Clare seal first part of dream All-Ireland double
CLARE 2-28 ANTRIM 0-12
CLARE might or might not win an All-Ireland senior hurling title on Saturday week but the saffron and blue revolution continues at underage level.
Yesterday the under 21s demolished Antrim, as expected, in a game that never rose to the faintest resemblance of a challenge. Startling Clare odds of 1/66 were borne out by a show of total superiority. To think that this was a competition that until recently caused them much heartbreak, with no provincial title at the grade until 2009.
All those hardships, and there were many, are forgotten now or put to one side. This marked their third title in five years and their second in succession, which breaks new ground. They paraded four of the cast that starred in last Sunday's All-Ireland senior final. Soon after the interval Tony Kelly, Podge Collins, David McInerney and Colm Galvin were taken off in two double substitutions. The match was safe and nobody hurt. Ideal.
Clare led 2-16 to 0-4 at half-time but the game was over long before that. Kelly and Galvin wiped out Antrim in the middle of the field, sharing six points between them, and while Collins didn't register, Clare had so many options, and a posse waiting on the sideline when the starters were hauled ashore.
Cathal Malone and Peter Duggan offered reach and abrasiveness on both sides of Collins and inside it seemed only a matter of time before Clare got though for a goal. Antrim delayed that moment as best they could, bringing midfielder Eoghan Campbell back as a sweeper and trying to close up the gaps. But the speed and sharpness of Clare's hurling was in a different league.
Four Antrim players went into the book in the first half and two had to be taken off at half-time for fear they would not see the game out, having been spoken to thereafter but spared a second yellow.
Antrim's tendency to foul was held to account by Cathal O'Connell, who finished with 0-11, nine from placed balls, seven of those frees converted in the first half. The goals eventually arrived. The first was claimed by the television man-of-the-match winner Davy O'Halloran after 23 minutes. O'Halloran finished with 1-4 from play. Four minutes later, Shane O'Donnell had their second.
Antrim were only showing glimpses of the hurling that's in them, the first half finishing with a delightful line-ball stroke from Ciaran Clarke. Earlier, in the 12th minute, midfielder Jackson McGreevey had put over an uplifting score from out the field to leave them at 0-2, 0-4 adrift, but then Clare put the foot to the pedal.
Antrim were trounced in the semis by Clare last year and found themselves in a final for the first time courtesy of a surprise win over Wexford. They could not replicate that kind of intensity but the Banner were ready for them, and had their own incentives: three years ago they lost a minor All-Ireland to the Cats that they feel they should have won.
"It was a difficult game to prepare for," said joint manager Donal Moloney, "but they prepared as professionally as they possibly could. It is unfortunate; I know everyone would want another spectacle. From Antrim's perspective I think their players deserved better. They lack the same resources and the same expertise that our fellas have. I hope the Antrim county board will afford them that resource."
Antrim had a goal effort from Clarke parried by Ronan Taaffe. By then the crowd of 11,148 were watching out of duty.
Scorers – Clare: C O'Connell 0-11 (0-9 fs); D O'Halloran 1-4; S O'Neill 1-0; T Kelly, C Galvin 0-3; C Malone, S Morey 0-2 each; E Boyce, J Colleran, A O'Neill 0-1 each. Antrim: C Clarke 0-7 (0-5fs; 0-1lb); C McCann, J McGreevey, S McAfee, C McGuinness, M Bradley 0-1 each.
Clare: R Taaffe; P Flanagan, D McInerney, J Browne; S Morey, A O'Neill, S O'Halloran; C Galvin, T Kelly; P Duggan, P Collins, C Malone; C O'Connell, S O'Donnell, D O'Halloran. Subs: J Colleran and K Lynch for McInerney and Kelly (33mins); N Arthur and E Boyce for Collins and Galvin (36); A Cunningham for O'Donnell (59).
Antrim: G Dixon; C Morgan, M Donnelly, T Coyle; T O Ciarain, P McNaughton, C McGuinness; J McGreevey, E Campbell; S Dooey, S McAfee, N McKenna; D McKernan, C McCann, C Clarke. Subs: D Kearney for O'Ciarain (22 mins); M Bradley and S Beatty for Donnelly and Dooey (h-t); M Dudley for McKernan (39);D McGuinness for McCann (54).
Referee: C Lyons (Cork).