal in the closing stages, Aylward broke up an attack and set up Brennan for the clinching score in stoppage time.

Kilkenny: D Walsh, J Corcoran, W Phelan, B Kennedy, P O’Carroll, L Harney, O McGrath (0-2, 2f), K Kelly (0-3), O Walsh, J Power (0-1, f), P Walsh (0-1), C Buckley (0-1), M Brennan (2-1), G Aylward (0-1), T O'Hanrahan.

Subs: P Buggy for O’Hanrahan, P Holden for Walsh, R Reid for Holden

Clare: R Taaffe, H Vaughan, P Flanagan, S Morey, E Boyce (0-1), K Lynch, S O’Halloran, C Galvin, T Kelly (0-2), C Malone, P Collins (0-2), J Shanahan, D Keane (0-1), N Arthur (0-2, 2f), D O’Halloran (0-5, 2f).

Subs: A Cunningham (0-1) for Malone, A Mulready for Vaughan, D McInerney for Arthur

Referee: A Stapleton (Laois)

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