Champions Clare and Cody’s Cats serve up a cracker
Davy Fitzgerald warns there is an ‘awful lot of work to do’, Dublin outclassed by Galway
Clare’s Cian Dillon is held off by Walter Walsh of Kilkenny at Cusack Park. PPhotograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Niall Healy of Galway (right) with Michael Carton of Dublin at Pearse Stadium. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
The clash of the hurling titans lived up to its billing as Clare, the All-Ireland champions, edged out reigning league champions Kilkenny by a single point in a stirring opener to the Allianz Hurling League that saw Davy Fitzgerald’s men claim a 1-16 to 0-18 victory at Cusack Park in Ennis.
Colin Ryan gave a man-of-the-match performance for Clare in the Division 1A encounter, showing his dual attacking and defensive abilities by scoring the game’s only goal – in the 13th minute when he took a pass from Conor McGrath and fired home past Kilkenny goalkeeper David Herity – before later retreating to defend his team’s line and duly saving a Henry Shefllin penalty.
Although the pitch was soft underfoot, the teams served up an entertaining match with Ryan’s goal giving the All-Ireland champions – with 12 starters from the team that captured the Liam MacCarthy Cup last September – the early initiative, only for the Cats to fight back and drawl level, 1-8 to 0-11, at the break.
Kilkenny, in fact, probably should have carried the lead into the interval with Mark Kelly having his shot superbly saved by Clare goalkeeper Donal Tuohy only for the sliotar to fall into the path of the otherwise impressive Jonjo Farrell, whose attempted kick flew narrowly wide.
The second-half remained a tight affair, with a Pádraig Walsh giving Kilkenny the lead (0-17 to 1-13), only for Clare to respond with three successive points from substitute Cathal O’Connell, Conor McGrath and that man Ryan again to give the home side a two point lead entering the final moments.
A Henry Shefflin free narrowed the gap to just a point but Kilkenny failed to find another score as Clare edged home.
“It’s a new year. We are going to have to keep our standards up. We know teams are going to be coming out to get a shot at us, so we are happy we got off to a winning start and we will be taking every game as it comes,” said star forward Ryan, speaking to TG4.
Of scoring a goal at one end and saving a penalty at the other, Ryan added: “I suppose you get lucky sometimes, with the penalties especially.”
Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald claimed his side “have an awful lot of work to do. I still think we are miles off what we need to be. We dug out a result.”
Galway emerged as 0-28 to 1-12 winners over the Dubs, who were reduced to 14 men midway through the second-half when Conal Keaney was sent-off on a second yellow card. Seán McGrath scored a late goal for Dublin, who were outclassed throughout by a slick and sharp Galway team who had impressive displays from Cathal Mannion and Conor Cooney.
Jack Guiney, who claimed five second-half points, played a hugely significant role for Wexford who conceded a late goal from Antrim’s Daniel McKernan.
Laois emerged with a 1-19 to 2-14 win over Offaly in the midlands derby, with Stephen Maher firing their only goal in the first-half.
Allianz Hurling League Division 1A
Clare 1-16, Kilkenny 0-18
Galway 0-28 Dublin 1-12
Wexford 0-15 Antrim 1-11
Laois 1-19 Offaly 2-14
Kerry 4-24 Derry 3-9
Mayo 2-13 Fingal 3-9
Wicklow 1-15 Meath 0-8
Down 2-20 Armagh 1-7
Donegal 2-19 Fermanagh 1-13
Monaghan 2-13, Longford 3-11
Roscommon 2-16 Louth 1-15
Interprovincial Football Semi-finals
Connacht 3-19 Munster 2-16
Ulster 2-26 Leinster 3-21 (aet)