Thursday 23 January 2020

Ryan's moment of magic rocks Carrickshock

Clara 1-15 Carrickshock 2-10

Clara players celebrate with the Tom Walsh Cup
Clara players celebrate with the Tom Walsh Cup
Davy Franks, Carrickshock, in action against Austin Murphy, Clara
Clara's Lester Ryan celebrates after scoring a goal
Clara captain Austin Murphy lifts the Tom Walsh Cup
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

WHEN Clara needed a real leader to take charge, their county midfielder Lester Ryan answered the call in emphatic style.

WHEN Clara needed a real leader to take charge, their county midfielder Lester Ryan answered the call in emphatic style.

The Kilkenny title seemed to be heading for Carrickshock for the first time since 1951 when a rise in momentum took them two points clear with five minutes remaining in Nowlan Park. They hadn't hurled particularly well in what was a disappointing spectacle for long periods, but appeared to have timed their run well.

However, the battling qualities which sustained Clara through a remarkable season made another dramatic intervention which ultimately led to them winning the title for the first time since 1986.

Promoted to the senior ranks this year (they won the All-Ireland intermediate title last February), they settled in comfortably among Kilkenny's elite through the championship campaign and now stand tallest and proudest of all.

The tie-breaking moment came in the 56th minute when Carrickshock, who were defending a two-point advantage, conceded a free around 30 metres from their goal.

Referee Sean Cleere brought the ball forward to the 20-metre line, presumably for dissent, leaving Clara facing a massive decision.

Should they go for a goal or take a point and hope to snatch the equaliser in the remaining few minutes?

Many of their supporters in the crowd of 8,646 would have expected regular free-taker Keith Hogan, who had earlier pointed nine placed balls, to stroke over a point, but Ryan had a bigger yield on his mind.

He stepped forward, hoisted the ball several metres in front of him before making a clean connection. The sliotar whizzed to the Carrickshock net and suddenly the whole dynamic had changed.

"I knew that if I stood up for the free I'd have to go for a goal. It was something we badly needed. It was that sort of game," said a relieved Ryan afterwards.

Three minutes later he made another crucial contribution, driving over a long-range point, which gave Clara a little breathing space.

"The ball took ages to fall but it was great to see it go over the bar," he said.

Richie Power cut the deficit with a free on the hour mark but Clara sub Chris Bolger hit the game's last score on a day which will never be forgotten in the club.

As for Carrickshock, it was the latest in a series of big day setbacks which must leave them wondering why the gods take such a consistently dim view of their attempts to reach the Kilkenny summit.

They went into yesterday's game as warm favourites and when John Power skipped through and scored a goal after five minutes, it looked as if it might settle them in a high-octane rhythm.

Not so. They found Clara's tenacity difficult to counteract and with defensive indiscipline letting them down, they conceded a series of points from frees.

PUNISHED

Clara hotshot Hogan punished them with several pointed frees while also stroking over two '65s'.

Clara led by 0-11 to 1-4 after 29 minutes but Carrickshock scored 1-1 in the run-up to half-time.

Brian Donovan whipped over a point before smashing in a goal in the final action of the half. It was quite a setback for Clara, who were definitely the better side in the first period.

Carrickshock started the second half smartly with Michael Rice scoring the lead point before the game headed into a dreary spell which yielded only two points over the next 12 minutes.

Both went to Clara but points by Donovan, sub Damien Walsh and John Power in a five-minute spell of high productivity appeared to have set up Carrickshock for a big finale.

However, they scored only one point in the final eight minutes while Clara returned 1-2 in the closing five minutes.

Carrickshock were stunned by the manner in which Clara wrested the prize from them but they would also have to admit that they never hurled with the fluency which they displayed en route to the final.

Rice was immense for them in the middle third but his county colleague Richie Power made no impression in attack or when he moved to midfield midway through the second half. It was just one of those days for Power, who just couldn't get into the game.

Rice did all he could to drive his colleagues forward and while Donovan made considerable headway in attack, the rest were well shackled by a gritty Clara defence.

Their rise up the ranks this year has been remarkable and they will now set their sights on the Leinster title, a campaign they begin next Sunday against Wexford champions Oulart-The Ballagh.

As a spectacle, yesterday's game was disappointing for long periods but that's irrelevant to Clara, whose drive and determination were key ingredients in their success.

"All that matters is the result," said a jubilant Ryan before joining his colleagues as they popped the champagne corks to begin a celebration which, no doubt, continued long into the night.

Ryan had delivered a fine performance, crowned by the calmness he displayed over that crucial free, which ultimately turned out to be the match winner.

It was a special occasion too for Hogan, whose older brother Brian, the Kilkenny centre-back, has won county titles with O'Loughlin Gaels.

It means that the Hogan family have county championship medals with two different clubs, which is most unusual.

Scorers – Clara: K Hogan 0-10 (7fs, 2 '65s'), Lester Ryan 1-1 (1-0 f), Liam Ryan, J Langton, A Murphy, C Bolger 0-1 each. Carrickshock: Brian Donovan 1-2, John Power 1-1, R Power 0-4 (4fs), M Rice 0-2, D Walsh 0-1.

Clara – K Phelan; T Ryan, J Phelan, S O'Shea; N Prendergast, S Prendergast, D Langton; Lester Ryan, J Langton; C Phelan, K Hogan, Liam Ryan; A Murphy, J Nolan, C Prendergast. Subs: C O'Shea for Nolan (50), C Bolger for Murphy (46).

Carrickshock – J Butler; J Murphy, J Dalton, D Franks; J Cahill, J Tennyson, P Tennyson; M Rice, P Mulcahy; Jamie Power, R Power, John Power; B Donovan, M O'Dwyer, M Rohan. Subs: D Walsh for Mulcahy (43), N Tennyson for P Tennyson (56), N Rohan for Jamie Power (56).

Ref – S Cleere

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