CLARE……………….1-19 WATERFORD…………3-9By Michael O Connor.
A change of generation on the sideline and most definitely a change of generation on the playing field. Same result nonetheless as last year as Clare continue their unbeaten run in this competition with a merited win over Waterford in Thurles. The much needed success of 2011 in this grade led by long time manager Kevin Kennedy led to a new panel being formulated as the St Josephs stalwart retired after leading the search for honours for most of the last decade. Enter the minor management duo of Gerry O Connor and Donal Moloney whose dual role as Under 21 management ensured a planned approach to both teams.
10 of the starting 15 are also eligible for the under 21 grade with the remainder on the subs bench or engaged with the senior panel. The opening five minutes resulted in Clare hitting the target twice courtesy of David O Halloran and Conor Ryan with an effort from halfway. Both sides struck a wide apiece before the Clare side dominated the intervening 12 minutes adding seven points in quick succession and with poise allied to confidence. Davy O Halloran (2), Tony Kelly, Cathal Malone, Michael O Neill, Cathal O Connell and Conor Ryan were the targetmen.
Ironically whilst the Clare forwards were doing well they did let themselves down when in possession failing to see better placed colleagues on the run and instead dropping the ball short. 18 minutes elapsed before Waterford finally got on the scoresheet as Fionan Murray converted a free, Cathal Malone and Seamus Lawlor swopped scores as David McInerney was on hand to deny Jake Dillon a clear goal chance with a last gasp hook in front of the Clare goal as Waterford were beginning to put in a stronger effort than witnessed for the first 20 minutes. The final Clare score fell to Cathal O Connell from a free after 24 minutes before the Decies were thrown a lifeline when Jake Dillon pounced on haphazard Clare defending to goal from close range as Murray from play rounded off the first half scoring. Clare for all their industry and effort allied to accuracy were only (0-10) to (1-3) ahead. Despite looking vastly inferior Waterford were still in contention with the half time opinion suggesting that Clare would need to bring Tony Kelly into the game and close out midfield more adequately.
Waterford replaced Seamus Lawlor at the interval as Clare struck for a quick brace of frees from Ciaran O Doherty and Cathal O Connell with less than two minutes played in the second half to stretch their lead to six points. The hardship for Waterford continued when Davy O Halloran (2, 1 free) sent Clare eight clear as Waterford managed only two wides in the first seven minutes of the second half as dull could best describe the fare on offer as the game really need Waterford to hit goals to create a meaningful contest. John Prendergast hit back for Waterford before Tony Kelly hit the net from a penalty won by David O Halloran. At this juncture it appeared game set and match to the banner men as they surged 11 clear yet Waterford outscored Clare (2-5) to (0-4) for the remaining 20 minutes. Before the Waterford fightback Clare added to their lead by two further scores from Cathal O Connell and Tony Kelly.
Fionan Murry and Brian O Halloran allied to a Gavin Crotty goal from close range cut the Clare lead to eight points but still Clare were cruising and began to empty their bench as did their opponents. Tony Kelly interrupted the Waterford fight back as he was now rightly out the field only for Gavin Crotty to match the Ballyea’s score in the 53rd minute. The score of the game was reserved for Eamonn Murphy who soloed through the Clare defence and blasted past Ronan Taaffe. This created excitement in the attendance for the first time as now Clare were only four clear after Ray Barry narrowed the deficit once again as Waterford at the end bemoaned their 12 wides. A free from Fionan Murray amazingly had Waterford wthin only three points with the game entering the final minute. This was as close as they got to the winners as one last attack yielded a converted free from Davy O Halloran and a place in the munster final.
On a workmanlike performance with the result closed out as much as it can ever be with twenty minutes to go the winners were served well by David O Halloran, Ciaran O Doherty, Enda Boyce, Conor Ryan, Cathal O Connell, Tony Kelly, Michael O Neill, and Paul Flanagan. Waterford started late but never got near the fluency of Clare despite the best efforts of Gavin Crotty, Stephen O Keeffe, Fionan Murray and Eoin Madigan.
CLARE: Ronan Taaffe (Tubber), Killian Ryan (Ruan), David McInerney (Tulla), Paul Flanagan (Ballyea), Enda Boyce (Cratloe), Cillian Duggan (Clooney/Quin), Ciaran O Doherty (Crusheen)(Capt) (0-2), Pa Sheehan (SIxmilebridge), Conor Ryan (Cratloe) (0-1), Fergus Kennedy (Crusheen) (0-1), Cathal Malone (Ennistymon) (0-1), Cathal Chaplin (Broadford), Cathal O Connell (Clonlara) (0-4), Tony Kelly (Ballyea) (1-3), David O Halloran (Eire-og) (0-6). Subs: Peter Duggan for Chaplin, Mike O Neill (0-1) for O Connell, Brian Donnellan for Sheehan, Haulie Vaughan for O Doherty, Aidan Lynch for Kennedy.
WATERFORD: Richie Roche, Michael Kearney, Stephen O’Keeffe, Mark Wyse, Seamus Hannon, Eoin Madigan, William Henley, John Prendergast (0-1), Seamus Lawlor (0-1), Jake Dillon (1-0), Brian O’Halloran (0-1), Paidí Nevin, Fionán Murray (0-4), Gavin Crotty (0-1), Eamonn Murphy (Captain) (1-0). Subs: Ray Barry (0-1) for Henley, Stephen Roche for Lawlor, Stephen Power for Prendergast, Paul Power for Dillon, Ian Galgey for Nevin,
Referee: David Copps (Cork)