IN a game of inches, it’s the small things that mattered and got Waterford over the line and into a fourth successive provincial decider against a brave Clare side that just came up short after this titanic battle.
That was the verdict delivered by former Munster championship winner with Waterford, Brian Flannery, who said that the combination of a back-to-basics approach and experience helped them carry the day.
“Waterford proved in this game that you can play a 15-man game and win,” he said after the Deise’s heart-stopping victory. “This was a little bit back to more of what we’re used to watching in Waterford – going out and hurling and doing the simple things well. By doing that Waterford proved that they’re good enough and deserve to be back in another Munster final.
“Last year in the Munster final we over-thought it. We made the game of hurling that little bit too complex and got too upset with the opposition. Hurling is a simple game – you go out there, you give it your best and if it’s not good enough, so be it,” added Flannery.
“It could have gone either way. Clare had a few chances to get the points that would have got them the draw, or a goal to win it, but Waterford also had a chance to kill the game before that last 21-yard free,” he continued.
“I think overall when you’re in the game and work as hard Waterford did today, you deserve that little bit of luck. Waterford had that little bit more composure. When the game went into the last five minutes they had that composure at the right time. The use of the bench was very important for Waterford and the substitutions worked.
“Martin O’Neill came on and got a great score from a pass from Tomás Ryan. You also had Paul O’Brien coming on before that and the first two touches of the ball he had he won two frees and Maurice Shanahan put them both over. They all had a huge influence in a game that was so close with only two points in it in the end. The small things – when you add them all up make the difference between winning and losing,” he added.
And, Flannery who was left-corner-back on Justin McCarthy’s Munster championship winning side of 2002, also claimed that Waterford’s underdogs tag going into the tie was a another driving force behind their two-point win.
“One win can make a huge difference to the team. Waterford weren’t favourites going into this semi-final, which is something I couldn’t understand,” he said. “A lot of this team have played in Munster finals, in All-Ireland semi-finals and a final, but were written off, even though a lot of this Clare team had never won a Munster championship game.
“This Clare team have yet to prove themselves in championship hurling – Waterford have proven themselves, time after time after time in the last few years. Yes there have been one or two disappointing results and bad defeats, but in general, particularly in Munster, Waterford are as good as what’s out there and this is a huge victory for them,” he added.
Above: Clare Senior Hurling Manager Davy Fitzgerald.