Sport Hurling

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Maloney hopeful Clare resilience proves minor key

Captains Paul Flanagan (Clare) and Cillian Buckley (Kilkenny) pictured ahead of this weekend's ESB MHC final
Captains Paul Flanagan (Clare) and Cillian Buckley (Kilkenny) pictured ahead of this weekend's ESB MHC final
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

WHEN Clare minors' joint-managers Gerry O'Connor and Donal Maloney trudged off the field after defeat to Waterford in their Munster MHC opener in April, they could hardly have dreamed they'd be contesting Sunday's minor All-Ireland final.

But resilience has been this Banner side's trademark. They recovered from that defeat to win against Kerry and Tipperary, with their success over the Premier side their third game in a week.

Limerick fell in the Munster semi-final before they overturned the Deise in the final to capture the county's first provincial title at the grade since 1989.

There was more of the same in the All-Ireland semi-final, when they scrambled home against Dublin despite controlling much of the game. "I think myself and Gerry were panicking more than the lads on the field," Maloney commented.

"We took them into the dressing-room after the game and they were quite relaxed, they always thought it was going to be okay. We hurled very well at times but Dublin still had a late chance to sneak it."

That coolness under pressure will be tested to the limit by a fancied Kilkenny side, who breezed into the final with a 19-point hammering of reigning All-Ireland champions Galway.

"That was the most complete performance I have seen in a long time," Maloney said of the Cats, who have been installed as unbackable 1/12 favourites.

However, Clare are not without talent. Niall Arthur is a former All-Ireland Feile skills winner, midfielder Tony Kelly and wing-back David O'Halloran are in good form and they have met the Cats in challenge matches on three occasions this season, winning one.

"We've played them a few times. They were very accommodating and have a good side. We might have won one of them but that was way back at the start of the year. Those games will have very little bearing on Sunday."

Irish Independent

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