Clare give Kilkenny a taste of their own medicine

Fitzgerald’s team blitz Cats with three first-half goals to reach league final

Kilkenny’s Jonjo Farrell dejected at the final whistle. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

Kilkenny’s Jonjo Farrell dejected at the final whistle. Photo: James Crombie/Inpho

 

Plenty in Thurles to nourish hurling’s battered old soul. A league campaign that had often been a grind when it came to the business of scoring loosened out significantly as the young colts of Clare and Waterford cantered through for their first ever match-up in a league final.

That they will meet in the championship five weeks later might well constrict the action laid out before us in a fortnight’s time so it behoves us to enjoy what we saw in Semple for what it was.

Clare handed Kilkenny a good old-fashioned trouncing, plundering three first-half goals and eventually running out winners to the tune of 4-22 to 2-19. Brian Cody’s side looked curiously disjointed and with Colm Galvin, Aaron Cunningham and John Conlon in rampant form for the Division 1B winners, this was a game that was over by half-time.

“They got on top of the game early and they played very, very well,” was Cody’s take on it.

“The scoreline is a fair reflection of what the game was. They got three goals in the first half and that’s a great help to any team.

“I’ll have to have a look at it. I’m not sure how exposed we were or how unexposed we were but at the end of the day they got the goals. Were they preventable? Possibly.

Impressed

Lest anyone get too het up by the day, Davy Fitz had an industrial vat of cold water to pour over it all.

“’Tis April, lads,” he stressed afterwards. And yes, ’tis – with all the health-warnings that particular page on the calendar demands.

But if we learned anything from this league semi-final, it’s that the summer will surely feature a different Clare side to the wan and callow teams that slunk out of the championship in 2014 and 2015. The team that beats Clare in 2016 will have shown up with its homework done.

And on this evidence, we’ll be well into the harvest by the time that day comes.

“Nah, nah, nah, trust me, this is April. I’d love to have the opportunity later in the year to meet Kilkenny. There was one or two quotes used during the week that said we may as well not turn up today. I thought that was very disrespectful.

“I think we’ve shown over the past number of years that we’re not a bad team. We’re not full of it but I think we’ll compete. We’re not going to be fooled by today, we know the quality that’s in Kilkenny. Let’s not get carried away.

“If you’re still talking to me in August and September, I’ll be delighted.”

In the final – the venue for which will be named later today – they’ll come up against a Waterford team on the hunt for back-to-back titles.

Derek McGrath’s side bounded clear in the third quarter here after a tense and close first half, eventually running out 3-23 to 1-18 winners over Limerick. Goals from Stephen Bennett, Patrick Curran and Tom Devine kicked them well clear of a Limerick side that came up with a gameplan to match them but lacked the match-practice to carry it out.

“The reality is that we might be playing that game a bit longer than Limerick,” said McGrath afterwards.

“Our guys are fairly used to playing that way. And psychologically they are getting stronger in terms of when it breaks down and listening to the crowd when it breaks down and that. They believe in it. But they like to mix it as well.

Traditional style

“So that transition from where we want to go and need to go will be difficult. I think we have a different identity now but mixing it is the next step. And that is a challenge.”

For Limerick, the challenge is locating their own identity. They looked exactly like what they were here – a new team trying a new system against one that had bedded it in. Too often their short game fell at the first hurdle and they were gasping for air long before the end.

“I am entitled to plenty of criticism now,” conceded TJ Ryan. “I knew that after the last day. That second-half performance – you don’t need to be a genius to work out that it wasn’t good enough. Waterford were well ahead of us on the second half and once they got ahead playing with the breeze and their game plan kicked in, it was going to be hard to break them down.

Frustration

“That is the frustration – even one or two frees they got when we had the ball and didn’t use it properly or wisely. That is the difficulty playing against Waterford. They have been doing it a while. But that is not an excuse.”

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