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Tony Kelly's Banner comrades were ‘in no doubt’ his late line cut was going over

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Clare's Cathal Malone poses for a portrait with the Liam MacCarthy Cup at Loughmore Castle. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Clare's Cathal Malone poses for a portrait with the Liam MacCarthy Cup at Loughmore Castle. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Clare's Cathal Malone poses for a portrait with the Liam MacCarthy Cup at Loughmore Castle. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

When Tony Kelly pinged that last-second sideline cut through the eye of a needle, pushing an epic Munster hurling final into extra-time, everyone gaped in wonder.

But not his Banner team-mates, if you’re to believe Cathal Malone.

“He’s been practicing those. Before we train, you can see him put them over the bar – so a lot of players were in no doubt that it was going over the bar and the best man to take it was Tony,” says Malone of that pivotal equaliser from the tightest of Thurles angles.

“He’s just incredible, he really drives the standard both in training and in matches. He works incredibly hard as well and he’s always looking to improve, and he’s driving us on to improve all the time as well. We want to do the same – he sets the standard, and we all have to try and keep going.”

All of which reads like a metaphor for this Saturday’s
All-Ireland SHC quarter-final against Wexford, back at the Semple Stadium ranch.

Clare put in a gargantuan shift, stretching to 90 minutes and beyond, as they pushed All-Ireland kingpins Limerick to the brink last Sunday week.

To leave Thurles with nothing bar a chorus of plaudits can’t have been easy for a team that has found Munster glory so elusive.

The county itself has been waiting 24 years since its last provincial title. But as Malone insists: “We don’t really get caught up in history. For ourselves, we wanted to win – and we lost one in ’17 and ’18.

“Look, we know how hard it is to get to a Munster final; there’s a good few lads who’ve been there for the last few years and it’s really hard to get to one. So, we just wanted to give it everything and we felt like we did, but unfortunately the result wasn’t the one we wanted.”

Malone endorses the message last May from his illustrious team-mate, Kelly: Munster was all about finishing in the top-three and staying in the All-Ireland race.

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“As players, we want to switch our focus immediately,” the midfielder says. “Of course it was disappointing, but you have to switch your focus, otherwise you’re punished the following game. If you’re not 100pc tuned in, you will be punished and you will be knocked out – so we have to switch our focus immediately and there’s a big battle coming ahead.

“The main aim [last week] was just getting the bodies right, but the round-robin kind of teaches us that once you play one game, you just have to focus for the next.”

And that’s Wexford. No looking beyond them.


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