Davy Fitzgerald’s side looked to build on their victory over Limerick when they took on the imposing Cats at Semple stadium.
RICHIE POWER AND his Kilkenny teammates did not take the Banner County lightly in the semi-final clash but entered the contest as favourites.
Kilkenny 1-20 Clare 0-14
Here are the teams for today’s clash:
Kilkenny first …
Kilkenny: David Herity; Paul Murphy, J.J. Delaney, Jackie Tyrrell, Tommy Walsh, Brian Hogan, Richie Doyle; Michael Fennelly, Cillian Buckley; T.J. Reid, Richie Power, John Mulhall, Colin Fennelly, Eoin Larkin (capt), Matthew Ruth.
Replacements: Eoin Murphy, Kieran Joyce, Conor Fogarty, Willie Phelan, John Tennyson, Mark Bergin, Tomás Breen, Padraig Walsh.
The crowd are a little bit tardy in filing in to Semple stadium so there will be a delay of at least 10 minutes until throw-in.
Clare team to follow.
Traffic delays are being blamed for the hold-up. 2.15pm is the new starting time.
Clare starting with Nicky O’Connell at 8 and Conor McGrath is in at 14. Davy Fitzgerald on the pitch giving his players a final motivational talk.
Here is the starting line-up for the Banner:
Clare: P Kelly; D O’Donovan, C Dillon, C Cooney, B Bulger, P O’Connor, L Markham; N O’Connell, P Donnellan (capt); F Lynch, S Collins, E Barret, C Ryan, C McGrath, J Conlon.
Referee Alan Kelly gets us underway. Charcoal clouds hang overhead.
Matthew Ruth wrestles clear of his marker and gets Kilkenny underway. Conor McGrath levels things up with a free.
Fennelly gives away a free about 50 metres out and McGrath slots it over the bar as the rain powers down. Clare lead and fans are still filing in.
Richie Power levels things up after Clare were harshly penalised. Fine strike from 55 metres out. John Mulhall then pulls a shot wide.
Great work from TJ Reid but Clare’s blanket defence doing well early doors. A botched clearance falls to Power who knocks it over.
Colin Fenelly adds to the Cats’ tally and it is a two-point advantage after 10 minutes.
Sean Collins takes on Brian McEvoy and shows him a clean pair of heels before slotting over from 30 metres out. Fine score.
Nicky O’Connell then levels things up with a huge free, taken from his own half.
It was not level for long as the eager Clare defence concedes another free, this time about 50 metres out. Richie Power makes no mistake with the resulting swipe at the posts.
John Mulhall runs into Cian Dillon and is upended. Blood spills from his forehead and the Clare defender needs treatment too. Richie Power has the relatively simple task of knocking the ball over from 25 metres out.
Conor McGrath shows great feet to dance inside the Kilkenny midfield and unleashes a soaring score. He is a potent player for the Banner.
PENALTY! Eoin Larkin is bundled over by Brendan Bugler.
MISS! O’Donovan on the Clare goal-line stops Richie Power’s penalty. Sliothar comes back to Power who then strokes it high and wide. That will spur the underdogs on.
Richie Power can’t shake off his penalty miss as he goes right and wide with a simple enough free on the right-hand side.
Conor McGrath makes it six points apiece with a finely struck free from the left-hand side. John Mulhall has the chance to put the Cats clear but hits the sliothar wide.
Clare would be wise to improve their sideline cuts as they have coughed up vital possession three times from promising positions.
Matthew Ruth has a sighter at goal but his slash goes over the bar from 20 metres out.
Enda Barret and Matthew Ruth trade wides and the game has settled down. The Kilkenny half-backs are not being put under enough pressure but Clare have fought well.
Conor McGrath causing chaos in Clare’s two-man full-forward line. He is almost through for a clear shot on goal but tugged back. His free from 20 metres out sails over. Stalemate again.
Referee Kelly has been slightly benevolent to Kilkenny and he wards a free with seconds to go. Richie Power gets back on the scoreboard with a solid strike.
HALF-TIME: Kilkenny 0-8 Clare 0-7
Davy Fitz will be pleased with the display of his youthful side. Barret and McGrath doing most of the damage for Clare while T.J Reid has looked good for Kilkenny. Brian Cody will, no doubt, call for a doubling of effort by his men in the second-half.
Kilkenny are back on the park but Clare are taking their sweet, sweet time.
Cody and referee Kelly are staring the minute hands off their watches. Still no sign of Clare. Sticky dressing-room door?
We’re back underway and Colin Ryan finishes off a fine team move to level the scores. Super work from O’Connell and McGrath in the lead-up.
GOAL! Davy Fitz is disgusted at a poor decision gives Kilkenny a sideline ball. The Cats press forward and Eoin Larkin is denied by a brilliant save but Matthew Ruth is there to sweep up with a goal.
Ruth follows up with a nice point less than 60 seconds later. Kilkenny at it again.
Colin Fennelly tees up Michael Fennelly who steps back from his marker and blasts one, high and handsome, over the bar. Clare need the next score. Lo and behold, Markham delivers with a super point on the run.
John Mulhall unfurls a monster attempt that is lofty and accurate. The Cats five points clear after 47 minutes.
Clare get a point back but Richie Power ensures that Kilkenny restore their lead.
Liam Markham was the Clare scorer.
Kilkenny keeper David Herity finds TJ Reid from his puck-out and the forward is under no pressure as he slots a point over.
The momentum is all with Kilkenny now. TJ Reid looks like bursting free on goal but he is hauled back. Richie Power steps up and adds to the total for his side.
That penalty miss is now a distant memory for Power as he notches another point.
Tommy Walsh really dominating the half-back line and Clare’s vaunted short hand-passes are getting them into trouble.
Conor McGrath gets another point as he snaps over a free. Ryan caught the high ball well but was fouled and McGrath was accurate.
Eoin Larkin now joins the party by sauntering up-field to score.
Power with another point from a free. RTE commentators:
Clare’s short passing isn’t working in the second-half.
Yellow card for Tommy Walsh as he slaps Liam Markham’s shoulder with his hurl. Free from 35 metres out for McGrath but it goes wide. The young forward has missed two simple frees after the break.
Donnellan swats the ball over the bar to inch Clare back into the game. Goals needed now at this stage however.
Colin Ryan takes over the free duties and knocks over from 45 metres out. Seven points in it.
Deja vu as Kilkenny defenders, happy to concede frees, wrest Cunningham to the ground and Ryan scores.
Michael Fennelly scores a fine reply from the left wing. Two minutes remaining.
Kieran Joyce off the bench in the closing stages and he points superbly. Matthew Ruth adds another.
Clancy unleashes a fine, low shot but Herity saves with his legs.
Full-time and Kilkenny emerge as comfortable winners.
Eoin Larkin says the team were delighted to pull away with early scores in the second-half. He added:
The shower was bad enough but once that ended the wind dried it up … Hopefully we can stay around to watch the second match.
TG4 have given the man-of-the-match to Cillian Buckley, who imposed himself on the midfield in the second half. Kilkenny get a good work-out but were never in any real danger.