Clonlara qualified for the Clare Senior Hurling Championship Final with a powerful second half display that saw them outscore Kilmaley 2-12 to 0-04.
Venue: Cusack Park
Seven years on from their last County title, Clonlara have broken the semi-final curse that has plagued them in this period. They lost in their last four County semi-final appearances but they smashed the record today with corner-forward Michéal O’Loughlin a contributor of 2-07 a key reason why they overcame the semi-final hoodoo.
In the opening half Kilmaley were by far the more impressive side, winning the majority of the breaks and showing an immense workrate that had Clonlara sweating. This level of workrate proved to be unsustainable and when they emerged for the second half, there was no spark and the workrate had quenched and Clonlara pushed on from there.
Cian Moloney was the first on the scoreboard when he struck a free from the middle of the Park straight between the posts with the game less than a minute old. Clonlara responded with points from Michéal O’Loughlin on the double plus one each from the O’Connell brothers, Nicky and Cathal. Aidan McGuane added what is becoming a trademark score of his on the ninth minute after receiving a handpass from Moloney before making the most of some space in the Clonlara defence before firing over.
Darach Honan picked up his first score of the day on the twelfth minute in a move that was created by a catch from Páraic O’Loughlin. Michael O’Neill was alert to the breaking ball from a Bryan O’Loughlin puckout straight after to narrow the gap to two points. Nicky O’Connell and Daire Keane traded scores before another Moloney free left the minimum between the sides with seventeen minutes played.
A dangerous high-ball from Michael O’Neill was flicked to the back of Ger O’Connell’s net by Diarmaid McMahon on the eighteenth, it was the goalkeeper at the other end, Bryan O’Loughlin that started the attack as he found Padraic McNamara and in a scramble for possession McNamara handpassed to O’Neill and his delivery found the hurley of McMahon. Cian Moloney and Cormac O’Donovan swapped scores before the break to leave Kilmaley two points ahead.
Early points from Honan, Colm Galvin and two from O’Loughlin saw Clonlara take the lead with thirty seven minutes on the clock as Kilmaley were struggling to maintain the standards they had set in the previous half.
From the puckout Domhnall O’Donovan made an impressive catch before finding Darach Honan who took on the Kilmaley defence and handpassed the sliotar across the square and beyond the reach of Oisin O’Brien but not Michéal O’Loughlin who got the vital touch and beat Bryan O’Loughlin in the Kilmaley net.
O’Loughlin raised another green flag three minutes later when a free from forty five metres out went straight into the top left corner of the Kilmaley net to completely dent the aspirations of the 2004 Champions. Cian Moloney got his side’s first score of the second half with forty one minutes on the clock when he converted a free earned by Brian Cahill.
County men Colm Galvin and Domhnall O’Donovan raised white flags for the South East Clare men at the midway stage. Their efforts were cancelled out when Moloney pointed another free while Daire Keane picked off a fine score from fifty metres out on the sideline to cut the gap to seven points.
A cross-field pass from Cathal O’Connell was whisked up by Darach Honan and the 6’6” attacker made no mistake with his shot. Aidan McGuane added to his tally on the fifty sixth minute. Points from Honan, Galvin and three from O’Loughlin secured the win for Clonlara and their place in the final of the Clare Senior Hurling Championship.
After such an impressive first half display, Kilmaley will rue their second half showing in which they only created eight scoring chances. It took them fourteen minutes to win one of their own puckouts in the second half, one of the main reasons they dominated the first half was their ability to win the breaks but this became a rare occurrence following the resumption.
PJ Kennedy’s side lost possession too easily in the second half and fell flat for the most part which allowed Clonlara to inflict so much damage. With six of the starting team U21 there is reason to be optimistic in Kilmaley but a couple of more experienced players are reaching the end of their careers and it would be a whole lot easier for them to succeed when these experienced players are still in their ranks so the next two years will be crucial for them. Aidan McGuane, Michael O’Malley and Eoin Enright stood out for Kilmaley.
Seven different Clonlara players contributed on the scoreboard and likewise at the back their defenders limited the amount of damage done by the Kilmaley attack as no member of their full-forward line got on the scoresheet. Like their quarter-final victory over Newmarket-on-Fergus, Clonlara had the result wrapped up with fifteen minutes to go and still in these instances they are still eager to add more scores.
It is a big relief for Sean Stack’s men to have finally conquered their semi-final curse and this will be a big psychological boost as they prepare for what will be an almighty battle with neighbours, Sixmilebridge on October 11th. Ian Galvin did not tog for the victors today due to an injury and they will be intent on ensuring he has at full-fitness in two weeks time. Michéal O’Loughlin, Domhnall O’Donovan, Cathal O’Connell, John Conlon and Garrett Kennedy were prolific for Clonlara.
Clonlara: Ger O’Connell; Cillian Fennessy, Garrett Kennedy, Shane O’Brien; Neil Ryan, John Conlon, Oisin O’Brien; Cathal O’Connell (0-01), Domhnall O’Donovan (0-01); Nicky O’Connell (0-02), Cormac O’Donovan (0-01), Páraic O’Loughlin; Michéal O’Loughlin (2-07 1-01f 1’65), Colm Galvin (0-03), Darach Honan (0-04). Subs: Pat O’Hare for Ryan (52), Ciaran Downey for C O’Donovan (56), Michael Collins for P O’Loughlin (58).
Kilmaley: Bryan O’Loughlin; Eoin Enright, Conor McMahon, Sean Talty; Aidan McGuane (0-02), Alan Markham, Michael O’Malley, John Clohessy; Brian Cahill, Michael O’Neill (0-01); Daire Keane (0-02), Cian Moloney (0-05 4f), Diarmaid McMahon (1-00); Padraic McNamara, Eamonn Bracken. Subs: Sean Kennedy for Talty (24), Brian McMahon for O’Neill (50), Conor Neylon for Keane (55).
Referee: Rory Hickey (Éire Óg).