Summer time hurling and youthful pace and confidence welcomed spectators to Cusack park for this round 4 tie between Clare and Wexford with a Clare win guaranteeing them a place in the 1B hurling final. This feat was achieved with a better drilled side, one fortunate opening goal and sheer determination on the part of the squad irrespective of what awaits in the summer to get out of 1B and into the final next month.
Wexford, who are far from a team that will rally the Leinster and All Ireland championships bar a 15 point improvement offered little and only showed slight glimpses in the last quarter of what was a most lacklustre second half.
One of the more memorable moments of the half materialised in a quick exchange of comments between the Clare manager on the sideline and a supporter from the seated stand who was extolled the virtue of a long quick delivery of the ball into the Clare forwards. Conor McGrath was fastest of the blocks with two frees with a successful effort from play by John Conlon after only four minutes. McGrath with a point for the taking passed to Conlon who was tackled hard and the ball went harmlessly wide after six minutes before Nicky O Connell once more from midfield kept up his solid scoring record and Conor McGrath, this time from surged Clare five clear. Wexford corner forward Diarmuid O Keeffe moved outfield with Eamonn Glynn ordered to follow him out. O Connell (free) and O Keeffe with Wexfords first score after 14 minutes opened Wexfords account as they were (0-6) to (0-1) in arrears. A crucial score for the destination of the two league points was created and executed by John Conlon who got by Keith Rossiter and from an acute angle his effort was let in at the near post by Niall Breen in the Wexford goal who cursed his bad luck. Clare were now eight points clear but the following four scores fell to Jack Guiney with four converted frees to have the deficit to four points. Scores from Conor McGrath, Fergal Lynch and a well taken goal after smart passing left Sean Collins running on to finish past Niall Breen as Clare were once again eight points clear. Wexford depended on placed balls for scores as Clare were fouling in scoring positions and Jack Guiney made no mistake to leave Clare (2-8) to (0-9) ahead at the break.
Seadna Morey who worked hard throughout made a vital interception to deny Wexford a goal early in the second half. Clare started the second half with Cathal McInerney on for Fergal Lynch as once more the home side started brightly but unlike the opening minutes of the first half did not score until Conor McGrath from close range hit his sides third goal. The Cratloe man added a free soon after Jack Guiney opened Wexford's account before Matthew O Hanlon was ordered off for a second bookable offence. The Clare full back unlike last week had little to concern about at Cusack Park and never looked as if a goal would be conceded. Both sides realising the game's result was a foregone conclusion began to empty their respective benches with Liam Markham impressing with two well taken scores. Harry Kehoe, Diarmuid Lyng, Jack Guiney, Richie Kehoe, Jim Berry were on target for the visitors as they outscored Clare (0-8) to (0-6) in the final 25 minutes.
Clare once again did what required to win. Another league final awaits after a solid examination in Offaly next weekend. It would be fair to suggest that Clare may offer games to some players who would like the opportunity to impress before the IB league final and NHL semi final. Their best on the day when once again Patrick Kelly had little to do in goal were Conor McGrath, Nicky O Connell, Cian Dillon, Patrick Donnellan, Seadna Morey, Liam Markham, Brendan Bugler and Sean Collins who had his moments. Wexford, on the scoreline would appear to have given Clare a run for the money but in reality were way off the mark even though a number of replacements did better than what had started for the slaneysiders. Jack Guiney was extremely impressive from frees with David Redmond, Keith Rossiter and Darren Stamp trying hard to no real avail to stem the tide.
CLARE: Patrick Kelly, Eamonn Glynn, CIan Dillon, Conor Cooney, Brendan Bugler, James McInerney, Seadna Morey, Nicky O Connell (0-3), Pat Donnellan, Jonathan Clancy, Sean Collins (1-1), Fergal Lynch (0-1) , John Conlon (1-2), Conor McGrath (1-7), Colin Ryan. Subs: Cathal McInerney for Lynch, Liam Markham (0-2) for Glynn, Aaron Cunningham for Ryan, Colm Galvin for Donnellan,
WEXFORD: Niall Breen, James Tonks, Matt O Hanlon, Keith Rossiter, David Redmond, Darren Stamp, Ciaran Kenny, Eoin Quigley, P.J Nolan, Jack Guiney (0-12), John Leacy, Harry Kehoe (0-1), Rory Jacob, Stephen Banville, Diarmuid O Keeffe (0-1). Subs: Diarmuid Lyng (0-1) for Banville, Richie Kehoe (0-1) for Kenny, Paul Morris for Nolan, Bobby Kenny for Tonks, Jim Berry (0-1) for M Kehoe,
REFEREE: Alan Kelly (Galway).