By Michael O Connor.
With the greatest of ease not really expected, Clare strolled past Waterford and set a date with Tipperary in the Munster under 21 final as the home side with a stunning first touch, accuracy and pace gave Waterford no chance from the throw in right to the final moments.
The kingpins of minor hurling from 2009-11 sharing the Munster titles met in Cusack Park with a place in the decider against Tipperary, who stunned holders Limerick, at stake. In the corresponding game at minor in 2009 Clare defeated Waterford in Dungarvan but were turned over in the semi final 6 weeks later in Cusack Park. Waterford went on to win the provincial decider as Clare regrouped to win the intervening titles ironically defeating Waterford on both occasions.
The hype following the Clare side with the number of inter county seniors on the side suggested an easy win would be the only outcome with the layers suggest 4/11 Clare and 5/2 Waterford. These odds before the game were considered value by some as Waterford had their own senior players available including Stephen O Keeffe, Gavin O Brien, Brian O Halloran and the O Mahonys. Darragh Fives was a late inclusion having made a recovery from injury.
Cathal O Connell was quickly rerouted to a roving role with Brian O Halloran opening the scoring for the visitors in the 2nd minute. Within two minutes Clare raced three points to one clear as Cathal O Connell (65), Aaron Cunningham and O Connell again gave confidence to the home side. Five minutes elapsed without Waterford threatening Clare before the Banner men really drove home the message that they meant business.
Cathal O Connell hit a smart free from a narrow angle before David O Halloran goaled after Conor McGrath’s effort was well saved by Stephen O Keeffe but diverted into the path of the onrushing O Halloran. Clare were now six points clear at the end of the opening 15 minutes. Huge applause was reserved for Waterford goalie Stephen O Keeffe who made a stunning save from Aaron Cunningham who was five yards out to deny Clare a second goal and what would have been the game.
Aaron Cunningham made up for his earlier miss by hitting a speculative effort over the bar from 70 yards as Waterford were now really playing second fiddle depending on the referee’s whistle to get them out of trouble. Clare added three in a row as O Connell (2) and O Halloran were the sharpshooters as the first Waterford attack in over ten minutes resulted in a wide for Martin O Neill.
Waterford, after a gap of 22 minutes finally got their second score with Eamonn Murphy on target with a well taken effort out near the CBS sideline as Fergal Hartley the Waterford manager was perplexed wondering how to get Waterford past the half way line irrespective of creating scores.
The Clare bandwagon continued with scores from O Connell, McGrath and Kelly with his first score as Martin O Neill (2) with a brace of frees left Clare (1-11) to (0-4) ahead at the interval facing a stiff breeze in the second half before an attendance of 3,176. Half time view would have been barring a monumental collapse success and Tipperary would await Clare on 8th August in a repeat of the infamous 2008 final.
The match winning score was the first of the second half and it was a Padraic Collins goal who hit the rebound to the net after Colm Galvin’s mazy run and powerful shot came off the post. Pat O Connor set up the Galvin run with an astute handpass. The remainder of the game resembled a Under 21 v minor game with the minor team under pressure constantly. Pat O Connor, who was in control on the left wing as with Padraic Collins also to the fore started to bring more players into the game. Clare started to empty the bench with players such as the calibre of McInerney, O Halloran, Boyce, Colleran and Duggan were brought on with a number more chomping at the bit to get a chance.
Clare struck 11 points in the last twenty minutes to five for the 2009 minor champions with Peter Duggan, Cathal O Connell (5) Davy O Halloran (2) Shane Golden and Conor McGrath (2) keeping up the huge scoring rate. Waterford hit five through Martin O Neill (3), Eamonn Murphy and Pauric Mahony as the game petered out.
Next on the agenda for Clare is Nenagh on Wednesday for the Munster Intermediate final with many of the same squad in action and then two weeks later the 8th of August the Munster final against Tipperary in Cusack Park.
CLARE: Ronan Taaffe, Paul Flanagan, David McInerney, Killian Ryan, Seadna Morey, Conor Ryan, Pat O Connor, Colm Galvin (0-1), Shane Golden (0-1), Aaron Cunningham (0-2), Paudge Collins (1-0), Tony Kelly (0-1), David O Halloran (1-4), Conor McGrath (0-2), Cathal O Connell (0-10). Subs: Cathal McInerney for O Halloran, Stephen O Halloran for Morey, Peter Duggan (0-1) for Kelly, Jarlath Colleran for Galvin, Enda Boyce for O Connor.
WATERFORD: Stephen O Keeffe, Jamie Barron, Stephen O Keeffe, Darragh Fives, Ray Barry, Philip Mahony, Eoin Madigan, Padraig Prendergast, Jake Dillon, Gavin O Brien, Eamonn Murphy (0-1), Martin O Neill (0-5), Fionan Murray, Pauric Mahony (0-1), Brian O Halloran (0-1). Subs: Donal Breathnach for Barry, John Prendergast for Fives, Mark Wyse for Madigan, Ian Galgey for Murray, Stephen Roche for O Brien.
Referee: John Ryan (Tipperary).