Clara 0-25, John Lockes 1-6.
In the face of this massive defeat, one could be justifiably entitled to expect that the Intermediate Championship is a foregone conclusion, but as we spoke to the Clara manager after the game in Bennettsbridge on Saturday evening, Robert Shortall, he practically laughed in our faces for even contemplating the idea.
And you know, being the pragmatist that he is, he would be well entitled to express his opinion on the matter as he did.
“ Look”, I have never known any team to win a Championship in the month of May. Even the great Kilkenny team have never managed to win a Championship at this time of year. Of course we played well, but we are a long way from the finished article. During the first half we didn’t allow the Callan lads to settle. We were quietly confident going in at half time, and I suppose Keith’s five early frees at the start of the second half gave the Callan lads a huge hill to climb. I know we have won our first three games, but there is an almighty long way to go until next October, with plenty of twists in the plot yet”
There was scarcely a position on the park where a Callan player even broke even with his Clara opponent. One could disassociate Michael Gordon, John O’Neill, and Eoin McGrath in the second half, Cathal Byrne, and Shane Bergin from such an observation. The Clara half back line of Neil Prendergast, the immaculate David Langton, and Shane Prendergast won the majority of ball that came their way during the 63 minutes of the game’s duration. Leater Ryan and Jack Langton did a similar job around the midfield area, while Conor Phelan, Ciarán Prendergast and Liam Ryan tore the heart out of the John Lockes half back line.
And then there was Keith Hogan.
Hogan drilled over thirteen points for his side. Ten came from trees, with one from a ’65. Everything the man touched turned to gold. He really had the Midas touch on Saturday evening.
The Callan ploy of driving ball into forwards who were decidedly at a height disadvantage with their Clara markers was puzzling. Too often the ball was well worked down to a waiting Clara defender who effected very positive, thoughtful clearances.
While a couple of the John Lockes attackers showed commendable determination, and fortitude, it was clear that too many of them were contented to play the supporting role.
Clara started in a whirlwind. But by the 16th minute, despite their superiority, they were still only leading by a couple of points as the game entered the second quarter. However an obvious gear change by the winners during that second quarter gradually put plenty of clear water between themselves and the John Lockes. As the game went into added time for the first half, a long ball , delivered into a corner led to a race for possession between the diminuitive Shane Bergin, and the powerful John Phelan The ensuing body clash brought great enjoyment to a section of the patrons, but Bergin came away with the ball. Thundering by two Clara defenders, Bergin hammered a bullit beyond the despairing dive of Kevin Nolan, leaving the half time scoreboard reading, Clara 0-13, John Lockes 1-4.
That goal seemed to revitalise the losers as they came out for the second moiety. However that expectancy was short lived as the concession of frees made life that little bit easier for the winners with the likes of Hogan in such good shooting form. It was all Clara to the finish with John Lockes only managing two points during that second half.
The Callan lads would want to forget this one, but it was three on the bounce for the winners, and they are improving with every game.
Clara: Keith Hogan (0-13, ten frees, one ’65); Liam Ryan (0-4); Lester Ryan (0-3); Ciarán Prendergast (0-2); Neil Prendergast, Stephen Quinlan (0-1 each); Dermot Nolan (0-1, free).
John Lockes: Shane Bergin (1-0); Dan McCormack, Eoin McGrath, JP. Corcoran, James Power, Simon Burke (0-1 each): Jason Corcoran (0-1, free).
Clara: Kevin Nolan, Tom Ryan, John Phelan, Sean O’Shea, Neil Prendergast, David Langton, Shane Prendergast, Lester Ryan, Jack Langton, Conor Phelan, Ciarán Prendergast, Liam Ryan, Ben Nolan, Keith Hogan, Chris Bolger.
Subs: Brian O’Shea for Chris Bolger (42nd min); Tom Langton for Jack Langton (50 min); Stephen Quinlan for Ciarán Prendergast (50 min); Michael Bergin for Ben Nolan (58 min); Dermot Nolan for Conor Phelan (58 mins).