/ GAA

Kilkenny cruise into the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 final

Updated: Sunday, 22 Apr 2012 19:26

Clare's Patrick O'Connor offloads under pressure from TJ Reid of Kilkenny
Clare's Patrick O'Connor offloads under pressure from TJ Reid of Kilkenny

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Kilkenny cruised into the Allianz HL Division One final with a storming second-half performance that shattered the hopes of plucky Clare, winning on a final scoreline of 1-20 to 0-14.

Richie Power hit five points, but had a penalty saved, as Kilkenny went in at the break ahead by 0-8 to 0-7, with Conor McGrath also striking five for Clare.

Matthew Ruth netted the only goal of the game for the Cats four minutes into the second half, and they finished the job off clinically, with Power bringing his tally to nine points and Ruth bagging 1-4.

Davy Fitzgerald’s banners side competed on equal terms with the mighty Cats in the first half, but the gulf in class was ruthlessly exposed in the second period as Brian Cody’s men took their opponents apart.

After Ruth scored the only goal of the game, the floodgates opened, and Power helped himself to a nine-point haul as Kilkenny won by nine.

McGrath swept over a couple of early frees to give Clare a measure of confidence, but the Cats were ahead by the ninth minute, thanks to Colin Fennelly’s splendid long-range strike.

Pat O’Connor and Donal O’Donovan stood firm at the back as Kilkenny continued to press, and after Power had shot Kilkenny into a two-point lead, the banner came back again to level with scores form Sean Collins and Nicky O’Connell, who drove a long-range free between the uprights.

O’Connell and Patrick Donnellan were important figures around midfield as Clare battled to gain the upper hand, but they received a let-off in the 21st minute when Eoin Larkin finished to the net after being sent in by Fennelly.

But referee Alan Kelly disallowed the goal and instead awarded a penalty for Brendan Bugler’s foul on Larkin.

Power stepped up, but his strike was kept out by Donnellan when a three-pointer would have eased his side four clear.

Power did make amends with his fourth point from a free, but McGrath duly brought his tally to four with two points, one a superb effort from play, to bring the sides level on 0-06 each in the 27th minute.

Power arrowed over a stoppage-time free to ease the All-Ireland champions ahead once again, 0-8 to 0-7 at the break.

And they grabbed a goal four minutes into the second half. Larkin again the man causing mayhem as his angled shot was saved by goalkeeper Patrick Kelly, but Ruth nipped in to finish to the net from close range.

Ruth and Fennelly tagged on points, and suddenly Clare found themselves trailing by five.

Clare needed a big response, and while they did pull back points through Liam Markham and O’Connell, Kilkenny were able to pick off points with relative comfort, opening out a six-point lead through TJ Reid.

Tommy Walsh imposed himself on the game in typical fashion at the back as Brian Cody’s side grew in stature, with Cillian Buckley an immense figure in the central area.

Power was still hitting the target from frees and play, and Larkin finally got his name on the scoresheet as the margin grew to nine with ten minutes to play.

The damage could have been greater, but for the heroic defending of O’Donovan and Cian Dillon, and Clare staged a minor revival to pull back scores through Colin Ryan and Donnellan.

But it was to be Kilkenny’s day, and they hit the game’s last three scores, with Fennelly, substitute Kieran Joyce and Ruth all hitting the target.

Kilkenny scorers: M Ruth 1-3, R Power 0-9 (7f), C Fennelly 0-4, J Mulhall, E Larkin, K Joyce, TJ Reid 0-1 each.

Clare scorers: C McGrath 0-6 (5f), C Ryan 0-3 (2f), N O’Connell 0-2 (2f), L Markham, P Donnellan, S Collins 0-1 each.

Kilkenny: D Herity, P Murphy, J.J. Delaney, J Tyrrell, T Walsh, B Hogan, R Doyle, M Fennelly, C Buckley, T.J. Reid, R Power, J Mulhall, C Fennelly, E Larkin, M Ruth.

Subs: M Bergin for Larkin, K Joyce for Walsh, C Fogarty for Doyle

Clare: P Kelly, D O'Donovan, C Dillon, C Cooney, B Bugler, P O'Connor, L Markham, N O'Connell, P Donnellan, F Lynch, S Collins, E Barrett, C Ryan, C McGrath, J Conlon.

Subs: J Clancy for Lynch, A Cunningham for Barrett

Referee: A Kelly (Galway)