A super goal from Keith Hogan, brother of county star Brian, fired holders Clara to victory over a young James Stephens team in the first round of the Kilkenny senior hurling championship yesterday.
Hogan struck in the 37th minute to shoot Clara 1-11 to 0-11 in front after the opposition had claimed the opening three scores of the half. The winners tagged on a brace of quick points through Hogan and the outstanding Austin Murphy to edge into a five-point lead and they led all the way from there.
Gutsy Stephens, who had two county minors in attack in the shape of Luke Scanlon and Conor Browne, kept up a strong chase but they could never get nearer than four points before eventually losing 1-20 to 0-18.
Clara had first use of the fresh breeze but they couldn’t get on top of hard-working opponents, who had Kilkenny manager Brian Cody as a selector.
Three times the scores were level during the opening quarter, and while Clara slipped ahead a few times, a 30th-minute point from Conor Phelan was the score that divided the teams at the rest when the champions led 0-9 to 0-8.
The Village opened the second half with two points from Eoin Larkin, one a penalty that was turned over the bar by a defender to take the lead. When young Scanlon added to their advantage they looked well placed.
Clara steadied the ship with scores from Phelan and Hogan before the latter plundered the all-important goal with a screaming drive from 20 metres. The season is over for Stephens now.
St Martin’s (Muckalee) were grateful to veteran John Maher, who shot three late points to help them beat Fenians (Johnstown) and make it through to the quarter-finals (0-13 to 0-10).
It was all to play for turning into the last quarter when Maher pointed to drag Martin’s back to level terms of 0-10 each. The 37-year-old continued to drive on his team and earned them the double prize of a place in the quarter-finals while banishing the threat of relegation.
The losers now face a battle for survival in the senior grade.
In the other first round/relegation semi-final game, Danesfort and Tommy and Pádraig Walsh’s Tullaroan played out a draw, 1-17 to 2-14. Richie Hogan’s Danesfort were looking relegation straight in the face with 10 minutes remaining, but a blast of 2-3 against two points from the opposition saved their bacon.
The Power brothers, Richie, John and Jamie powered last year’s beaten finalists Carrickshock to a 3-14 to 0-19 win over Erin’s Own (Castlecomer) to make it through to the last eight.
Richie shot 1-8; John bagged 2-1 while Jamie weighed in with a pair of points as the brothers dominated the scoring. This brought Richie’s tally to 1-21 in his two most recent club matches. Meanwhile, O’Loughlin Gaels won their first senior hurling league final, beating current intermediate club All-Ireland champions Rower-Inistioge in a fiercely contested decider.
The final score was 1-18 to 2-13. Mark Bergin scored 0-10 for the winners, including a late point from a penalty that was badly needed.
The Rower opened like an out-of-control express train and cracked home early goals through Tom Murphy and James Cassin. O’Loughlin’s, one of the real contenders in the championship, reeled them in slowly and led 1-10 to 2-5 at the rest. It was a tough battle all the way to the finish, but O’Loughlin’s just about deserved their win. Both go through automatically to the championship quarter-finals.
Ballyhale Shamrocks beat city side Dicksboro in the Shield final, a match played between the runners-up in both sections of the league.
The score was 1-20 to 0-19. Shamrocks had five senior All-Ireland medal winners in their attack, including 10-times winner Henry Shefflin, who grabbed 0-4. Both teams qualify for the championship quarter-finals, the draw for which will be made tonight.
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