WE’RE AT SEMPLE Stadium for the big one.
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15.32 – Welcome to Semple Stadium for the upcoming All Ireland under 21 decider. Clare are the hottest of favourites to retain the title they won in such impressive fashion last year. Antrim, though, deserve huge credit and respect for reaching this decider. Having stunned Wexford at the semi-final stage can the Saffrons cause another shock? All will be revealed during the next few hours in Thurles.
15.33 – It’s half-time in the under 21 B decider with the teams deadlocked at the interval Kerry have scored 14 points compared to Kildare’s 3-5. Kerry have reeled off six points in a row to leave it delicately poised at the break.
15.38 – A good start is imperative for Antrim. On All Ireland semi-final day a panel of 19 players travelled to Thurles. Nobody, not even themselves, think victory is possible initially. Then Antrim start well and belief entered their system.
Doubt crept into the raging hot favourites, Wexford, who were suddenly worried and agitated. The shock was on, Saffron momentum increased, and by the end only a couple of Wexford goals would suffice. Antrim had something to protect and that they did with commendable composure.
In the first half of that unexpected win Antrim scored 2-7 from 14 shots at the target, which was an efficient return. The likelihood is that Antrim won’t make as many chances, but whatever they do manufacture must be taken, especially early on.
15.45 – This has been an exacting few months for Clare’s youngsters. High stakes matches are arriving thick and fast. The schedule is taxing and hectic, but that is the price of being successful. There is always a fresh challenge, and Clare hurling glimmers with promise. Still GAA history is loaded with cautionary tales so it is vital to make hay when trophies are on offer.
A string of Clare hurlers will feature in three All Ireland finals in September. It is an amazing feat and trying to be on the money in every contest is an examination of the mind as much as the body. Paul Kinnerk’s training acumen, though, is highly regarded in the south west and the Clare players are top level athletes as well as slick stickmen.
15.55 – It is great to see Antrim dining at the top table. On a raw February afternoon in Clones even though St Thomas’ eventually prevailed from a feisty All Ireland club semi-final replay there had been glimpses of how Antrim hurling can sizzle. Loughgiel Shamrocks, the holders might have been dethroned, but went down with honour.
Thomas’ had to be at their best to eke out a victory. Leaving the border town Hill that afternoon one pondered how Antrim inter county teams at all levels haven’t brought that raw intensity to the table frequently enough since the heroes of 89.
Marquee names aplenty were part of their storied senior triumph over Offaly, but Antrim have never come anywhere near to that kind of achievement since then. That is why the under 21s display when beating Wexford has shown what can be done when graft is married with craft.
Though it is a tad unfortunate Antrim are meeting a particularly potent Clare outfit it will be heartening to see them scamper on to the hallowed Thurles turf again for a game that truly matters in an hour.
15.57 – After 42 minutes in the All Ireland B final Kildare lead by one, 4-6 to Kerry’s 0-17.
16.01 – What a collection of Clare players this is. The four who started last weekend’s senior match with Cork should be prominent figures once more. When Galway were beaten in the under 21 semi-final
the crowd was moderate, but the roar harkened back to the salad years of the 90s when Clare were kings, feared and respected in equal measure. David McInerney’s paw and raking clearances thrilled the Clare faithful as Galway were easily dismissed.
Class was everywhere. Out the field Tony Kelly was going well craving involvement and adept at wisely selecting the correct option.
From the start of the season in the Fitzgibbon Cup Colm Galvin has shown that he isn’t merely a player for the future, he is polished in the present. Anyone who has witnessed Podge Collins hurl will testify to his engine and ability to convert under pressure. Last weekend’s point against Cork will linger long in the memory. Those four were the only four to start for the seniors, but they have several awesome accomplices as peers too.
16.06 – Still lively in the All Ireland B final with Kildare currently leading Kerry by 4-8 to 0-18. Eight minutes of normal time remain.
16.10 – No official word of any changes yet with the teams are expected to line out as selected.
CLARE: Ronan Taafe; Paul Flanagan, David McInerney, Jack Browne; Seadna Morey, Alan O’Neill, Stephen O’Halloran; Colm Galvin, Tony Kelly; Peter Duggan, Podge Collins, Cathal Malone; Cathal O’Connell, Shane O’Donnell, Davy O’Halloran.
ANTRIM: Ger Dixon; Conal Morgan, Matthew Donnelly, Tiernan Coyle; Tomas O’Ciarain, Paddy McNaughton, Ciaran Johnson; Jackson McGreevy, Eoghan Campbell; Shane Dooey, Stephan McAfee, Niall McKenna; Daniel McKernan, Conor McCann, Ciaran Clarke.
REFEREE: Colm Lyons (Cork).
16.16 – On the way to this final Clare have defeated Waterford, Tipperary, and Galway. Antrim beat Down and Derry in Ulster before nudging Wexford out of the reckoning last month.
16.18 – Drama at the end of the B final as Kerry have scored 1-1 deep into injury time to take a 1-21 to 4-10 lead.
16.20 – Kerry have finished with a flourish as Padraig Boyle’s last gasp goal has given them a 1-21 to 4-10 success over Kildare, who led by two points before being caught in the closing seconds.
16.26 – ‘Between the lines’ is among the current coaching phrases in soccer. That is where the opposition can be hurt according to the technical experts. Teams can struggle to cope with a dynamic attacker capable of drifting into space to probe and pose questions. Watch Clare’s Cathal O’Connell, he is all style and skill.
In last year’s campaign O’Connell had the tricks and flicks to do serious damage in a withdrawn role. Creating space inside O’Connell’s willingness to wander was a critical factor in Clare garnering Munster and national silverware. Clare will hope to get O’Connell in the pocket again, he has registered 1-21 in three matches in 2013. Antrim will need to beware.
16.34 – Good Clare crowd gathering here in Thurles as they seek to make it two All Ireland under 21s on the spin. Gerry O’Connor and Donal Moloney have stitched an ultra talented panel together.
16.40 – Antrim emerge on to the field in Thurles.
16.42 – Now Clare, wearing blue, are out too and the sizeable Banner following greet them in enthusiastic fashion.
16.52 – Throw-in is edging closer here. How Antrim cope in the opening quarter will be revealing. It is plain and simple, they must avoid conceding a flurry of scores at the outset.
16.55 – One late change for Antrim. Chris McGuiness replaces Ciaran Johnson.
16.56 – Teams now confirmed as follows:
CLARE: Ronan Taffe; Paul Flanagan, David McInerney, Jack Browne; Seadna Morey, Alan O’Neill, Stephen O’Halloran; Colm Galvin, Tony Kelly; Peter Duggan, Podge Collins, Cathal Malone; Cathal O’Connell, Shane O’Donnell, Davy O’Halloran.
ANTRIM: Ger Dixon; Conal Morgan, Matthew Donnelly, Tiernan Coyle; Tomas O’Ciarain, Paddy McNaughton, Chris McGuinness; Jackson McGreevy, Eoghan Campbell; Shane Dooey, Stephan McAfee, Niall McKenna; Daniel McKernan, Conor McCann, Ciaran Clarke.
REFEREE: Colm Lyons (Cork).
17.00 – As expected Eoghan Campbell has dropped back to operate as a sweeper for Antrim. Clare’s Cathal O’Connell is in his usual role too ‘between the lines’.
17.02 – Third minute yellow cards for Antrim full back Matthew Donnelly and wing back Chris McGuinness.
17.03 – Clare 0-1 Antrim 0-0: 4 mins – Cathal ‘Totts’ O’Connell taps over a routine free for Clare.
17.04 – Clare 0-2 Antrim: 5 mins – Another free from Cathal ‘Totts’ O’Connell for Clare, who have settled quickly.
17.06 – Clare 0-2 Antrim 0-1: 7 mins - This game is following the pattern many expected. Clare appear that bit sharper, but Conor McCann has just clipped a fine point for the underdogs.
17.10 – Clare 0-4 Antrim 0-1: 11 mins - Cathal ‘Totts’ O’Connell has landed a splendid score from an acute angle following a smart Tony Kelly flick. Then Colm Galvin struck a similarly sweet effort for the Banner, who are well in control.
17.12 – Clare 0-6 Antrim 0-2: 12 mins - Jackson McGreevy hits a point for Antrim, but Cathal Malone summons an instant response and Tony Kelly subsequently scores a beauty.
17.13 – Clare 0-7 Antrim 0-2: 14 mins - Cathal Malone bangs over another point for the rampant Banner boys.
17.16 – Clare 0-9 Antrim 0-2: 15 mins – Very much in the groove Cathal ‘Totts’ O’Connell scores a distance free and then one from close in for Clare, who have a slight injury concern about Shane O’Donnell at the moment. The senior panelist is limping, but is yet to go off
17.17 – Clare 0-10 Antrim 0-2: 17 mins - Seadna Morey gallops forward to make an overlap and drill a fine score.
17.19 – Clare 0-12 Antrim 0-2: 19 mins – This is turning into the Cathal ‘Totts’ O’Connell show. The Clonlara youngster has scored seven points already. Antrim’s fouling is being punished.
17.20 – Clare 0-13 Antrim 0-2: 20 mins – Davy O’Halloran is the latest Clare forward to split the uprights.
17.22 – Goal for Clare!
17.23 – Clare 1-14 Antrim 0-2: 24 mins – Davy O’Halloran bursts through to poke an opportunistic goal for Clare. Tony Kelly adds a point.
17.24 – Clare 1-14 Antrim 0-3: 25 mins – Ciaran Clarke points for Antrim following a Clare burst that yielded 1-10 on the spin.
17.26 – Clare 1-16 Antrim 0-3: 26 mins - Normal service resumed with a Cathal ‘Totts’ O’Connell free and a Colm Galvin effort from play.
17.27 – Clare 2-16 Antrim 0-3: 27 mins – Shane O’Donnell plants a delightful goal for Clare from an awkward angle. A calculator will be needed soon.
17.30 – Davy Fitzgerald watching on as Clare run riot.
17.32 – Half time Clare 2-16 Antrim 0-4: A sublime sideline cut from Antrim’s Ciaran Clarke is a rare moment of pleasure for the Saffrons, who have been demolished.
17.33 – First half scorers for Clare: Cathal O’Connell 0-8 (7fs), Davy O’Halloran 1-1, Shane O’Donnell 1-0, Colm Galvin 0-2, Tony Kelly 0-2, Cathal Malone 0-2, Seadna Morey 0-1.
First half scorers for Antrim: Ciaran Clarke 0-2 (1 sideline), Conor McCann 0-1, Jackson McGreevy 0-1.
17.36 – Unfortunately the half-time scoreline tells the tale with crisp accuracy. Clare have been dominant and ruthless converting chances too.
17.40 – 11,148 the official attendance.
17.48 – Clare 2-18 Antrim 0-5: Same story here as Clare are governing the game. Tony Kelly and Davy O’Halloran have rifled over points with Stephan McAfee replying for Antrim.
17.48 – Clare have taken David McInerney and Tony Kelly off. Job done. Two senior players have come through unscathed.
17.49 – Excellent reflex save by Clare custodian Ronan Taafe from Ciaran Clarke.
17.51 – Clare 2-21 Antrim 0-5: 37 mins- Davy O’Halloran and Cathal ‘Totts’ O’Connell with further points for Clare.
17.53 – Colm Galvin has also made way for Clare. Galvin pinched three points during a classy cameo.
17.55 – Clare 2-22 Antrim 0-7: 41 mins – Ciaran Clarke and Chris McGuinness have hit points for Antrim.
17.59 – Clare 2-23 Antrim 0-8: 44 mins - Not much entertainment in the last while as this match peters out to an inevitable conclusion. Antrim have improved with some of Clare’s marquee men now being minded for the senior replay.
18.03 – Clare 2-25 Antrim 0-9: 48 mins - Substitute Enda Boyce and Cathal ‘Totts’ O’Connell hit nice points for Clare following a Ciaran Clarke free for Antrim.
18.07 – Clare 2-26 Antrim 0-10: 53 mins - Seadna Morey beavers through to nick a point for Clare.
18.10 – Clare 2-27 Antrim 0-11: 56 mins - Ciaran Clarke lofts a free for Antrim and then Clare replacement Jarlath Colleran scores from play.
18.13 – Clare 2-27 Antrim 0-11: 57 mins – Davy O’Halloran brings his personal haul to 1-4 for a Clare side that has been driven in the second half by Seadna Morey.
18.14 – At least one minute additional time to be played.
18.15 – Full time, Clare supporters as they invade the pitch following this emphatic 2-28 to 0-12 victory.
18.16 – Scorers for Clare: Cathal O’Connell 0-11 (9fs), Davy O’Halloran 1-4, Colm Galvin 0-3, Tony Kelly 0-3, Shane O’Donnell 1-0, Seadna Morey 0-2, Cathal Malone 0-2, Enda Boyce 0-1, Jarlath Colleran 0-1, Alan O’Neill 0-1 (f).
Scorers for Antrim: Ciaran Clarke 0-7 (5fs, 1 sideline), Jackson McGreevy 0-1, Stephan McAfee 0-1, Conor McCann 0-1, Chris McGuinness 0-1, Michael Bradley 0-1.
18.16 – Thanks for joining us. Clare take their third under 21 title in five years. This was another assured and dynamic display.