Munster minor hurling final
By Michael O Connor.
History in Thurles and no tears. It was somehow surreal, perhaps the shock of Croke Park 24 hours previous but nonetheless a tremendous win for the young hurlers of Clare in their fifth match in the munster championship as they captured the munster minor hurling title for the first time since 1989 when that team spawned a generation of history makers. After the opening ten minutes of uncertainty Clare were the dominant side and for once this domination by a Clare side was turned into silverware.
A novel pairing in a minor final and perhaps the first time since 1989 when neither Tipperary or Cork were not represented on munster final day. The bookmakers were offering Clare at 9/4 and the decies at 4/9 on the strength that Waterford had overcome Cork four days previous and were six points too good for Clare in the opening round in Waterford. Clare initiated one change from the team that overcame Limerick in the penultimate round with Haulie Vaughan coming in for Noel Purcell as Clare were contesting their first provincial decider since 1999 facing the reigning champions.
The opening score fell to Waterford centre forward Eamonn Murphy with the game just over a minute old. Tony Kelly with an ambitious effort from midfield was just wide soon after as Clare had to endure early Waterford pressure. The game was failing to capture the imagination of the crowd with much bunching and little open play. The second score did not materialise until the 8th minute when a fine catch by Padraic Prendergast and accurate delivery to Cormac Heffernan who made no mistake. Clare, most certainly were fighting a rearguard action and urgently required a goal to get into the game as it appeared a point would not be enough.
Clare’s first score came about following a foul throw by Eoin Madigan that allowed David O Halloran the opening score for Clare after 13 minutes. The pressure was eased somewhat when a minutes later a great score from David O Halloran after smart work from Kevin Lynch and Colm Galvin set up the Eire-og man. Kevin Lynch was also beginning to hold his own at centre back and won a valuable free that Niall Arthur sent wide.
The Inagh-Kilnamona man made up for this inaccuracy with a converted 65 as Clare took the lead for the first time after 18 minutes with Waterford not under any real pressure but still a point in arrears. Scores were exchanged
There was little real open play as the first half was free ridden with a pattern emerging that if any side had a competent marksman they would win the honours. After the early jitters Clare dominated in most aspects from the 10th minute onwards until the end of the half without every creating a goal chance. Tony Kelly who looks the one player who will develop sent over a tremendous score with Daire Keane doing likewise two minutes later. The final brace of scores of the half fell to Padraic Mahony (free) as Clare faced the second half having worked hard but only on level terms (0-6) apiece.
The Clare half back line were on top for most of the opening half as Daire Keane sent Clare into a short lived lead with the first score of the second half only for defensive errors by the Clare full back line allowed Stephen Roche in for the equaliser. Within a minute Prendergast had the Decies back in front. The tempo of the game was increasing markedly as Waterford were two clear when Eamonn Murphy made no mistake after 36 minutes.
Niall Arthur narrowed it to a point with a free before the goal that the could possible decide the game materialised. Paudge Collins won the ball set Daire Keane up whose cross goal pass somehow found O Halloran and he found the net through a forest of bodies. Within a minute Niall Arthur got his scoring sights right with a free after a foul on Collins who was beginning to come into the game.
Waterford did not lie down and buoyed by their support got back into the game. The ball was lost by Kevin Lynch and Eamonn Murphy was allowed race through for a low shot past Ronan Taaffe as the Decies were now just behind by the minimum, (1-10) to (1-9) entering the final quarter. A number of cameos from both sides had supporters cheering as Clare surged five clear, (1-14) to (1-9) with scores between the 47th and 52nd minutes from Niall Arthur (2) and two wonderful efforts courtesy of Tony Kelly and Stephen O Halloran that in particular had both sides cheering.
Clare were now coasting, on top and looking like champions especially when Daire Keane now wisely moved outfield popped over a point in the 53rd. Tony Kelly raced upfield and set up Jamie Shanahan for a well taken score as Clare now led (1-16) to (1-10) with five minutes to go. Waterford’s Jake Dillon responded with a minor for the decies but all Clare had to do was to gaurd the goal and they would be champions. This transpired and for the third time in the history of Clare and Munster GAA the name of Clare could be listed as munster minor hurling champions.
The champions were served well by Seadna Morey, Paul Flanagan, Enda Boyce, Tony Kelly, David O Halloran, Niall Arthyr and Daire Keane. Waterford will be a better side in the knockout stages as the game on Wednesday told greatly on their bodies. They had solid displays from Stephen O Keeffe, Darragh Fives, Eamonn Murphy, Padraic Mahony and Darren Duggan.
CLARE: Ronan Taaffe, Haulie Vaughan Paul Flanagan, Seadna Morey, Enda Boyce, Kevin Lynch, Stephen O Halloran (0-1), Colm Galvin, Tony Kelly (0-2), Cathal Malone, Paudge Collins, Jamie Shanahan (0-1), David O Halloran (1-2), Niall Arthur (0-7), Daire Keane (0-3). Subs: Alan Mulready for Malone. Sub: Cathal O Connell for Collins,
WATERFORD: Darren Duggan, Jamie Barron, Stephen O Keeffe, Luke Egan, Raymond Barry, Darragh Fives, Eoin Madigan, Padraic Prendergast (0-1), Gavin O Brien, Jake Dillon (0-1), Eamonn Murphy (1-2), Padraic Mahoney (0-4) Stephen Roche (0-1), Cormac Heffernan (0-1), Martin O Neill. Subs: Colm Curran (0-1) for O Neill, Cein Chester for Roche, Sam Lawless for Prendergast,
Referee: David Copps (Cork).
Following the game the munster minor hurling cup was presented to Ballyea man and Clare captain Paul Flanagan by another Clareman and vice chairman of the munster council, Robert Frost.