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'Can you give Tony Kelly his All-Star now? You can, definitely'

The Clare man has shown his class in the 2020 hurling championship.

THERE’S NO TWO ways about it, Tony Kelly has been one of the main attractions of the 2020 hurling championship.

On Saturday, the Clare star showed his class in hitting 1-15 as the Banner booked their All-Ireland quarter-final spot with a seven-point win over Davy Fitzgerald’s Wexford.

clares-tony-kelly-celebrates-scoring-a-goal Tony Kelly celebrates scoring against Wexford. Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

And while the managerial sideshow between Fitzgerald and Brian Lohan was a major talking point before the Portlaoise showdown, Kelly’s outstanding display was the big one straight afterwards.

1-6 of his tally came from play, as the Ballyea man’s sparkling form continued — and was key in ending Wexford’s 2020.

Kelly, too, was the star of the show for Clare with a remarkable 0-17 haul as they opened their campaign, albeit on a losing note against Limerick. “He’s a once-in-a-generation kind of player,” as Lohan said afterwards, while the 26-year-old posted 13 points against Laois.

“Tony Kelly, 1-15. This man is just incredible, isn’t he?”

That’s the question former Kerry defender Marc Ó Sé put to Limerick All-Ireland champion Shane Dowling on The42 GAA Weekly, following up with two more from our members.

  • Can we give Tony Kelly his All-Star now?
  • Should an opponent put two people on Tony Kelly?

And Dowling, a long-time opponent of the 2013 Hurler and Young Hurler of the Year on the field, was quick to answer — and tip him for his second All-Star

“Can you give Tony Kelly his All-Star now? You can, definitely. Should you put two people on him? No you shouldn’t. 

“Listen, he has been exceptional in the last three games and some of the points he got yesterday were outrageous. There’s no getting away from that, and it looks as if Brian Lohan has given him the freedom of the park. 

“The reason I said no to putting two on him is I’d say look at the Limerick style where they withdraw the half forwards and crowd out the middle, but yet it makes no sense because he scored so much against Limerick as well.

“Everyone is saying, ‘Close down Tony Kelly and you’ll beat Clare,’ but yet, three teams have played them and none of them have been able to close him down. He’s coming in for serious attention and rightly so.

“But generally, each team has a very, very good man-marker — and I know Limerick certainly didn’t mark him but I think going forward, they’ll have to have a man-marker on him, definitely, and go from there.

“I wouldn’t put two on him because that upsets your own game plan but I’d definitely be choosing wisely who I’d get to mark him.”

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The pair were no strangers to one another on the field of play, the attacking rivalry sparked in February 2011 in a Dr Harty Cup semi-final at the Gaelic Grounds.

That day, Dowling scored 1-10 as Ardscoil Rís beat Kelly’s St Flannan’s by the minimum, though the Clare man accounted for 0-14 in “one of the greatest school matches ever”.

“Tony is my own age, I’ve played up against him the whole way,” former Treaty star Dowling continued. “His athleticism is incredible. He has a deadly left side.

“If he gets anywhere within 60 yards, he’s deadly accurate. He’s had a quiet couple of years in recent years, he hasn’t been himself. But form is temporary, class is permanent and he is as class a player as is out there.”

“If he’s not playing or if he doesn’t score big scores, what happens? I don’t think Clare win,” Dowling added when asked if the Banner are too reliant on Kelly, or if they have a Plan B.

“Every game they’ve played, he’s scored I’d say nearly 80% of all of Clare’s scores. That’s the one concern and a point in time is going to come where he’s going to be shut down and when that day comes, I’d imagine it’ll be the end of Clare’s championship.”

tony-kelly-and-shane-dowling Dowling and Kelly facing off. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Na Piarsaigh clubman Dowling, who retired from inter-county hurling during the summer due to injury, also shared his thoughts on their recent beaten opponents Wexford, who he expected to win the qualifier after a promising 2019.

Dowling also discussed Fitzgerald, who’s future was momentarily up in the air before confirmation landed yesterday that he would stay on.

“There’s no getting away from how disappointing Wexford were, Davy said it afterwards, he couldn’t put his finger on it. I don’t think anyone could. They have been so disappointing this year, I really did think that they were going to be All-Ireland contenders to be honest.

“He [Fitzgerald] won’t want to finish on a sour note. The one thing he did say and I’d respect him for it is he’d do whatever is best for Wexford. If they want him to stay, I’m sure he’ll stay and they want a fresh voice, I’m sure he’d be happy to walk away. 

“I know it’s his job but that’s a long trek down there, three-and-a-half hours or more for him from Sixmilebridge. The longer you’re there, the tougher it gets but he seems to have a great rapport with the people of Wexford and with the players, and I’m sure that makes the journey easier.

“If he was to go back and get one more kick out of them, I do think the players are there to go very, very close.”

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About the author:

Emma Duffy

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