Clare 2-19 - Kilkenny 0-12: You know things aren’t going Kilkenny’s way when Richie Hogan makes way. The sight of the 2014 hurler of the year being called ashore in the 49th minute was a grimacing one for the player as much as the travelling support.
Kilkenny were only four points adrift at that stage but the sight of him trudging off the field was symbolic and must have been so affirming for Clare.
Even with the Fennellys available, it’s on Hogan and TJ Reid’s shoulders upon which so much is relied upon.
Without the Ballyhale brothers yesterday, that onus was even greater. Hogan struggled while TJ Reid played like a first-class quarter-back with flat-track wide receivers. It was no wonder, then, that Brian Cody afterwards conceded he was “concerned”. Incredibly it was Kilkenny’s largest margin of defeat in the Cody era.
Reid earned a 61st-minute penalty that, had he scored it, may have asked more of Clare but his strike was at Donal Tuohy and he only needed to be brave to deny it.
Reid did manage to send over a 65 soon after but it was consolation material. Clare’s six-point lead became seven when John Conlon pointed and then Aaron Shanagher goaled in the 64th minute, the opening for it coming off a short passing move. With it, Kilkenny went from redundant to rudderless and Clare tagged on another two points while Eoin Murphy also had to deny Conlon.
Murphy was also sharp to prevent David Reidy from goaling in the first half but he could do little about Aaron Cunningham’s effort in the fourth minute. Shanagher provided and Cunningham fired home his third goal in two games against Kilkenny.
It set the tone for what was to come but it was Shanagher who stood out most in the opening 10 minutes. Besides posting two points and laying on the goal, he won a free which Reidy converted and forced Murphy to parry for a 65, which Reidy also exploited. Reidy was again on the mark when Shanagher was fouled again in the 14th minute meaning the Wolfe Tones starlet had a part to play in all of their 1-5 total at that stage.
“Aaron is a good guy, he’s still learning,” stressed Donal Moloney. “Aaron would be the first guy to admit he’s not the completed article, but when he’s on the move he’s very difficult to mark. There’s lots of aspects of his game that he needs to develop on as well, but his contribution today was immense.”
Gerry O’Connor echoed Moloney’s caution and diverted praise to those supplying Shanagher: “In terms of Aaron Shanagher as well, you’ve got to realise the quality of the ball that’s coming in and the platform that our half-back line and midfield gave us.
“Whilst our forwards played really well, it’s really important to reflect on how our midfield and half-back line... Cian Dillon and Oisin (O’Brien) and Seadna (Morey) inside in the full-back line were outstanding as well. When you are on top in terms of your six defenders, you will give quality ball into your forwards and it’s easier then for them to make those runs when the quality of those balls are coming in to the degree it was today.”
Clare were 1-9 to 0-8 ahead at half-time, the only real challenges to Tuohy’s net a Cillian Buckley shot that scurried wide and Richie Leahy’s rash shot from distance. There were occasions when their otherwise excellent half-back line were caught out of position, leaving their full-back line exposed, but aside from the penalty Kilkenny’s goal chances dried up thereafter.
Kilkenny twice made it a three-point game after Hogan’s exit from the game as Reidy was left to rue two inaccurate frees but in the second half the visitors never managed to score more than two points in succession.
Their three points from play in the first half came the hard way and one point from play in the last 32 minutes of action was a telling indictment of their performance.
“We didn’t play well in the first-half but we didn’t play well in the second half either,” said Cody when asked if he was bothered at the interval. “You are always concerned if you are not playing well.”
Other than the goal chances they continue to create, what might please Moloney and O’Connor most about this about-turn from the seven-point defeat to Cork was their team’s incessancy of effort. Kilkenny were never allowed to settle or develop rhythm. So many of their scores were followed quickly by Clare ones, Podge Collins’ point after Murphy’s free in the first half a notable one just as Shanagher’s third point seconds after Cillian Buckley’s shot in the 42nd minute.
Scorers for Clare:
D. Reidy (0-7, 5 frees, 1 65); A. Shanagher (1-4, 0-1 free); A. Cunningham (1-0); P. Collins, C. McInerney (0-2 each); D. Fitzgerald, J. Conlon, J. McCarthy, P. Duggan (65) (0-1 each).
Scorers for Kilkenny:
T.J. Reid (0-7, 4 frees, 2 65s); C. Fogarty (0-2), E. Murphy (free), C. Buckley, R. Leahy (0-1 each).
D. Tuohy; S. Morey, C. Dillon (c), O. O’Brien; B. Bugler, C. Cleary, D. Fitzgerald; J. Shanahan, D. Reidy; J. Conlon, P. Collins, C. Malone; S. O’Donnell, A. Cunningham, A. Shanagher.
Subs for Clare:
C. McInerney for A. Cunningham (52); J. McCarthy for D. Reidy (57); P. Duggan for C. Malone, S. Golden for J. Shanahan (both 67); P. Donnellan for B. Bugler (70+1).
E. Murphy; E. Cody, P. Walsh, C. O’Shea; J. Holden, P. Murphy, K. Joyce; C. Fogarty, C. Buckley; L. Blanchfield, T.J. Reid, R. Leahy; R. Hogan, W. Walsh, K. Kelly.
Subs for Kilkenny:
R. Lennon for J. Holden (temp 18-23); J.J. Farrell for W. Walsh (inj), S. Prendergast for E. Cody (both h-t); J. Maher for R. Hogan (49); O. Walsh for K. Kelly (58); S. Morrissey for L. Blanchfield (68).
J. Owens (Wexford).
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