Donal Moloney certainly won’t forget his first taste of the sideline in Nowlan Park in a hurry as he got to experience the full gamut of emotions in a compelling tie that saw his side soar 11 points clear before having to eventually scrap for their lives to eek out a deserved victory.
“To be honest, we didn’t anticipate anything different. Even when we were 11 points ahead after 15 or 16 minutes, we were in with the forwards telling them to push it home, push it home because you never come out of here without a major fight. So the game was never going to stay like that and we were fortunate I suppose that we had built that lead at the time because Kilkenny came roaring back and they were relentless for the second half. So it was some game for this day of the year.
“Both teams kept up an incredible pace but we were probably disappointed with a few things in the second half. We went in [at half-time] seven or eight clear and then they brought us back. We held the lead at around six for a long time but the amount of chances we missed today which wasn’t there against Tipperary was disappointing.
“But look, the pressure was on today and we missed those so that’s something that we’re really going to have to look at because we should have been out of sight. Even with Kilkenny’s relentless last ten minutes, we should have been out of sight long before that.
“18 wides is something to work on but it would be worse if you’re not getting into the positions to shoot. A lot of them were shots that were on so we’ve really got to work at that. It’s something that we’ve spoken a lot about but you won’t fix it overnight.”
Still, that frantic finish did see Clare have to dig crater deep for the second time in a week, with the character shown being a particularly pleasing outcome for the Scariff native.
“Today was a different game completely to last week. That second half was way tougher that against Tipperary in terms of physicality and pace and the fact that the momentum was completely in Kilkenny’s favour in the last ten minutes. So we had to make big tackles and big interceptions and the lads did well, they did well.”
Having secured back-to-back victories, does the approach change towards team selection for the remainder of the National League?
“Put the feet up is it?” he asks in return with a wry smile.
“Look, it’s always an experiment every time you go out. You look at the likes of Peter Duggan and Cathal Malone and these guys are trying to nail down and establish themselves and they are doing very, very well. Mikey O’Malley came on and acquitted himself very well, Jason McCarthy came on and made a vital interception near the end and Niall Deasy got the last point so we will continue to give more game time but it’s a balance in terms of building a team and giving lads game time.
“We’ve also six guys that are out injured at the moment. Jamie Shanahan, Cathal McInerney, Rory Hayes, Oisin O’Brien, Paul Flanagan while Aron Shanagher is long term. The rest of those guys are all working hard to get back but they are currently only getting back into training. So our current squad is made up of what you see out in the field, a bunch of guys that have come in for their first year essentially, people like Darragh Corry and Niall Deasy etc and a bunch of Under 21s, that’s the current fit panel.”
And while Clare have now accounted for Tipperary and Kilkenny, the tests in Division 1A don’t get any easier with the prospect of a Munster Final rematch with Cork and potentially perilous trips to the South East to face Wexford and Waterford by the first weekend in March.
“It’s a horrendous schedule but we have Cork in two week’s time so we will prepare hard for that. That’s in Ennis and it will be a huge challenge for us.”
Above: Clare joint manager Donal Moloney
For match report, reaction, player interviews and player ratings see this week’s Clare People, out now.