ALL IRELAND MINOR HURLING FINAL
By Michael O Connor.
A case of one that got away. The 2010 All Ireland minor hurling final when put under review will show that Clare were as good if not better than the young Kilkenny starlets in the All Ireland Minor hulinrg final but the inability to score not even one goal cost them the title as defensive frailities once more raised their unwanted presence.
A poignant moment after the final whistle, after the Irish Press cup had being presented and the Kilkenny side were on their champions trot around Croker. Selector Eamonn Fennessy walked over to an inconsolable Enda Boyce and for a minute said what needs to be said to a young player who had given of his all in the cause of his county.
This group of players were the surprise packet of the year and what a delight it was for supporters following the below par showing all season by the seniors and the defeat at provincial level by the reigning under 21 side. The same management team with a little change here and there had been with this group since under 14 and had won the Munster 15 title before this years heroics.
A solid sale of tickets throughout the county suggested that the Clare public as they had in the semi final were prepared to follow this side to the end. 13/2 odds at least and even 10/1 if searched hard enough for was available with +9 the margin on offer by the bookmakers. The layers were saying in their view Clare were no hopers and it was the ultimate chance that was being left in front of Clare as Kilkenny were being touted as they greatest Kilkenny side of recent if not all time. Their demolition of Galway who imploded in many ways boosted Kikenny’s status .
Clare started with confidence showing that they were not to be overawed by the occasion. Dual star Paudge Collins started off as he meant to continue with the game’s opening score after only a minute’s action. Kilkenny team captain Cillian Buckley responded two minutes later with his sides successful opening effort. The opening five minutes feared by many as danger incarnate for the Clare team was surmounted with ease and indeed such was their poise on the ball it was with increasing hope that Clare might spring a surprise the All Ireland decider. Owen McGrath sent Kilkenny into the lead after six minutes against the run of play.
A magnificent ball from Stephen O Halloran found Collins and the hard working centre forward made no mistake to restore parity between the sides after eight minutes. The referee as the game progressed allowed the game to flow and on a number of occasions it benefitted Clare and then went against them. David O Halloran who had a quiet outing in the semi final was on hand to score a well taken effort after ten minutes. Niall Arthur, of whom much was expected failed to convert a 13th minute free before correcting this a minute later as Clare went two ahead. Daire Keane and David O Halloran (2, one free) amazingly sent Clare coasting clear on a (0-7) to (0-2) scoreline. Niall Arthur received a blow to the hand that held up the game for a number of minutes as David O Halloran took over the freetaking duties.
The confident play of Clare required a goal to close out this game and bar one real chance this need never become a reality. Clare conceded a dubious penalty in the 25th minute and Padraig Walshe effort was blocked partially by Ronan Taaffe before being cleared by Paul Flanagan. Suggestions of the ball being over the goal line were quickly ignored as Clare being totally on top saw Tony Kelly a minute later on target as Clare now held a two goal lead. In the final minutes of the first half Kilkenny grabbed a major foothold on the game as Clare wilted for perhaps the first of only two five minutes spells in the game. Owen McGrath (free) John Power and Michael Brennan struck for scores with Enda Boyce hitting back with a single Clare effort as Kilkenny went on (0-9) to (0-5) in arrears at the break.
Kilkenny after a horrid first half would have had little complaints to be only four points arrears having managed not to concede a goal. Clare for their part realising that they needed to be at least half a dozen in front entering the last quarter required a positive if not explosive start to the second half to quench any revivial in the Kilkenny cause. Tony Kelly struck over the opening score for Clare three minutes into the new half. Disaster number one from a Clare perspective came when a speculative effort sent in from the Kilkenny midfield was caught by full forward Ger Alyward and quickly offloaded to Michael Brennan whose low bouncing effort evaded Ronan Taaffe as Clare were now only two clear.
Paul Buggy was introduced for Thomas O Hanrahan on the Kilkenny side who had the misfortune to be marked by the truly wonderful Seadna Morey who was man of the match in this writers opinion. Paudge Collins set up by an astute Morey pass was fouled with Niall Arthur converting the free. Aaron Cunningham was entered into the game as Cathal Malone made way after 42 minutes. Disaster number two for Clare materialised. Once again the Clare full back line looked under pressure from the high ball sent direct and fast.
Michael Brennan won the ball turned and shot past Taaffe. The definite goal bound shot was helped on the way by Buggy and he will be credited with the goal as Clare were now pulled back to level terms (0-11) to (2-5) after 43 minutes. An unsettling of the Clare team was enforced when Haulie Vaughan was forced to retire injured. Alan Mulready was introduced with Stephen O Halloran moving to right corner back and Jamie Shanahan reverting to wing back. For the second time only in the game Kilkenny achieved a period of pure dominance but managed only four points.
Conversely, in a low scoring tie and Clare appearing toothless in front of goal this four point tally was enough to hurt Clare. Kevin Kelly, Ger Alyward who had a huge role for the eventual winners in the second half, Kevin Kelly and Padraig Walsh were the Kilkenny sharpshooters between the 47th and 52nd minutes. David O Halloran (2) responded for a spirited Clare side by the 53rd minute as the Clare deficit was back to two scores (2-9) to (0-13) with six minutes of normal time plus four minutes injury time to play on the clock. Shannon man Aaron Cunningham had Clare supporters on their feet in a tension filled final quarter with an excellent score as the minimum now kept Clare from at least a replay.
David McInerney, who in my view should have been thrown into the fray a lot earlier for a subdued Niall Arthur came on in the 59th minute. Clare were now camped in the Kilkenny half of the pitch. Like all teams chasing the equaliser panic shooting and lack of composure go hand in hand and these evil twins visited Clare with David O Halloran and Daire Keane hitting wides when possession and scores were at a premium. Kilkenny were leaving the game or at least a replay on a plate for the banner side. One final break against the run of play by Kilkenny fittingly symbolised the whole game. From the minimum of possession in the 63rd minute the Cats scored the final effort through the industry of Michael Brennan as Clare slumped a beaten team on the Croke Park canvas seconds later a beaten and broken side.
The champions who hung in when it looked as if the hottest of favourites were in danger of being knocked out and many of whom had suffered defeat at the hands of Galway in 2009 had displays of quality from Ger Alyward, Michael Brennan, Padraig Walsh, Kevin Kelly who was named man of the match, Willie Phelan, Pat O Carroll, Owen McGrath and Cillian Buckley. Over the course of the championship the banner side had a goal drought and managed only three goals and this hampered their scoring potential. Clare who like the under 21s of the last three seasons have given supporters some trickle of comfort for the decade ahead had my man of the hour in Seadna Morey. He was ably assisted by Stephen O Halloran, Paudge Collins, David O Halloran, Enda Boyce, and Paul Flanagan who was under incessant pressure at key times. The loss due to illness of Cathal O Connell lessened the scoring options from the bench.
KILKENNY: Dylan Walsh, Jason Corcoran, Willie Phelan, Brian Kennedy, Pat O Carroll, Luke Harney, Owen McGrath (0-2), Kevin Kelly (0-2), Ollie Walsh, John Power (0-1), Padraig Walsh (0-1), Cillian Buckley (Capt) (0-1), Michael Brennan (1-2), Ger Aylward (0-1), 15.Thomas O’Hanrahan. Subs: Paul Buggy (1-0) for O Hanrahan, Paul Holden for O Walsh,
CLARE: Ronan Taaffe, Haulie Vaughan, Paul Flanagan (Capt), Seadna Morey, Enda Boyce (0-1), Kevin Lynch, Stephen O Halloran, Tony Kelly (0-2, Colm Galvin, Cathal Malone, Paudge Collins (0-2), Jamie Shanahan, David O Halloran (0-5), Niall Arthur (0-2), Daire Keane (0-1). Subs: David McInerney for Arthur, Alan Mulready for Vaughan (inj), Aaron Cunningham (0-1) for Malone.
REFEREE: Anthony Stapleton (Laois).