Tony Kelly explains why Clare are better-equipped for All-Ireland series this year than last year
Clare 5-26 Dublin 2-17
The Dubs are dead. Clare sickened Dublin with two goals in two minutes in this All-Ireland senior hurling quarter final as, just before half-time, they put this game to bed.
It was devastating for Dublin.
Despite a shaky start, shook up even more by the early departure of key man Donal Burke, Micheál Donoghue's team held a one point lead after 17 minutes having hurled their way into the game.
Danny Sutcliffe was winning possession at will while with their blistering pace, both Cian O'Sullivan and Paul Crummey were cutting Clare open. But they will rue two missed goal chances, where, between O'Sullivan and Crummey and Sutcliffe, the final pass just wasn't crisp enough.
And with that, their chance was gone.
Clare proceeded to show not an ounce of mercy on their way to an 18 point destruction, but if you were to make excuses for Dublin, you would say that the loss of Donal Burke was monumental.
The Na Fianna sharpshooter came into the game under the swirling cloud of injury-rumours, and the rumours proved to be true. His hamstring made him a goner after just five minutes and it deflated Dublin's chances like a balloon popped in the sky.
Tony Kelly scored the first of those above-mentioned killer goals, his second of the day coming after he was set-up by David Fitzgerald.
Running side by side, Kelly and Fitzgerald are on the same deadly wavelength and their propensity to take the direct route ripped the soul clean out of the Dublin defence.
— The GAA (@officialgaa) June 24, 2023
A soul that remained missing in action for the next play. Clare won it and when Diarmuid Ryan sent a snow-covered ball down on top of Peter Duggan, you could sense that Dublin were in trouble.
The Clooney-Quin player hasn't been at his best in recent weeks but he still makes a nuisance of himself. He didn't win the ball cleanly but he won it, eventually, and when he did, Shane O'Donnell was off-his-shoulder on a goal-bound-line.
The Éire Óg Ennis dynamo showed great composure to finish it off and after a half of toil and assists and unselfish passes, the goal he scored was nothing more than he deserved.
It was also nothing more than Clare deserved as, just like that, they'd stretched the legs to change this from a tight game to a game they would struggle to lose. They went into the break leading by nine. And nine was the same margin they'd win the second half by.
Tony Kelly and Mark Rodgers turned on the style in that second half as their two-man battle for man-of-the-match became the main competition of the day. You couldn't argue with Kelly's 3-4 from play for a finish but the sublime Rodgers pushed him all the way.
Afterwards, Kelly said that Clare are better prepped for the All-Ireland series this year than they were last year.
"We were flat to the boards in every single game last year whereas this year you can manage a bit better," he said.
'We were flat to the boards in every single game last year (in the round robin) whereas this year you can manage a bit better' - Man of the match Tony Kelly hopeful Clare are better primed for a tilt at the All-Ireland series in 2023 pic.twitter.com/wWxnHv0n3u
— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) June 24, 2023
Only time will tell on that one. For now, Brian Lohan will be a happy man.
Eibhear Quilligan; Adam Hogan, Rory Hayes, Seadna Morey, Diarmuid Ryan, John Conlon, Darragh Lohan, David Fitzgerald (0-4), Cathal Malone (0-2), Peter Duggan, Tony Kelly (3-4), Ryan Taylor, Ian Galvin (0-2), Shane O’Donnell (1-2), Mark Rodgers (1-11, 0-5f).
Subs: Aron Shanagher (0-2) for O'Donnell (39), David Reidy for Ian Galvin (45), Cian Nolan for Adam Hogan (57), Patrick Crotty for Peter Duggan (63), Cian Galvin for Ryan Taylor (65), Shane Meehan for Tony Kelly (69)
Sean Brennan; James Madden, Paddy Smyth, Eoghan O'Donnell; Conor Burke, Paddy Doyle, Daire Gray (0-1); Mark Grogan, Chris O'Leary; Cian Boland, Donal Burke, Danny Sutcliffe (0-1), Cian O'Sullivan (0-11, 0-8f, 0-1 65), Paul Crummey (0-3), Darragh Power (1-0)
Subs: Fergal Whitely (0-1) for Donal Burke (Inj 8), Conor Donohoe for James Madden (35), Alex Considine (1-0) for Chris O'Leary (HT), Sean Currie for Cian Boland (45), Darragh Purcell for Darragh Power (59)