Mulrooney joy as Drennan inspires Cats to impressive victory
Kilkenny 2-14 Clare 0-13
Kilkenny manager Richie Mulrooney praised his charges for the way they put their Leinster final defeat behind them to make a winning start to the All-Ireland MHC quarter-final round robin series.
The Cats pulled away after leading by 1-7 to 0-7 at the break to record a deserved win at Semple Stadium on Saturday. "We are delighted with the win. There wasn't any negativity after the Leinster final loss and we have now put ourselves in a good position to qualify," he said.
Kilkenny need just a draw when they meet Galway in the next round at the weekend as the three counties battle it out to see who will join Wexford and Limerick in the All-Ireland minor semi-finals.
Corner-forward Billy Drennan, who finished with 0-9 and had a hand in both their goals, was their key performer but goalkeeper Aidan Tallis also came in for praise after producing stunning saves to deny Shane Meehan either side of half-time.
"They were very good saves at key times in the game," added Mulrooney.
Kilkenny's interval lead was thanks to a goal from Pierce Blanchfield after 23 minutes when he pounced after the Clare defence failed to deal with a cross from Drennan.
Drennan shot five points in the opening half, three of them from play but Clare hit back before the break.
Cian Galvin converted a '65 and Shane Meehan hit two points, one of which was superbly deflected over by Tallis to leave the Cats a goal to the good at the interval.
Tallis produced another quality save to deny Meehan less than a minute after the restart and Kilkenny then added two quick points from Blanchfield to push five points clear.
Clare needed a response and they did that with a couple of points from Conner Hegarty and another long-range free from Galvin to cut the gap to 1-9 to 0-10 after 39 minutes.
But it was Kilkenny who struck for clinching score after 40 minutes and what a superb goal it was.
Drennan created the opening with a handpass inside which was neatly flicked over his head by Andy Hickey and Colman O'Sullivan rushed through to finish it to the net.
It was a huge blow to Clare and they never recovered as the Kilkenny rearguard held firm in the final quarter to secure a deserved success and leave them in a strong position to make it to the semi-finals.
"We will need to bounce back the next day when we play Galway," said Clare manager Fergal Lynch.