By Michael O Connor.
Good fortune allied to calmness and experience came at once to aid the reigning All Ireland Under 21 champions in their first defence of their crown in Walsh Park evening. The expectation of a close contest was mooted long before the game but belief that Clare should secure the win with an experienced side that boasted many from the 2012 win and also with two senior campaigns under their belt.
In the final analysis Clare looked in dire trouble against Waterford until the sending off of Paudie Prendergast in the last quarter on a second yellow card offence. The first he received was harsh in the extreme yet no complaints relating to the second offence. Clare suffered a huge blow when Tony Kelly was hit with the ball into the helmet pushing the bar up against his lower right eye after only 11 minutes action. Daire Keane, operating at full forward opening the scoring after four minutes as Clare were in action against the breeze on a sweltering warm evening for sport in the Waterford venue. Cathal O Connell who finished the game with seven scores added the second score after Peter Duggan was fouled before the gangly Clooney man sent over a great sideline cut after 10 minutes. Colm Curran was on hand for the home sides first score a minute later and soon after Tony Kelly was hit by a Jake Dillon clearance and was replaced by Jamie Shanahan.
Clare centre back Alan O Neill sent over from a long range free the visitors fourth score before Jake Dillon who was operating on the Clareman kicked into life. The youthful Waterford senior who made his name at college’s level scored two in a minute, one from play to leave the minimum in the game. The second quarter was effectively all Waterford and Clare were counting themselves most fortunate to be on one point in arrears at the break. Dillon hit six scores from six efforts with a brace coming from play. Stephen O Halloran who was one of the winners better performers on the evening raced upfield and scored an inspirational and much needed point before another O Connell free to leave Clare (0-6) to (0-3) ahead with ten minutes left in the first half. Donal Breathnach and Dillon with five in a row left Waterford (0-10) to (0-8) ahead entering injury time before Colm Galvin who had one of his quieter evening’s had the final score of the first half with Clare trailing by the minimum and a lot to ponder especially a porous full back line and half forward line that was failing to win ball.
Aided by the breeze many thought a more organised side would emerge from the Clare dressing room for the second half but it was Waterford who scored three of the opening four scores of the new half as Stephen Roche and Dillon (2) were on target. Cathal O Connell was the sole reponse as Clare were now three down and looking at sea. The sending off of Prendergast was the boost in the Clare psyche that was required as Waterford had been playing a man deep and this was now over. Space was now given to Clare allied to a huge last twenty minutes from Podge Collins.
Pauric Mahony came on for Dunford as Cathal O Connell sent what could have been a vital free wide of the mark. He made up for this a minute later as Davy O Halloran entered the fray for Daire Keane. It was a sense of amazement that Clare did not push Duggan into the square. Jake Dillon and Cathal O Connell who together shared 20 points on the evening swopped scores before the score that settled the game. A fast ball in to Collins was sent to O Donnell who released the inrushing Seadna Morey who sent a shot at Darren Duggan who parried it into the net. Collins struck for a rapid point seconds later and Clare were two clear. Jake Dillon narrowed it to the minimum as both sides introduced subs. O Connell had his seventh and final score in the 54th minute before Aaron Cunningham sealed the result with Clare’s second goal as the game was in the 57th minute. Try as they might Waterford were unable to even create the mirage of a goal chance and hit two consolation scores from Dillon and Mahony as Davy O Halloran made sure of the win with a point to put four between them. A daunting trip to Thurles awaits on August 7th and revenge on the minds of Tipperary who feel they were mugged in Ennis late on in the 2012 decider.
Best for Clare were Seadna Morey, Stephen O Halloran, Padraic Collins, Cathal O Connell from frees, Paul Flanagan and Peter Duggan in patches. Waterford were unlucky but with no goal chance and dependant exclusively on Jake Dillon they were always going to need a dollop of luck and that did not happen.
CLARE: Ronan Taaffe (Tubber), Paul Flanagan (Ballyea), David McInerney (Tulla), Jack Browne (Ballyea), Seadna Morey (Sixmilebridge) (1-0), Alan O’Neill (St. Josephs Doora Barefield)(0-1), Stephen O’Halloran (Clarecastle)(0-1), Colm Galvin (Clonlara)(0-1), Tony Kelly (Ballyea), Peter Duggan (Clooney Quin)(0-1), Padraic Collins (Cratloe)(0-1), Aaron Cunningham (Wolfetones)(1-0), Shane O’Donnell (Eire Og), Daire Keane (Kilmaley)(0-1), Cathal O’Connell (Clonlara) (0-7). Subs: Jamie Shananan (0-1) for Kelly (inj), Enda Boyce (Cratloe) for Shanahan, Cathal Malone (Ennistymon) for O Donnell, Davy O Halloran (0-1) for Keane,
WATERFORD: Darren Duggan, Shane McNulty, Tadhg Bourke, Shane Roche, Ray Barry, Darragh Fives, Paudie Prendergast, Kieran Power, Donie Breathnach (0-1), Jake Dillon (0-13), Jamie Barron, Colm Curran (0-1), Colin Dunford, Stephen Roche (0-1), Eamonn Murphy. Subs: Austin Gleeson for Barron, Pauric Mahony (0-1) for Dunford,