It was a case of the Cats taking the cream when Kilkenny struck for an 89th-minute goal against the run of play, frustrating Clare’s hopes of winning a third Oscar Traynor inter-league Cup in this semi-final tie played in good conditions at Frank Healy Park in Ennis.
FAI Oscar Traynor Cup Semi Final Clare League 1–2 Kilkenny
Despite going a goal behind to a 69th-minute penalty, Donie Garrihy’s Clare team worked hard to get back on level terms but were sucker-punched by Kilkenny’s strike in the last minute of normal time. On the day, Clare made do without their captain and Irish junior international Stephen Kelly who was sidelined with an ankle ligament injury. Kelly has been inspirational for this side both in defence and attack.
Kilkenny & District League will now contest the final at home to near neighbours Carlow. The side, which is jointly managed by Jim Nugent and Jim Cashin, settled into the game quickly and had the first scoring chance after five minutes when Emmett Nugent’s shot sailed over Barry Ryan’s crossbar. Three minutes later Dara Keane had the Cats second opportunity with a shot from distance that was easily gather by the Clare goalkeeper.
Clare’s first scoring chance came in the 11th minute when Simon Cuddy floated in a free to the far post but his forwards failed to get the necessary touch. David McCarthy came close with a good shot from 20 yards after 19 minutes but his effort went just wide of the post.
Clare played a nice brand of passing football as they dominated the exchanges midway through the half. Centre forward Eoin Hayes forced a great save from Kilkenny goalkeeper Owen Wall and followed it up with a 25 yard free that went inches over the bar. The best scoring chance of the half came on 37 minutes when David McCarthy’s 30-yard drive rebounded off the post with the goalkeeper well beaten.
Both sides remained deadlocked by the break but Clare showed more determination when they kicked off the second half. Just two minutes in, Gary O’Connell’s goal-bound shot was blocked by Dara Keane as Eoin Hayes was causing the Cats defence all sorts of problems. Shortly after, O’Connell was involved in a clever move with Hayes on the right wing which resulted in his cross being headed off the rear post by Derek Fahy.
Kilkenny made the first change of the game on 65 minutes when Ger Hayes replaced injured left back Eddie Nugent. Two minutes letter Dave McCarthy tested the goalkeeper with a well-struck drive from 30 yards. The deadlock was broken in the 69th minutes when a Colin Ryan was adjudged to have fouled Dara Keane and a penalty was awarded. Kilkenny captain Niall Andrews rifled the ball just beyond the reach of Clare goalkeeper Barry Ryan to make it 1-0 while Colin Ryan was shown a yellow card.
Craig Wall came on for Paddy Cahill on the Kilkenny team, his first action resulted in a foul on Dave McCarthy 30 yards from goal. McCarthy took the free but the wall did its job. Colin Scanlon entered the fray for Derek Fahy on the Clare side after 75 minutes. He was soon involved in the action as he jumped for a high ball but was clattered by goalkeeper Owen Wall and referee John Walsh pointed to the spot. Eoin Hayes stepped up to take the penalty for Clare, his shot broke the plastic ties holding the net in place and giving the goalkeeper no chance.
Clare went in search of a winner and attacked the visitor’s defence with vigour. Dave McCarthy had a chance in the 83rd minute but David Rice relieved the pressure. As the clock ticked down and it looked like extra time would be needed to separate the sides, Kilkenny went on a counter-attack. Dara Keane played a lovely pass behind the defence to Emmett Nugent to slot the winning goal past Barry Ryan making it 2-1.
Clare fought magnificently to get back into the game but time was against them. With four minutes of extra time added, Barry Ryan found Gary O’Connell with a long clearance, he tried to flick the ball to the net but Owen Wall got to it first.
Kilkenny celebrated at the final whistle while the Clare players, who had tried so hard, were left looking disconsolate as their hopes of three-in-a-row in this Oscar Traynor tournament were shattered. After the game, their left winger Andy Kavanagh was awarded man of the match. On the day however it was Kilkenny defenders David Rice and team captain Niall Andrews who proved inspirational.