Waterford........................ 2-21 Clare............... 1-22
By Michael O Connor.
One of the most frustrating days experienced in Cusack Park by a Clare GAA team in some time. The ramifications of this heartbreaking result could culminate with Clare returning next weekend to 1B after one year out of the second division.
Everyone gathered at Clare GAA headquarters in Ennis knew of how much was at stake in this final round tie before a late goal from Waterford substitute Tom Devine secured a third successive away victory for the decies and a league quarter final of the National League against Galway next weekend. For Clare it is now a relegation decider against Dublin.
In front of an attendance of 6,640, hosts Clare had a solid four point lead, holding their own in most areas of the field and at worst would get a share of the spoils to secure a league quarter final place. However, despite having a strong wind at their backs, the holders would be outscored by 1-5 to 0-2 in the last 15 minutes to leave all connected with Clare shellshocked and bemoaning the lack of finance that knockout games in the league series can generate.
Waterford made little of playing away from home as they flew out of the blocks to stun the home side led a Shane Bennett goal to ease 1-3 to 0-0 clear by the fifth minute. Clare did dominate the next 20 minutes but in the final analysis the great start by Waterford allowed them to handle the best Clare could offer and still be within touching distance.
However, the home side finally got into their stride with a 1-6 rally of their own including an excellent Podge Collins goal to leave Clare ahead 1-7 to 1-4 by the end of a high tempo opening quarter. Aron Shanagher set up Collins for his mazy run with a deft crossfield pass. Tony Kelly executed a number of frees to send Clare ahead in this period
With the returning Tony Kelly adding five points Clare went four clear approaching the midway point. The awarding of three scored frees by referee John Keenan annoyed the Clare support greatly and most definitely kept Derek McGrath's side in the game. Further Pauric Mahony frees either side of the break to gain parity at 1-13 to 1-13 by the 39th minute. Tony Kelly and Austin Gleeson of Waterford
Now backed by the conditions, Clare pushed on with successive points from Tony Kelly, Podge Collins, John Conlon and Cathal McInerney and despite the best efforts of Mahony, they would protect that margin by the turn of the final quarter.
The lack of a coherent defence by Clare allowing their attack minded defenders to go up the field with abandon created huge gaps was the downfall of Clare as they failed to shore up the lead and bit by bit Waterford got back on the scoreboard and were finishing the better side.
However, the impact of Devine from the bench gave Waterford the perfect target as he first pointed before adding a decisive 64th minute goal at the second attempt after goalkeeper Andrew Fahey somehow kept out the initial point blank effort.
Clare now realising that a win was most unlikely they now chased for a equaliser. Even this was not possible as a 77th minute insurance point from Tommy Ryan maintained Waterford on the road 100% record as they reached to the knock-out stages for the third consecutive season.
Best for Waterford included Pauric Mahony, Brian O Halloran Tom Devine, Stephen Bennett, Shane Fives, Tadgh DeBurca, Kevin Moran, Shane McNulty and Shane Bennett. Clare were superb for 20 minutes of the first half and competitive in the second half but suffered from the concession of some very harsh frees and leaving huge space behind their half back line. Their better performers included Andrew Fahy, Tony Kelly, Podge Collins, Aron Shanagher, David Fitzgerald, Jason McCarthy and David McInerney.
CLARE: Andrew Fahey, David McInerney (0-1), Cian Dillon, Seadna Morey, Jason McCarthy (0-1), Conor Cleary, David Fitzgerald, Jamie Shanahan (0-1), Tony Kelly(0-7), Cathal Malone, Podge Collins (1-3), John Conlon (0-2), Aron Shanagher (0-2), Cathal McInerney (0-2), Ian Galvin (0-1). Subs: Aaron Cunningham for I. Galvin, Patrick Donnellan for McCarthy, Colm Galvin for Malone, Bobby Duggan (0-1) for C. McInerney, Paul Flanagan for D. McInerney
WATERFORD: Stephen O’Keeffe, Shane McNulty, Barry Coughlan, Shane Fives, Stephen Daniels, Tadhg de Burca, Conor Gleeson, Austin Gleeson (0-2), Kevin Moran, Shane Bennett (1-1), Michael Walsh, Pauric Mahony (0-10) Brian O’Halloran (0-2), Stephen Bennett (0-3), Patrick Curran (0-1). Subs: Tom Devine (1-1) for Curran, Mikey Kearney for A. Gleeson, Tommy Ryan (0-1) for O’Halloran, Colin Dunford for Shane Bennett, Stephen Roche for Coughlan.
Referee: John Keenan (Wicklow)