By Michael O Connor.
Clare dont win easily, do they? A stunning recovery for Clare. Without doubt Clare had some of the best individual performers on the day but to come from six points down twice and three points in the final minutes was taking the art of brinkmanship to a new level. Tactically, Clare were on top form. Changes were made that worked and the only weakness appear to be the sometimes poor ball sent in without direction to three Waterford backs. The return of John Conlon and David McInerney is required without delay on a day when the grainy old footage of 1977 and 1978 can now be put to the back shelves as new champions can be lauded.
The air of anticipation of two types of games enveloped Semple stadium. 1) A game full of tactics that would see 24 players between the two 45 yard lines or 2) a game that might surprise and become a free flowing spectacle as both sides possessed forwards capable of hitting the high mark.
Disaster for Clare after 30 seconds when Patrick Curran raced through David Fitzgerald and Pat O Connor before blasting easily past Patrick Kelly. He quickly added a free in the second minute as Clare were even at this stage under the cosh. A super score set up by Podge Collins and finished by Tony Kelly settled the nerves as Tadgh DeBurca was the sweeper but that had litte effect as Podge Collins scored the second Clare point after five minutes. Shane O Donnell was blocked down and Kevin Moran pointed from long distance to restore a three point lead for the decies at semple stadium. Aaron Cunningham scored a long lobbing ball after David Fitzgerald received the end of the hurley from Tom Devine that ended with a booking for the Mondeligo man after 9 minutes.
Tony Kelly was on hand to narrow the gap to the minimum with a sweet effort from inside the Waterford half as there was more excitement after 10 minutes in the replay than 60 minutes of the drawn game. Conor McGrath brought parity to the sides after 15 minutes from a free as Clare appeared to have stemmed the early Waterford onslaught. The Cratloe man sent his side a point clear before a stray crossfield pass from Pat O Connor went to Waterford and Jake Dillon goaled. Clare, now for the second time had to fight for the game that had looked under control seconds earlier. Conor McGrath responded with another free before Austin Gleeson, Jamie Barron and Shane Bennett hit back to put five points between the sides (2-7) to (0-7) after 24 minutes. Once more Clare looked to McGrath. A number of efforts to play Shane O Donnell the ball when at least three gilt edge point chances were available cost Clare dearly. McGrath and Darragh Fives, both from play left Clare trailing by five points with five minutes left in the first half. Patrick Curran made this six points as the hooking and blocking of the Waterford players was unsettling Clare too easily and catching them in possession. A clever one two between McGrath and Reidy saw Clare's top scorer send over his sixth point of the first half and he quickly added a seventh. Indeed McGrath had scored the last seven Clare scores. Fittingly the last score of the half fell to McGrath from a free to leave Waterford (2-9) to (0-12) in front but Clare could thank their lucky stars in front of 14,210 spectators not be six or more in arrears.
The second half started with a welter of scores as Austin Gleeson, Patrick Curran, David Fitzgerald and Pat O Connor were on the scoresheet with two minutes of the restart to leave the three point gap between the sides. Tony Kelly narrowed it to two points in the 41st minute. Colin Ryan entered the fray for Colm Galvin as Patrick Curran hit over another free. At this stage there were no alarm bells ringing for Clare but an in effective approach to get ball to the full forward line was hampering considerably their scoring potential. Curran from a free, Austin Gleeson and Jamie Barron seconds later stretched the Decies lead to six points with 24 minutes left to play and now the bells were ringing for Clare. To quell them up came Tony Kelly who blasted to the net and this was followe by a stunning move involving Pat O Connor, Darach Honan and Colin Ryan who returned to Honan who popped it over the bar to leave Clare (2-15) to (1-16) in arrears before Curran once more left three in the game. Gleeson stretched it to four points after some hard work from Clare was let down by sky high clearances giving the attack no chance. Colin Ryan narrowed it to three once again with 12 minutes left as now it did appear Clare needed the goal due to the danger of Waterford counterattacking and adding on four or more points. The nerves were settled when Kelly once again narrowed the deficit to a brace of points it was a case of game on. David Reidy with a booming effort had the Clare support on their feet and now with eight minutes left it was down to the minimum before once more Curran with a free left two in the event. The three point Decies lead was restored courtesy of sub Brian O Halloran before once again Clare hit back through Colin Ryan as the game was now in the last three minutes.
The drama was only beginning. Colin Ryan was set up by Darach Honan and he made no mistake before Tony Kelly took over. First, the free that was debated heavily by Waterford as they felt they should have been awarded one seconds earlier in the same battle of players. Tony Kelly was ordered by David Fitzgerald to take the free and he struck with much assurance over the bar. From puck out David Fitzgerald caught the ball released to Reidy who flicked onto Kelly and the rest is history.
CLARE: Patrick Kelly (Inagh-Kilnamona), Jack Browne (Ballyea) Pat O’Connor (Tubber)(0-1), Cian Dillon (Crusheen), Brendan Bugler (Whitegate), Conor Cleary (St Joseph’s Miltown / Kilmaley), David Fitzgerald (Inagh-Kilnamona)(0-1), David Reidy (Éire Óg)(0-1), Colm Galvin (Clonlara), Darach Honan (Clonlara) (0-2), Tony Kelly (Ballyea) (1-6), Aaron Cunningham (Wolfe Tones na Sionna)(0-1), Podge Collins (Cratloe)(0-1), Shane O Donnell (Eire-og), Conor McGrath (Cratloe) (0-8). Subs: Colin Ryan (Newmarket on Fergus)(0-2) for Galvin, Cathal O Connell (Clonlara) for Collins, Aron Shanagher (Wolfe tones na Sionna) for O Donnell,
Waterford: Stephen O’Keeffe (Ballygunner), Shane Fives (Tourin), Barry Coughlan (Ballygunner), Noel Connors (Passage), Tadhg de Burca (Clashmore / Kinsalebeg), Austin Gleeson (Mount Sion)(0-3),Philip Mahony (Ballygunner), Jamie Barron (Fourmilewater)(0-2), Darragh Fives (Tourin)(0-1), Kevin Moran (De La Salle)(0-1), Shane Bennett (Ballysaggart)(0-2), Michael Walsh (Stradbally), Patrick Curran (Dungarvan)(1-9), Jake Dillon (De La Salle)(1-0), Tom Devine (Modeligo). Subs: Colin Dunford (Colligan) for Devine, Brian O Halloran (Clashmore/Kinsalebeg) (0-1) for Dillon, Maurice Shanahan (Lismore) for Bennett,
Referee: Diarmuid Kirwan (Cork).
After the game the National hurling league division 1 cup was presented to Clare joint captains Cian Dillon and Tony Kelly by GAA president Aoghan O Farraeil.