Clara 1-14, Rower Inistioge 0-11
This first round Intermediate League/Championship encounter in Thomastown on Sunday afternoon was a game of contradictions. Clara, by virtue of un-scored gilt-edged goal chances in the first half should have been out of sight at half time. The Rower Inistioge, with the howling wind at their backs were reduced to a supporting role as the Clara men made small talk of the conditions, coupled with a similar disdain of the challenge being presented by the losers.
One assumed that the second half would bring torrents of discomfort and aggravation for the Rower lads, when they were programmed to face the same stormy conditions. After all they couldn’t manage to head the men in maroon by the break – the scoreboard read, Clara 0-7, Rower Inistioge ditto.
Clara support awaited the killer charge, and there were not too many Rower patrons looking forward in anticipation.
Lo and behold, the fortunes suffered a near total reversal, with the red and green brigade casting their doubts, and inhibitions to a parking lot, and firing caution to the wind. In the final analysis, it would not be unkind to suggest that if the Rower Inistioge had laboured with the same intensity, and purpose in the first moiety as shown in the second thirty one minutes, there is a distinct possibility that they just might have shared the spoils. As it was, it took a supreme Clara effort to get their heads in front, and that happened with a Keith Nolan free in the 52nd minute. They really were not out of the woods until an unfortunate error afforded Brian O’Shea an opportunity to bag the only goal of the game with three minutes remaining.
There was much to admire in the Clara game. They totally annexed control of the game in the first half around the golden diamond. David Langton at centre back was supreme. Jack Langton and Ciarán Prendergast lorded proceedings at midfield, while Stephen Quinlan initially, but Conor Phelan especially broke the many hearts of the Rower players, and supporters. But for Kieran Joyce who stood head and shoulders above all of his colleagues, the dominance would have been more defined. He scored five points (two frees, and a line ball) all of which were registered in the first half.
James Cassin and Sean Grace drilled over the other Rower points in the first half. Keith Hogan’s take of four points (two frees), augmented by terrific points from the hugely impressive Liam Ryan (2), and Steven Quinlantwo smashing corner backs in Tom Ryan and Sean O’Shea, and had the sides level for the fifth time during the absorbing first half. They were neck and neck on two second half occasions, the last time in the 51st minute.
Credit to all for producing an absorbing encounter, and to the official who was very vigilant on players purposely lying on the ball.
Kieran Joyce was superb, and his acolytes, Eoin Doyle, Joe Lyng, and James Cassin in the second half were not too far behind him.
Clara, in addition to those mentioned, had a very competent goalie in Kevin Nolan, two smashing corner backs in Tom Ryan and Sean O’Shea, and a couple of bobby-dazzler young forwards in Chris Bolger, and Liam Ryan
Clara: Keith Hogan (0-9, six frees, one ’65); Liam Ryan (0-3); Brian O’Shea 91-0); Stephen Quinlan (0-1)
Rower Inistioge: Kieran Joyce (0-5, two frees, lineball); James Cassin (0-4, two frees); Sean Grace, JJ. Kenny (0-1 each).
Clara: Kevin Nolan, Tom Ryan, John Phelan, Sean O’Shea, Neil Prendergast, David Langton, Shane Prendergast, Ciaran Prendergast, Jack Langton, Conor Phelan, Steven Quinlan, Liam Ryan, Chris Bolger, Keith Hogan and Brian O’Shea.
Subs (used): Tom Langton, Peter Nolan, Michael Bergin.
Rower Inistioge: Liam Tierney, Eoin Doyle, James Doyle, Joe Lyng, David Lyng, Sean Cummins, Rory Galavan, Kieran Joyce, Mark Moore, Sean Grace, James Cassin, Conor Joyce, Sean Lyster, John James Kenny, Tommy Murphy.
Sub (used): David Murphy for Liam Tierney (inj).
Ref: D.O’Sullivan (John Lockes).