Bord Gais Energy GAA Hurling All Ireland U21 Championship 2014 Semi Final
CLARE 4-28 ANTRIM 1-10
The first of the two u21 Bord Gais Energy GAA Hurling semi-finals seen a fitter, smarter Clare side defeat an inexperienced Saffron team. First blood went to Clare when Colm Galvin took the ball from the Clare puck out brought it towards the middle and hit the ball over the bar and it was evident from then Clare had one thing in their mind.
Clare dominated hurling wise; all passes perfectly met the hand, hurl or where it was aimed. A great piece of Clare play seen Tony Kelly taking a ball deep in his own half before switching the pass to David Reidy and made it two points for him at 8 minutes.
At 16 minutes, a period of goals began when Aaron Cunningham picked up a loose ball around the goal and scored the first goal. Antrim answered as Sean McAfee batted the ball to the net but soon after Aaron Cunningham scored another goal for Clare, Cunningham scoring 3-3 and earning the TG4 man of the match award. Clare corner forward David Reidy spent a short time on the field but made his presence known by running at the Antrim defence and causing a lot of trouble in the Antrim back line.
Jack Brown was extremely reliable around the goals, his blocking and hooking Saffron score efforts made it difficult for the Antrim full forward line. As a result Antrim attempted to make scores from ridiculously tight angles and this is where most of their wides came from. Antrim attacks were always bottled up, as a sea of blue along the 21 metre line defended when Antrim became a threat. Midfielders Colm Galvin and Eoin Enright were always on hand to break up Antrim possession.
The second half showed a better Antrim side creating goal chances and scoring from very far out the field. Ciaran Clarke, Stephen McAfee and Ryan McCambridge working hard at the restart to narrow the gap.
The tactic of midfield and centre forward Tony Kelly in times of Antrim attack proved effective as Antrim’s full forward line were kept extremely quiet and starved of the ball.
Shane O’Donnell created huge amounts of space in the full forward line, breaking tackles and throwing around hand passes to Clare forwards running from all directions at the Antrim goal. Tony Kelly was exceptional, the number 11 must have covered every blade of grass, scoring 1-3 and also returning to help back line when needed.
Clare’s ability to point from almost anywhere by anyone will be a major talking point for their opponents Wexford in the all-Ireland. Bobby Duggan also was very talented on frees and opposition will have to cut out fouling in the back line to avoid his accurate conversions. The 2012 and 2013 champions will be a difficult side to bet in the final as they seemed to know their team inside and out and will certainly relish a challenge in the final.
Although the scoreboard says different Antrim were a competitive side, they never gave up and all their hard work out the field was not converted to scores, something they will have to look at next year as tier year comes to a close. Clare march on to the All-Ireland final on September 13th vs Wexford in Semple Stadium Thurles at 7pm.
Clare: K Hogan; J Colleran; J Browne, S Morey; G O’Connell, A O’Neill, J Shanahan (0-01); C Galvin (0-02), E Enright (0-01); B Duggan (0-05, 3f), T Kelly (1-03), P Duggan; S O’Donnell (0-02), A Cunningham (3-03), D Reidy (0-03). Subs: C O’Connell (0-06, 5f) for Reidy (31); N Deasy (0-01) for B Duggan (HT); S O’Brien for Morey (45); S Gleeson (0-01) for Galvin (45); A McGuane for Shanahan (51).
Antrim: C Butler; M Dudley, P Burke, M Bradley (0-01); R McCambridge (0-01), J McGreevy, T Ó Ciaráin; E Campbell, N McKenna; D McCloskey, Stephen McAfee (0-03), D McGuinness; D McKernan (0-01), Sean McAfee (1-00), C Clarke (0-02). Subs: C Burke (0-01) for McGuinness (28); S McCaughan (0-01) for McCloskey (HT); J O’Connell for McKenna (37); M Connolly for McCambridge (44); E McCaughan for Sean McAfee (51).