(After extra time)
By Michael O Connor
The great wake up call or signs of something else? Clare coasting to the quarter finals against a side expected to be overcome by David Fitzgeralds side by 6 points plus only to hang on for dear lives and extra time. Folllowing the shooting festival against Laois the week previous it was obvious that Liam Dunne’s side would operate at a different plane to the O Moore men. A top four team would have hurt Clare a lot more than Laois in the first 65 and a last minute goal could have been the end of the road. Better to win dirty than lose skilfully. The much debated short passing game was succumbed into a more traditional game as Clare needed to battle their way to the last six and a tie with Galway.
Colin Ryan benefitted from indiscipline on the Wexford side in the opening minutes converting two frees for the opening Clare scores after two minutes. Darach Honan was out of action due to injury with Shane O Donnell grabbing the opportunity to lay claim for further action. The stop start nature of the game with a large number of fouls gave little to the quality of the game as liquids became the more important factor in the game as it matured. A powerful effort by Jack Guiney skimmed over the Clare crossbar for the slaneysiders first score and added a second score from play after five minutes before Gareth Synott intercepted a loose Clare pass and made no mistake for his side’s third point. After the early Clare pressure it was now the turn of Wexford to turn the screw.
Eight minutes of little real action for spectators was ended with an explosion of scores as Clare were the beneficiaries. The crucial score was created by John Conlon who delivered a long ball into the fast moving Shane O Donnell who showed a clean pair of heels to Tomas Waters before hitting the net. Ryan and Tony Kelly with his first point were quick off the mark to build on the O Donnell goal. Wexford broke free from this pressure as Podge Doran forced a solid save from Patrick Kelly as Shane O Donnell scored a point from the resultant clearance. The opening half was stop start by nature with a lot of stoppages as frees were the order of the day with Diarmuid Kirwan busy with the whistle.
CIan Dillon was dominant at corner back with John Conlon also back to good form winning hard ball further out the field. Jack Guiney punished indiscretion on the Clare side with a free for Wexford’s fourth score after 21 minutes. Both sides had chances for scores in the intervening six minutes but no real excitement for the sizable crowd present in Semple stadium. Two Colin Ryan efforts, one from long range play put six points between the sides. Wexford midfielder David Redmond and Tony Kelly with his second effort swopped scores in the 29th minute. Clare dangerman Shane O Donnell won a penalty after Tom Waters and Tony Kelly saw his well struck effort saved and cleared with the ball eventually pointed by Brendan Bugler. The final three minutes of the half saw promise for Wexford with two Guiney pointed frees with a single response by Ryan to leave Clare deservingly (1-10) to (0-7).
John Conlon went in centre forward for the second half as Tony Kelly was moved to the wing as Podge Collins was key to most of the best forward work displayed by Clare. Both sides hit four points in the opening twelve minutes of the new half as Clare had a let off with Jack Guiney sending two scorable efforts wide. John Conlon, Podge Collins, Tony Kelly and Colin Ryan scored the Bannermens four scores as Paul Morris (2), Gary Moore and Podge Doran responding for Liam Dunne’s charges. The Clare lead at the break was holding strong but it was threatened when Jack Guiney stood over a 21 yard free. His shot cannoned off the crossbar and cleared by Cian Dillon. It ended with Ciaran Kenny who pointed from 65 metres. There existed a nagging doubt that for all Clare’s dominance the wides were curtailing their advancement and a number
Cathal McInerney who has had to bite his lip and sit on the bench can claim the credit for the extra time win. One of the great stickmen of Clare hurling has been ignored this season up to this explosive statement of intent from one of the gentlemen of hurling. Colin Ryan hit the first two scores of extra time before Conor McGrath set up McInerney for his first goal. Seconds later, McInerney pointed before striking for his second goal one handed to leave Clare (3-20) to (1-18) ahead at the end of the first half of extra time. A few snippets of excitement were on hand in the second half with Jack Guiney cannoning a goal effort off the crossbar and Tony Kelly sent over a point from a penalty. Substitute Aaron Cunningham opening the scoring before Gary Moore who worked hard for Wexford scored a consolation point with eight minutes to go. John Conlon, Colin Ryan, and Kelly with the games last score rounded off a close shave for Clare as the bookies again reshuffled their odds for the Liam McCarthy cup.
Clare were the better side but leaving Wexford alive for so long very nearly cost them their championship season.
Amongst David Fitzgeralds best included Patrick Kelly, Cian Dillon, Brendan Bugler, Colin Ryan, John Conlon, Paudge Collins, Shane O Donnell, Fergal Lynch when brough in and supersub Cathal McInerney.
Wexford will bemoan missed frees early in the second but Mark Fanning was on hand to deny two sure Clare goals so all balances out. Best for Wexford who were hard to beat this season included Mark Fanning, Keith Rossiter, Ciaran Kenny, Dave Redmond, Jack Guiney, Podge Doran, Richie Kehoe and Andrew Shore.
CLARE: Patrick Kelly, Domhnall O Donovan, David McInerney, Cian Dillon, Brendan Bugler (0-1), Patrick Donnellan, Pat O Connor, Colm Galvin, Colin Ryan (0-10), Peter Duggan, Tony Kelly (0-5), John Conlon (0-3), Podge Collins (0-1), Shane O Donnell (1-1), Conor McGrath. Subs: Seadna Morey (0-1) for Galvin, Aaron Cunningham (0-1) for Duggan, Cathal McInerney (2-1) for Nicky O Connell for Ryan, Fergal Lynch for Conlon, Conlon for McGrath,
WEXFORD: Mark Fanning, Eoin Moore, Tomas Waters, Bobby Kennedy, Richie Kehoe, Keith Rossiter, Ciaran Kenny (0-1), Andrew Shore, Dave Redmond (0-2), Paul Morris (0-2), Eoin Quigley, Gareth Synott (0-1), Rory Jacob, Jack Guiney (1-8), Podge Doran (0-2). Subs: Gary Moore(0-2) for E Quigley, Harry Kehoe for R Kehoe, Eoin Doyle for Waters, PJ Nolan for H Kehoe, Conor McDonald(0-1) for Doran, Michael O Regan (0-1) for Synott, Ciaran O Shaughnessy for Rossiter,
REFEREE: Diarmuid Kirwan (Cork)