SUBSTITUTE NIALL ARTHUR pounced for a dramatic injury-time goal to secure victory for Clare against Tipperary in tonight’s Bord Gáis Energy Munster U21 hurling championship final in Cusack Park in Ennis.
Before 8,379 spectators, the Inagh-Kilnamona attacker Arthur kept his nerve to fire low to the net in the 61st minute after being fed by fellow substitute Cathal McInerney. Tipperary fought desperately to cut that deficit yet Clare’s defence held firm to break the Premier hearts and secure only the county’s second title in this grade.
The opening stages of the game were low-scoring with Clare’s shooting particularly shocking in the first-half as they chalked up 13 wides in that period. After 13 minutes Tipperary had edged 0-2 to 0-0 ahead and they were still in front by 0-3 to 0-2 in the 25th minute when full-forward Cian Hogan missed a glorious opportunity to hit the net when he fired wide in front of an open goal.
Clare drew level through Tony Kelly in first-half injury-time but Tipperary captain John O’Dwyer pushed them in front by 0-6 to 0-5 at the interval. The second-half was keenly contested with Clare improving their accuracy, inspired by Kelly especially, and a 47th minute free by Cathal O’Connell nudged the Banner 0-11 to 0-10 ahead.
However Tipperary fought back and O’Dwyer lashed home what looked like a crucial goal a minute later after being set up by Jason Forde. Clare hit two quick points to tie the teams once more but the marvellous score taking of O’Dwyer looked like it would keep Tipperary in the ascendancy until Arthur pounced for the late goal that sets Clare up for an All-Ireland semi-final meeting with Antrim on August 25th.
Scorers for Clare: Tony Kelly 0-7 (0-2f, 0-1 ’65), Niall Arthur 1-0, Cathal O’Connell (0-1f), Conor McGrath (0-3f) 0-3 each, Padraig Collins 0-2, Seadna Morey 0-1.
Scorers for Tipperary: John O’Dwyer 1-7 (0-3f), Cian Hogan 0-2, Denis Maher, Liam McGrath, Jason Forde, Eanna Murray, Aidan McCormack 0-1 each.
CLARE: Ronan Taaffe (Tubber); Paul Flanagan (Ballyea), David McInerney (Tulla), Killian Ryan (Ruan); Patrick O’Connor (Tubber), Conor Ryan (Cratloe), Seadna Morey (Sixmilebridge); Colm Galvin (Clonlara), Shane Golden (Sixmilebridge); Tony Kelly (Ballyea), Padraig Collins (Cratloe), Aaron Cunningham (Wolfe Tones); David O’Halloran (Eire Og, Ennis), Conor McGrath (Cratloe), Cathal O’Connell (Clonlara). Subs: Cathal McInerney (Cratloe) for David O’Halloran (42), Stephen O’Halloran (Clarecastle) for Patrick O’Connor (blood) (42), Patrick O’Connor for Stephen O’Halloran (45), Peter Duggan (Clooney-Quin) for Cathal O’Connell (50), Niall Arthur (Inagh-Kilnamona) for Aaron Cunningham (58).
TIPPERARY: Paul Ryan (Upperchurch-Drombane); Stephen Maher (Thurles Sarsfields), Andrew Ryan (Toomevara), Pa Ryan (Clonakenny), Willie Ryan (Clonakenny), Brian Stapleton (Templederry Kenyons), Justin Cahill (Kilruane MacDonaghs); Denis Maher (Thurles Sarsfields), Dan McCormack (Borrisileigh); John O’Dwyer (Killenaule), Sean Curran (Mullinahone), Niall O’Meara (Kilruane MacDonagh’s); Jason Forde (Silvermines), Cian Hogan (Lorrha & Dorrha), Liam McGrath (Loughmore Castleiney). Subs: Eanna Murray (Templederry Kenyons) for Dan McCormack (40), Aidan McCormack (Thurles Sarsfields) for Cian Hogan (52), Padraig Greene (Upperchurch-Drombane) for Sean Curran (58).
Referee: John Sexton (Cork)