Kerry 0 – Clare 3 at Mounthawk Park, Tralee
SOMETIMES there’ll be days like this.
Not very often, but when they come around it’s just a matter of bottling them as if they were as rare and precious as the ‘golden share’ out of some rare malt whiskey distillery.
The ‘golden share’ came in the second half of this Oscar Traynor semi-final in Tralee, when Eoin Hayes grabbled a scintillating hat-trick to send Clare thundering into their first final in four years.
Beforehand Liam Murphy’s charges were underdogs – being away from home and up against a Kerry side with seven ex-League of Ireland players in their first 11 seemed to suggest that everything was teed up for the Kingdom. At least that was the gospel according to bluebloods of the game in Tralee.
But Clare were reading from very different scripture: they were buoyed by the fact that the county’s previous two Oscar Traynor semi-final wins in 2004 and 2010 had also come on their travels, but more importantly they were also imbued with a steely determination to atone for the disappointment of losing last year’s quarter-final on penalties.
All that came together gloriously as Hayes blasted Clare past a shell-shocked Kerry side that were left punch-drunk and out on their feet by the time John Hadnett’s long whistle finally put them out of their misery.
That it was Hayes who landed the all-important first blow had a sense of justice about it, for it was the Newmarket Celtic speedster who started Clare on the road to this final with a hat-trick in the opening game way back in September, while he also came closest to breaking the deadlock in the first half of this penultimate round contest.
Hayes’ chance came on 30 minutes when he thundered down the right and flashed a shot across the goal that had David Hennessy in the Kerry goal beaten all ends up, only for the leather to crash off the upright and back into his arms.
That was the clearest chance of the first half in which Clare had held sway thanks from the early stages, with their first effort on goal coming as early as the third minute when Stephen Kelly forced a good save out of Hennessy.
Down the other end John Mulready did come to Clare’s rescue twice – on 16 minutes when he thwarted Peter McCarthy and again on 35 minutes when the Killarney Celtic dangerman threatened once more.
However, it seemed as if there was nothing Mulready could do on 59 minutes, when Gary Keane pulled the trigger from only four yards out – the goal was at his mercy, but somehow he ballooned his shot off the underside of the crossbar that came back into the arms of a prostrate Clare keeper.
At once the game turned, with the dominance Kerry exerted in the opening 14 minutes of the second half soon counting for nothing when Hayes went about winning this contest on his own.
Within a minute of Clare’s great escape, they were ahead and on their way with a goal that came all the way from the Newmarket Celtic training ground in McDonough Park.
In a breakaway move, something that became of feature of Clare’s play in the second half, Stephen Kelly angled a great crossfield ball into the path of the inrushing Hayes – with Kerry’s offside trap finally breached Hayes stared down Hennessy and slotted home from 12 yards.
From there it was all about facing down the Kerry onslaught and then hitting them on the break with the electric Hayes.
They lived dangerously in the 61st minute when with Mulready finally beaten it took Eoin O’Brien to intervene and clear off his line from Gintarus Paketarus, but the process of putting the game to bed should have begun as early as the 69th minute.
Hayes was the architect, outpacing the Kerry defence before placing Stephen Hickey in on goal, only for the substitute to shoot narrowly wide.
It was let off that Kerry looked like profiting from on 76 minutes when opportunity knocked for Mark O’Sullivan, but his header just drifted wide of Mulready’s post.
Then Kerry paid a munch heavier price when being hit on the break twice in the closing ten minutes – on 83 minutes when their very high line left them exposed at the back, with Hayes racing onto a route one clearance from Darren Cullinan, shrugging off central defender John McDonagh before slotting past Hennessy.
The rout was then completed a minute from time when Hayes latched onto a ball from the right and coolly rounded Hennessy before rolling to the net to claim his second hat-trick of this year’s Oscar Traynor campaign.

Clare
John Mulready (Bridge United, Mattie Nugent (Avenue United), Darren Cullinan (Newmarket Celtic), Eoin O’Brien (Newmarket Celtic), Darren Murphy (Bridge United), Alan Kelly (Newmarket Celtic), Colin Smyth (Avenue United), Stephen Kelly (Newmarket Celtic), Eoin Hayes (Newmarket Celtic), David McCarthy (Avenue United), Alan Brigdale (Newmarket Celtic). Subs Stephen Hickey (Ennis Town) for McCarthy, Daryl Eade (Ennis Town) for Smyth, Ronan McCormack (Newmarket Celtic) for Brigdale.

Kerry
David Hennessy (Mitchels Avenue), Maurice O’Rahilly (Tralee Dynamos), John McDonagh (Killarney Celtic), Jonathon Burrows (Tralee Dynamos), Shane Guthrie (Tralee Dynamos), James Sugrue (Tralee Dynamos), Danny Roche (Tralee Dynamos), Gary Keane (Killarney Celtic), Gintarus Paketarus (Killarney Celtic), Peter McCarthy (Killarney Celtic), Brian Murphy (Listowel Celtic). Subs Mark O’Sullivan (St Brendan’s Park) for Roche, John Hanafin (Tralee Dynamos) for Paketarus, Con Barrett for (St Brendan’s) for Burrows.

Man of the Match
Eoin Hayes (Clare)

Officials
Referee John Hadnett (Tipperary)
Linesmen John Walsh, John Maguire

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