By Michael O Connor.
Waterford after extra time edged past a sterling display by Clare who had been written off prior to the throw in due the absence of Jamie Shanahan. Both sides over the 80 minutes plus 12 minutes of injury time had the winning and losing of the game and had a draw been the end result no-one could have complained but the visitors to Cusack Park emerged with the spoils and a place in the Munster semi final.
The bookmakers had the home side outsiders at 6/4 with Waterford on the strength of a solid schools success as odds on at 8/13. In the last three years the counties had engaged in combat on five occasions with the Banners successful on all bar one with more importantly two of the wins being the 2010 and 2011 Munster finals. Only two of the Clare side that won in 2011 namely Eibhean Quilligan and Shane O Donnell were available for selection once more in 2012. For their part Waterford held four of the 2011 side with Shane McNulty, Adam O Sullivan, ace forward Stephen Bennett and Darragh Flynn available for action in Cusack Parl in the latest enthralling clash between the two sides. Eamonn Fennessy stepped up from selector to manager with John O Meara fresh from success with the Eire-og intermediate in as coach. Leo Doyle (Bodyke) and Kenny Morrissey (Clarecastle) were in as Eamonn’s experienced back room team.
The first score fell to a converted free By Darragh Flynn seconds after Clare were denied a cast iron free after Shane O Donnell was fouled twice en route to the Waterford goal. O Donnell had the clare support cheering when he finished off what he threatened a minute earlier as he blasted past Sean Barry for a truly great goal. Waterford who were strong in the air gradually got back on level terms with two Stephen Bennett scores from play to level matters after seven minutes. The game was held up for 6 minutes after centre forward Shane Liddy was in receipt of a leg injury that forced his retirement to be replaced by Niall Deasy. Bobby Duggan sent over a free for a short lived Clare lead as Darragh Flynn hit the rebound to the net from Eibhear Quilligans save after Stephen Bennetts initial shot. Waterford were now in the ascendancy and quickly added two more points couresty of Stephen Bennett and Michael Harney to stretch four clear. Bobby Duggan had half a chance but his effort was smothered by the outrushing Waterford netminder Sean Barry after 20 minutes.
Bobby Duggan came into his own in the last ten minutes of the half as a target man and freetaker. He converted a 65 and two frees in a four minute period as Clare narrowed the deficit to the minimum (1-5) to (1-4) entering the final five minutes. Adam O Sullivan, Darren Foran for Waterford and a free from Duggan before the end of first half normal time left Clare (1-7) to (1-5) in arrears as the tempo was increasing markedly by both sides with hard hits on show for the well interested attendance. The final score of the half fell to Cathal Curran who showed Clare captain Shane O Brien a clean pair of heels as Waterford went in (1-8) to (1-6) ahead. Clare would have been reasonably happy with their display as a strong Galway minor management contingent led by manager Matt Murphy were keen observers to see would any of the two sides in action threaten their crown.
A powerful start for Clare at the start of the new half as Bobby Duggan flicked to the net after an astute pass from Conor Deasy set up the magpies forward. Clare were now defying the odds in an entertaining game winning by a point three minutes into the new half.
After five minutes without a score and three Waterford wides it was Decies wing back Kieran Power that led the way with a spectacular score from 65 yards. Shane Gleeson came on for Niall Deasy who had been introduced in the opening half for Liddy and 17 year Stephen Ward entered the fray for Corry. Within seconds Ward was in the action setting up midfielder Alex Morey for the lead score. The Clare half back line was dominant as Bobby Duggan hit the post with the game entering the final quarter yet like Waterford they hit aimless wides as perhaps tiredness and nerves were setting in on both sides. Waterford centre back Shane McNulty from a long range free levelled proceedings with the game entering the final ten minutes. The Clare half forward line were struggling and this allowed freedom for the Decies half backs to create and this set up scores for Darragh Flynn and Michael Harney to race Waterford (1-12) to (2-7) clear.
A renewed bout of Clare pressure saw a free converted by Bobby Duggan as Shane O Donnell was impeded once more. Come the hour come the man as Shane O Donnell once more took on his man and from in front of goal blasted to the net. Clare were two up but two late scores from Bennett set up extra time in Cusack Park. Indeed it was to the delight of spectators that this game went to extra time but hardly for the clare team who had victory snatched from them by a resurgent decies outfit. Alex Morey who was now at centre back set up clubmate Conor Deasy for his first score just after Shane Taylor and Michael Harney had swopped scores in the opening minutes of extra time.
It was end to end action with marvellous first time striking exhibited by both sides but Clare were perhaps finding the going hard at midfield and in the half forward line with cramp becoming a big issue. Waterford finished the first half of extra time the better with scores from Bennett (2) and sub Austin Gleeson to face the second period (1-19) to (3-10) ahead.
It was now Clare’s turn to heap on the pressure and in a last gasp effort they hit three scores as Duggan (2 frees ) and a great score from Conor Deasy left the sides level before a suspected neck injury to Shane Bennett required four minutes injury time and in this time one more score was created and it was the winner to Cathal Curran.
Waterford packed the defence in this period and dealt with late high rallies by Clare but with Shane O Donnell unable to break free it was curtains for Clare as the back door awaited. On a game such at this all contributed to a game for the ages and a wonderful advert for minor hurling.
WATERFORD: Sean Barry, Kieran Bennett, Tadgh Bourke, Shane Bennett, Kieran Power (0-1), Shane McNulty (0-1), Tom Devine, Conor Sheehan, Cian Leamy, Darren Foran (0-1), Micheal Harney (0-4), Adam O Sullivan (0-1), Stephen Bennett (0-7), Darragh Flynn (1-2), Cathal Curran (0-2). Subs: Jason Roche for Kieran Bennett, Austin Gleeson (0-1) for O Sullivan, Michael Kearney for Curran, Tom Tobin for Sheehan, Cathal Curran for Flynn, Jack Walshe for Leamy, William Hahessy for S Bennett,
CLARE: Eibhear Quilligan, Shane O Brien, Brian Carey, Gearoid Ryan, Aidan McGuane, Conor Cleary, Eoin Quirke, David Conroy, Alex Morey (0-2), Brian Corry, Shane Liddy, Shane Taylor (0-1), Shane O Donnell (2-0), Conor Deasy (0-2), Bobby Duggan (1-8). Subs: Niall Deasy for Liddy (inj), Shane Gleeson for N Deasy, Stephen Ward for Corry, Aidan O Gorman for Cleary, Mark McGuane for Quirke, Conor Cleary for Gleeson
Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary).