Munster Minor Hurling Championship Semi-Final
Waterford 2-13 Clare 2-12
at Fraher Field, Dungarvan
All-Ireland champions Waterford edged into a fourth Munster final in five years this evening after a truly entralling semi-final in Fraher Field, Dungarvan in front of an attendance of 2,750. With almost 20 goal chances, this was perhaps one of the most unconventional Munster championship ties ever as the pendulum swung one way and then the next before Waterford eventually shaded it.
That said, Clare could just as easily have been celebrating a return to a provincial decider as despite going down to 14 men, they fought back valliantly from a nine point deficit to actually take the lead in the second half
And even when fatigue set in and Waterford seized back control late on, Davy Fitzgerald’s injury-time strike on goal appeared destined for the right corner of the net, only for goalkeeper Billy Nolan to somehow keep it out.
Such an unpredictable pattern demonstrated both the extreme highs and cringing lows in an open contest that produced ten clear goal opportunities in the first half alone. Waterford stormed out of the blocks to push 1-6 to 0-0 clear by the eighth minute and were full value for their lead as they blitzed a sleepy Clare side that faltered especially from placed balls with three early point scoring efforts.
Patrick Curran’s sixth minute goal to put the home side 1-5 up came only moments after Clare goalkeeper Jason Loughnane had denied the same player but amazingly it would be their last score from play for 23 minutes as they seemed intent on walking the ball through the Clare defence.
The visitors craved a boost and got it in the 11th minute when captain Dara Walsh delivered to Aron Shanagher whose shot seemed to be half hooked, only for goalkeeper Billy Nolan to completely miss the ball and see it billow the net.
That goal sandwiched further goal efforts for Ian Galvin (sidenetting) and Brian Guilfoyle (blocked) but they would be rewarded once more in the 14th minute when Shanagher struck again for goal to cut the deficit to just three at 1-6 to 2-0.
There would be two more goal chances at either end before Waterford would deservedly re-establish their dominance on the scoreboard with a solo goal from Shane Bennett in the 29th minute on their way to a 2-8 to 2-2 half-time lead.
It wouldn’t get any more conventional on the restart as a straight red for Clare’s Michael O’Malley came amidst a rousing fightback that saw the visitors hit eight unanswered points in the third quarter, four from Colin Corbett, to actually take the lead for the first time at 2-10 to 2-08.
Waterford were still intent on going for goal but would finally pull level through substitute Eddie Meaney by the 48th minute.
A Gavin Whyte effort on goal was blocked over the bar to give Clare the advantage once more only for Patrick Curran to cancel it out and after a very nervy period, a Shane Bennett free and another from play through Curran on the hour mark edged Waterford two clear at 2-13 to 2-11.
True to the generous nature of this tie, Clare would have one final chance to snatch victory when Ben O’Gorman’s defensive free broke to David Fitzgerald who shot on the turn only for goalkeeper Billy Nolan to somehow get a hurley to it to flick it out for a ’65.
It would be the final act of a trully dramatic semi-final as the All-Ireland champions survived but just about.
Waterford Billy Nolan (Roanmore); Eddie Hayden (Ballygunner), MJ Sutton (Ferrybank), Michael Cronin (Ardmore); Conor Prunty (Abbeyside/Ballinacourty), Colm Roche (Shamrocks), Jack Mullaney (Stradbally); Darragh Lyons (Dungarvan), Andy Molumby (Cappaquin); Shane Bennett (Ballysaggart) (1-2 2f), Conor Gleeson (Fourmilewater) (0-2), Cormac Curran (Brickey Rovers); Peter Hogan (Ballygunner), Aaron O’Sullivan (Cappoquin) (0-1), Patrick Curran (Dungarvan) (1-7 4f)
Subs Shane Ryan (De La Salle) for O’Sullivan (HT), Eddie Meaney (De La Salle) (0-1) for Hogan (42 mins), Joe Allen (Dungarvan) for C. Curran (47 mins), David Prendergast (Lismore) for Hayden (51 mins)
Clare Jason Loughnane (Sixmilebridge); Ciaran Cooney (O’Callaghan’s Mills), Seamus Downey (Clonlara), Rory Hayes (Wolfe Tones); Jason McCarthy (Inagh-Kilnamona) (0-1), Dara Walsh (Éire Óg), Ben O’Gorman (Wolfe Tones); Michael O’Malley (Kilmaley) (0-1), David Fitzgerald (Inagh-Kilnamona) (0-1); Colin Corbett (Tulla) (0-4 3f), Michael O’Shea (Smith O’Brien’s), Ian Galvin (Clonlara) (0-1); Paraic McNamara (Kilmaley), Aron Shanagher (Wolfe Tones) (2-2 1f), Brian Guilfoyle (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield) (0-1)
Subs Gavin Whyte (Sixmilebridge) (0-1) for O’Shea (28 mins), Liam O’Donovan (Ruan) for McNamara (56 mins), Darren Chaplin (Broadford) for Corbett (58 mins)
Referee John McCormack (Tipperary)