Munster Under 21 Hurling Championship Semi-Final
Clare 5-19 Tipperary 1-25
Defending Champions Clare lifted the home spirits once more as they advanced to their sixth Munster Under 21 Final in seven years in Cusack Park this evening.
The back-to-back champions had to fire five goals to finally see off a stubborn Tipperary side after extra-time with a late brace from Aaron Cunningham and the returning Shane O’Donnell cementing Clare’s third successive final appearance.
Clare’s line-up featured seven players who had played in last Saturday’s senior exit to Wexford, with the large chunk of those having to play 260 minutes in the last 11 days.
It was another rollercoaster though starting with a brace of goals in the space of a minute through Aaron Cunningham and Peter Duggan to push 2-2 to 0-2 clear by the sixth minute as they began to exploit the space in Tipperary’s last line.
However, far from panicking, the visitors brought corner-forward Stephen Cahill deep and employed centre-back John Meagher as a sweeper to settling effect as they pegged back the holders to two, mainly through Jason Forded placed balls.
That margin would remain until the break after another brace of Forde frees were cancelled out by Bobby Duggan and Jamie Shanahan at 2-06 to 0-10. Gathering momentum, Tipperary quickly gained parity on the restart through Forde and corner-back Tom Fox, and while Clare attempted to pull clear twice more, a 38th minute goal for substitute Tadhg Gallagher saw the visitors hit the front for the first time in 35 minutes at 1-13 to 2-08.
With Forde starting to pull the strings, the Premier County would actually stretch that newfound advantage to four before the Banner hit back decisively with a third goal, this time for David Reidy following an excellent save from goalkeeper Paul Maher from a Peter Duggan pull. Duggan himself would level up the tie for only the fourth time in the 48th minute and it would set up a nervy finale as the sides traded points twice while Tipperary’s John Meagher also received a red before extra-time was required.
Tipperary stormed out of the blocks on the resumption with a brace of Forde points from play to push two clear once more. However, despite some of their senior stars starting to wane, Clare summoned up a superb response with six unanswered points in only five minutes to snatch the lead once more at 3-19 to 1-22.
Tipperary refused to yield and cut the deficit to just the minimum by the 73rd minute. And amidst a frantic finish, two late goals saw Clare finally get over the line and into a home final against Cork in a fortnight’s time.
Clare: Keith Hogan (Clooney-Quin); Jarlath Colleran (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield), Jack Browne (Ballyea), Seadna Morey (Sixmilebridge); Conor Cleary (Kilmaley) Alan O’Neill (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield), Gearoid O’Connell (Ballyea) (0-2); Colm Galvin (Clonlara) (0-3), Tony Kelly (Ballyea); Peter Duggan (Clooney-Quin) (1-1), Shane McGrath (Feakle), Jamie Shanahan (Sixmilebridge) (0-2); David Reidy (Éire Óg) (1-1), Bobby Duggan (Clarecastle) (0-8 4f, 2’65), Aaron Cunningham (Wolfe Tones) (2-2) Subs: Eoin Enright (Kilmaley) for McGrath (36), Shane Gleeson (Cratloe) for O’Neill (41), Shane O’Brien (Clonlara) for O’Connell (70), Shane O’Donnell (Éire Óg) (1-0) for P. Duggan (72), Paddy Fitzgerald (Bodyke) for B. Duggan (76)
Tipperary: Paul Maher (Moyne Templetuohy); Cathal Barrett (Holycross Ballycahill), Michael Breen (Ballina), Tom Fox (Éire Óg Annacarty) (0-1); Ronan Maher (Thurles Sarsfields) (0-1), John Meagher (Loughmore Castleiney), Tomas Hamill (Moyne Templetuohy); Seamus Kennedy (St Mary’s Clonmel) (0-1), Bill Maher (Kilsheelan Kilcash) (0-1); Colin O’Riordan (JK Brackens) (0-3), Liam McGrath (Loughmore Castleiney) (0-1), Dan McCormack (Borris Ileigh) (0-2); Stephen Cahill (Thurles Sarsfields) (0-1), Jason Forde (Silvermines) (0-12 7f, 1 s/l), Sean Maher (Clonoulty Rossmore) (0-1) Subs: Tadhg Gallagher (Kildangan) (1-0) for S. Maher (25), Dylan for McGrath (ht, inj), Conor Hammersley (Clonoulty Rossmore) (0-1) for Kennedy (56), Barry Heffernan (Nenagh Éíre Óg) Extra Time, Steven O’Brien (Ballina) for Gallagher (70), Seamus Kennedy for Breen (80, inj)
Referee: Cathal McAllister (Cork)