Clare 2-25 Wexford 2-25
Domhnall O’Donovan’s last-gasp score was smash-and-grab hurling perfected, Saturday’s rescue mission, however, was a 65-minute effort — the home side simply were non-existent in the opening quarter — requiring no little resilience and character.
At every turn, questions were asked of the All-Ireland champions, their desire tested, their limits pushed.
And to be fair, Fitzgerald’s men answered superbly. Sure, their performance was frighteningly lethargic for this time of summer, laden with basic errors. Irrespective, they are still standing in the Championship and for now, what else matters?
Ten adrift by the end of the first quarter, five in arrears at the break and with one minute of normal time left, Clare trailed by 2-18 to 0-20.
“We were getting ready to pack our bags,” said Clare’s Conor Ryan.
Home supporters had watched Paul Morris drive his penalty effort over the crossbar on 58 minutes, a poor decision by referee Cathal McAllister as Brendan Bugler made no contact with Liam Óg McGovern. In any event, Patrick Kelly launched possession up the field where sub Darach Honan gathered, swivelled and played an incisive pass to Conor McGrath. Foul. Penalty. Lifeline.
Kelly’s effort was saved, but Morey flashed home the rebound. Delirium in the stands. From the ensuing puckout, Cathal McInerney clipped a short pass to Conor Ryan who fired over the equaliser. Further delirium.
Honan and Jack Guiney were both presented with opportunities to swing the verdict, neither though were successful in finding the target.
“The never-say-die attitude is a characteristic building in this team,” continued Ryan.
“We weren’t ready to let the Liam MacCarthy go just yet. We gave it back to Croke Park a couple of weeks ago, but we are not ready to part ways with it just yet.”
As for his Domhnall O’Donovanesque score?
“It was just steady up and put the ball over the bar or we are out the Championship.”
Having risen from the dead, momentum was now Clare’s. And so heads turned to Wexford. Had they exhausted every last avenue of energy and effort? On 75 minutes, Clare struck a further blow. Conor McGrath snapped up Patrick Kelly’s delivery, turned inside Matthew O’Hanlon and finished clinically beyond Mark Fanning. Surely now, Wexford’s cause was lost?
This, however, was a parcel of a contest crammed with passion, honesty and undying spirit from both sides. Morris and a superb score off the hurl from Lee Chin levelled matters at 2-21 apiece.
Cathal McInerney and Tony Kelly split the posts either side of the turnaround to restore Clare’s two-point advantage. Back again came Wexford through substitute Ian Byrne and the re-introduced Rory Jacob.
One minute out McGrath pointed, Morris, however, would have the final say. Battle over, the war rages on.
“The lads showed unbelievable character and I am looking forward to next week,” said Fitzgerald
Wexford, led by Andrew Shore, Eoin Moore, Paul Morris and Liam Óg McGovern, exploded from the blocks and goal strikes courtesy of Conor McDonald and McGovern propelled the visitors 2-7 to 0-3 in front on 16 minutes. Wasteful shooting at one end and indiscipline at the other — Colin Ryan nailed five first-half frees — meant the noose was never sufficiently tightened around Clare’s neck.
Regardless, had Patrick Kelly not produced a terrific save to deny Diarmuid O’Keefe on 65 minutes, we’d be analysing the fall of the All-Ireland champions this morning.
We’re not, and one can only surmise that Wexford have missed their opportunity.
Seadna Morey’s goal on 69 minutes. Tony Kelly’s penalty effort was excellently repelled, but Morey reacted quickest in whipping the rebound to the net – the lifeline Clare desperately required.
Had the game ended after 70 minutes then Wexford’s outstanding Andrew Shore would have been streets ahead of his closest rivals for the man of the match award. The half-back, however, was forced off on 64 minutes nursing an injury and played no part in extra-time. Paul Morris thus gets the nod, effective from the placed ball and a central figure in Wexford’s superb forward play.
Scorers for Clare: Colin Ryan (0-12, 9fs, 1 65), C McGrath (1-5), T Kelly (0-4), S Morey (1-0), C McInerney (0-2), C Dillon, C Ryan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Wexford: P Morris (0-11, 4fs, 1 65, 0-1 pen), L Óg McGovern (1-4), C McDonald (1-1), L Chin (0-2), E Moore (1f), R Jacob, I Byrne, A Shore, D Redmond, J Guiney, D O’Keefe (0-1 each).
CLARE: P Kelly; C Dillon, D McInerney, J Browne, B Bugler, Conor Ryan, P O’Connor; P Donnellan, C Galvin; J Conlon, T Kelly, Colin Ryan; C McGrath, C McInerney, Podge Collins.
Subs for Clare: P Duggan for Donnellan (50), D Honan for Conlon (56), S Morey for Galvin (65), S Golden for Morey (ft), Morey for C McInerney (81), P Flanagan for O’Connor (87).
WEXFORD: M Fanning; L Ryan, M O’Hanlon, K Rossiter; A Shore, E Moore, C Kenny: P Morris, P Doran, H Kehoe; L Óg McGovern, C McDonald, R Jacob.
Subs for Wexford: J Guiney for Jacob (30), G Sinnott for Kehoe (ht), D O’Keefe for Redmond (45), PJ Nolan for Foran (48), R Kehoe for Shore (63), I Byrne for McDonald (ft), W Devereux for Rossiter (80), R Jacob for Sinnott (83), C Devitt for Chin (87).