Cusack Park, Ennis.
Cusack Park, Ennis.

Electric Ireland MHC: Clare march on

All-Ireland Minor Hurling Championship Quarter-Final Round 3

Clare 0-21 Laois 1-12

By Eoin Brennan at Cusack Park, Ennis

The All-Ireland Minor Hurling Championship Semi-Final pairings were confirmed in Cusack Park, Ennis this afternoon as Clare held off a resurgent Laois to tee up a last four showdown with Leinster champions Offaly in a fortnight’s time.

Consequently, Munster champions Tipperary, who overcame the Banner in a historic penalty shoot-out three weeks previously, face a Galway side that topped this Quarter-Final series after successive wins over Clare and Laois.

Brian O’Connell’s Clare were back to their swashbuckling provincial form in front of 619 sun-soaked supporters as they capitalised on the sizeable wind advantage to carve out a nine point half-time cushion. 

With some excellent support play, seven different scorers contributed to an impressive opening half, with freetaker Oisin Whelan leading the way on the scoreboard with four points while Jack O’Neill picked off three from play on their way to a 0-14 to 0-5 interval lead.

The damage could have been much worse for the visitors, only for goalkeeper Brockan O’Reilly to produce an outstanding save to deny Cian Neylon and the Portlaoise stopper would excel twice more on the restart when repelling one-on-ones with Neylon and Oisin Whelan by the 38th minute.

Clare appeared to be going for the jugular and were ten points clear by the two-thirds mark before Laois finally found their feet with the aid of the conditions.

A low Ben Deegan 20 metre free found the net at the turn of the final quarter which bookended by a brace of points, three from Deegan’s placed balls, suddenly slashed the arrears to just four entering the last ten minutes.

A full reprieve never materialised however as Clare defiantly prevented Laois from getting within striking distance including a collective save to deny Deegan another goal from a free.

Instead, Oisin Whelan converted two injury-time frees to stave off any remaining danger as a relieved Clare cemented a first All-Ireland Minor Semi-Final appearance in a decade.

Scorers for Clare: Oisin Whelan (0-8, 6f); Jack O’Neill (0-3); Diarmuid Stritch, Sam Scanlan, Michael Collins, James Organ (0-2 each); Cian Neylon, James Hegarty (0-1 each).

Scorers for Laois: Ben Deegan (1-8f); Eoghan Murphy, Jer Quinlan, Eoghan Cuddy, Jack Breen (0-1 each).

Clare: Mark Sheedy; Eoghan Gunning, Fionan Treacy, John Cahill; Sean McMahon, James Hegarty, Riain McNamara; Diarmuid Stritch, Matthew O’Halloran; Michael Collins, Jack O’Neill, James Organ; Sam Scanlan, Oisin Whelan, Cian Neylon.

Subs: Jamie Moylan for McNamara (HT), Eoin Lahiffe for O’Halloran (49-55, blood), Dylan Keane Hayes for Neylon (53), Lahiffe for Collins (56), Dannan Fox for Scanlan (61), Piaras Ó Sé for Stritch (63).

Laois: Brockan O’Reily; Bobby Murphy, Ciaran Flynn, Joseph Pearson; Cormac Hogan, Kevin Byrne, Rory Kelly; Tom Cuddy, Eoghan Cuddy; Thomas Brennan, Ben Deegan, Eoghan Murphy; Jack Breen, Jer Quinlan, Cormac Byrne.

Subs: Andrew McDonagh for Kelly (HT), Mark Downey for Cormac Byrne (HT), Liam Kirby for E. Murphy (47), Ciaran Coss for Brennan (58).

Referee: Brian Keon.