Kelly inspires Ballyea to final joust with Cratloe
This year's Clare senior hurling decider will pit 2016 champions Ballyea against title-holders for 2014 Cratloe.
In fact, Cratloe earned an historic double four years ago, as they were crowned champions in both hurling and Gaelic football. Following their one-point win over Kilmaley yesterday, the south-east Clare club are still on course to repeat the double with next weekend's football semi-final to come against St Joseph's Miltown.
Ballyea, the All-Ireland Club runners-up in 2017, defeated O'Callaghan's Mills by four points (1-21 to 1-17) at Cusack Park Ennis on Saturday. In the end experience cost the Mills, who were appearing at the penultimate stage of the competition for the first time in 21 years.
Ballyea, inspired by former Hurler of the Year Tony Kelly who scored 1-9 from play over the hour, just about deserved their victory against a dogged O'Callaghan's Mills side. They led by 1-12 to 1-9 at the break despite an early Mills goal by Gavin Cooney. Kelly's goal, two minutes before half-time saw the midfielder gain possession on the 65-metre line and he powered on before unleashing a low shot past 'keeper Killian Nugent.
At the same venue yesterday, Cratloe had just one point to spare over Kilmaley, finishing 1-14 to 0-16 ahead. Blustery conditions spoiled the clash somewhat with both teams recording 19 wides apiece, over the hour.
Cratloe had 12 in the opening half and seven in the second whereas Kilmaley shot nine wides before the break and ten after it. Cratloe enjoyed a 0-9 to 0-5 lead at the break after a poor opening half and grabbed the game's only goal on the 40-minute mark.
Cathal McInerney made a telling break on the right and fed David Collins. He spotted an unmarked Rian Considine on the edge of the square, who made no mistake from close range. The goal opened up a five-point difference and even though Kilmaley brought it back to a one-point game, with late scores by Michael O'Malley and Eamon Bracken, Cratloe held on to make the final.