Clare 1-17 – Waterford 2-15 at Cusack Park, Ennis
THE gloom around Cusack Park was there for all to see – you could feel it too.
It just wasn’t supposed to be like this as Clare set sail in hurling’s top division for the first time in four years.
On the back of the under 21 heroics of last year and this year’s Waterford Crystal final win over Tipperary in Thurles, Waterford weren’t about to ambush the rising tide of confidence in the county.
The home crowd expected a victory, the management and players did too, but at the end of an entertaining contest there was nothing only defeat and the sudden prospect for Clare of there being many mountains to climb for the rest of the league.
It ended when Jake Dillon drilled an injury time winner between the sticks with the final puck of the game, but in truth Clare were the authors of their own demise as they were punished at the death for their failure to take a plethora of chances that came their way over the course of the 70 minutes.
There were the missed goal chances; there were the soft goals they coughed up in the first half as Waterford sprinted into a 2-3 to 0-2 lead by the 18th minute; there was the failure to kick on after they regained the lead with Colin Ryan’s ninth point of game on 58 minutes.
Ryan and Tony Kelly couldn’t do it on their own, however, and with too many others underperforming when it came to translating possession into scores, the end result had something of an air of inevitability about it before Dillon’s final strike.
The sides were level on 11 occasions in all during the contest, but once Clare battled back from a nightmare start that saw Seamus Prendergast and Jake Dillon goal on 16 and 18 minutes respectively they had looked the better side.
A storming run out of defence in the 19th minute by Domhnall O’Donovan when he teed up the impressive Colin Ryan for a point was the beginning of Clare’s revival, while they were back in the contest when Tony Kelly drilled low to the net in the 23rd minute after taking a pass from John Conlon.
This renaissance, which was added to with good points from Fergal Lynch, Seadna Morey and Tony Kelly, ensured that Clare were only a point in arrears at 2-5 to 1-7 at the interval.
The pace and intensity of the contest upped considerably on the turnover, with Clare in particular showing much more urgency. Ten minutes in they had hit the front for the first time since the 12th minute thanks to good points from play by Colin Ryan, Seadna Morey and Shane O’Donnell, as well as two more Ryan efforts from placed balls.
However, Waterford weren’t about to be steamrolled and from there the sides traded point for point until the end. Points by Darragh Fives and Brian O’Sullivan sandwiched an effort from Tony Kelly and left the sides level again with 20 minutes remaining.
There was never more than one point separating the sides – Colin Ryan (2), Tony Kelly and Colm Galvin were on the mark for Clare, while Waterford points from Pauric Mahony and Jake Dillon (3) had the sides level entering injury time.
All that was left was the 48-yard strike from Jake Dillon in the 73rd minute after a free was called against Brendan Bugler for a high tackle on Shane O’Sullivan.
Patrick Kelly (Inagh/Kilnamona), Domhnall O’Donovan (Clonlara), James McInerney (Newmarket-on-Fergus), David McInerney (Tulla), Brendan Bugler (Whitegate), Patrick Donnellan (O’Callaghan’s Mills), Patrick O’Connor (Tubber), Seadna Morey (Sixmilebridge) (0-2), Colin Ryan (Newmarket-on-Fergus) (0-9, 4f, ’65), Fergal Lynch (Clooney/Quin) (0-1), Tony Kelly (Ballyea) (1-3), Enda Barrett (Newmarket-on-Fergus), John Conlon (Clonlara), Shane O’Donnell (Éire Óg) (0-1), Páraic Collins (Cratloe) Subs Colm Galvin (Clonlara) (0-1) for Barrett [Half-Time], Nicky O’Connell (Clonlara) for O’Connor [Half-Time], Alan Cunningham (Wolfe Tones) for Collins [55 Mins], Sean Collins (Cratloe) for Lynch [59 Mins], Jonathon Clancy (Clarecastle) for Cunningham [64 Mins]
Stephen O’Keeffe (7), Stephen Daniels (8) Shane Fives (7), Noel Connors (7), Jamie Nagle (7), Michael Walsh (7), Kevin Moran (8), Shane O’Sullivan (7), Dean Twomey (6), Brian O’Halloran (8) (0-4), Seamus Prendergast (8) (1-1), Jake Dillon (8) (1-5, 4f), Gavin O’Brien, Pauric Mahony (7) (0-3f), Brian O’Sullivan (0-1). Subs Darragh Fives (7) (0-1) for Twomey [Half-Time], Jamie Barron (6) for O’Brien [43 Mins], Ray Barry (6) for Mahony [55 Mins].
Referee John Sexton (Cork)
Man of the Match
Brian O’Halloran (Waterford)
Clare had a big contender in Colin Ryan as he was the one constant in Clare’s challenge throughout the game. He was the game’s top scorer with 0-9, four of which came from play as he really took the fight to the Deise. However, O’Halloran gets the nod, because where he came from to deliver this performance. This was his first game in the three years since his All-Ireland semi-final debut to forget. It was well forgotten on this day as he landed four fine points from play over the 70 minutes.
During the game, those in the press box were keeping an eye out for how things were going down in the Ireland v Scotland rugby match. One score from play came the damning verdict of one fíor-Ghael at the end of it all. Measured against that, this game was hugely entertaining with 3-20 scored from play over the 70-plus minutes that saw the sides level on 11 occasions before Waterford finally came out on the right side of the result. For the 3,500 spectators, it was good fare, especially in the second half when the tempo upped considerably.
Won and lost
Waterford got two goal chances and on both occasions they found the net – Clare had to be content with Tony Kelly’s rasper, but both Paraic Collins and Shane O’Donnell should have rattled the net. One of those would have tipped the scales decisively in Clare’s favour – when they weren’t taken they were punished at the death by a Waterford side that stuck to their task admirably.
Where to now?
Waterford only survived in Division 1 last year thanks to a strong finish on the back of John Mullane coming out of retirement. They’ll still hope to get the De La Salle man back, but by then they could be safe in the division. With three home games they’ll be hoping to be in contention for a semi-final spot. As for Clare, it’s Galway in Cusack Park on Sunday week. It’s a must win game, or else they could find themselves in relegation trouble.