Allianz HL D1: Clare edge out Kilkenny
Allianz Hurling League Division 1A
CLARE 2-20 KILKENNY 1-22
By Eoin Brennan at Cusack Park, Ennis
Timely goals in either half through John Conlon and Podge Collins got Clare's National League campaign back on track on home soil despite a late rally from the defending champions this afternoon.
Having overcome Kilkenny in the competition for the previous three years by an average of eight points, this time only the minimum separated the sides after Kevin Kelly slashed the final margin when converting a 20 metre free with what proved the last puck of a physical contest.
Kelly's handsome 1-11 tally from placed balls largely kept Kilkenny within striking distance for the majority but after firing only three points from play themselves last time out against Tipperary, Clare would respond with 2-15 this time around to deservedly prevail.
All that after the visitors had started the brighter, with Kelly (3) and Ger Aylward helping the holders to a 0-5 to 0-2 lead after 12 minutes. However, a 1-4 blitz including a John Conlon 14th minute goal bucked that trend as Clare took the whip hand and effectively never looked back.
Ger Aylward had been unlucky not to score a goal in the ninth minute but it was the home side that proved the more clinical after Conlon broke a Colm Galvin delivery at the edge of the square to pull first time to the right corner of the net at 1-3 to 0-5.
Further points from Peter Duggan (2) and Diarmuid Ryan nudged the Banner four clear by the start of the second quarter. So while Kilkenny did lower the half-time arrears to just one at 1-08 to 0-10, crucially they could never fully reel in their stubborn opponents at any stage.
Clare commenced the second half with a three point burst from Duggan (2) and the tireless Colm Galvin but it was Podge Collins' 48th minute goal that lifted the hosts to new heights after finishing off an inspirational five man move that stemmed from a short Donal Tuohy puck-out.
Three more unanswered points followed from Ryan, Ian Galvin and Shane Golden to power Clare 2-16 to 0-16 ahead by the 52nd minute but indiscipline would prevent them from maintaining that momentum.
1-5 from Kevin Kelly frees would aid Kilkenny's comeback hopes in the final stages as Clare substitute Gary Cooney was denied a match-winning goal by goalkeeper Murphy. However, Kelly's 75th minute goal ultimately came too late to unearth an upset as Clare relievedly held on for their first points.
Scorers for Clare: Peter Duggan 0-6 (4f, 1'65), John Conlon 1-1, Podge Collins 1-0, Colm Galvin 0-3, Diarmuid Ryan 0-3, Ian Galvin 0-2, Shane Golden 0-2, Colin Guilfoyle 0-1, Gary Cooney 0-1, Niall Deasy 0-1 (f)
Scorers for Kilkenny: Kevin Kelly 1-11 (1-11f), Ger Aylward 0-3, James Maher 0-2, Billy Ryan 0-2, Conor Delaney 0-1, Conor Fogarty 0-1, John Donnelly 0-1, Padraig Walsh 0-1
CLARE: Donal Tuohy; Rory Hayes, David McInerney, Jack Browne; Cathal Malone, Conor Cleary, David Fitzgerald; Shane Golden, Colm Galvin; Peter Duggan, Podge Collins, Diarmuid Ryan; Colin Guilfoyle, John Conlon, Ian Galvin. Subs: Gary Cooney for Guilfoyle (52), Ryan Taylor for I. Galvin (60), Jason McCarthy for Hayes (62), Niall Deasy for Duggan (66), Mikey O'Malley for C. Galvin (70).
KILKENNY: Eoin Murphy; Paul Murphy, Huw Lawlor, Tommy Walsh; Conor Delaney, Paddy Deegan, Enda Morrissey; James Maher, Conor Fogarty; John Donnelly, Ger Aylward, Martin Keoghan; Billy Ryan, Kevin Kelly, Richie Leahy. Subs: Conor Browne for Maher (43), Padraig Walsh for Morrissey (49), Liam Blanchfield for Leahy (52), Ger Malone for Keoghan (57)
Ref: Paud O'Dwyer (Carlow)