Waterford 1-13 Clare 0-11
A sluggish start by All-Ireland champions Waterford to the start of their 2014 campaign in this Munster MHC quarter-final in Ennis yesterday evening but a winning start nonetheless, a late surge of 1-5 without reply enough to edge them past the dogged challenge of the home side.
"We didn’t expect anything less from Clare," said Waterford manager Derek Lyons.
"We had seen them in some of their challenge games and they play a fast-paced game, similar to what their senior team is playing. They gave it their all, we just got a turn on them at a crucial time."
Unsung even in their own county, little expected of this particular group this year, Clare took the fight to Waterford.
From outstanding keeper Jason Loughnane, through a tidy and tough-tackling full-back trio of Jamie Arthur (outstanding), Seamus Downey and Rory Hayes, right up to Aaron Shanagher and Brian Guilfoyle, not one took a backward step.
"The one thing we asked of this panel was honesty," said Fennessy. "In fairness to the lads, every one of them gave us that. A few things went wrong but we’re not going to blame them for that; they’ll learn from it. We’re still in the championship and okay, we have to go through the back-door but we’ve done that before."
"One positive I’ll take from this tonight, those young fellas will themselves now believe they can do what we as a management picked them to do; they’ve got the ability, all they need is to believe in themselves."
Certainly they have the ability and with Shanagher punishing the many transgressions by the Waterford defence, Clare were full value for their 0-7 to 0-5 half-time lead.
Waterford then turned to play with the wind and courtesy of points from their main score-getter Patrick Curran and team captain Shane Ryan, within two minutes the game was tied, 0-7 each.
It was then though that Clare enjoyed what was probably their best spell and driven on by Darragh Walsh at centre-back, Michael O’Malley in midfield, Ian Galvin also doing well on the wing (younger brother of Colm), by the 45th minute they had built a three-point lead for themselves (0-11 to 0-8).
Poor shooting though had cost Clare in the first half (seven wides), and cost them again now, with three more wides on the trot.
As noted by Derek Lyons however, those last seven minutes was when Waterford won this game. Sharp-looking sub Eddie Meaney got 1-1 (the goal in the 58th minute), Curran had a beauty to close it out, but Shane Bennett and Darragh Lyons also caught the eye.
"Clare are not out of this yet," warned Derek. "We could even meet them again in the semi-final and I wouldn’t be one bit surprised if we did — they’re a lovely team to watch. We made it hard on ourselves at times tonight but that was down to the quality of players they have, the quality of the hurling they played."
Scorers for Waterford: P Curran 0-7 (6f); E Meaney 1-1; P Hogan, S Ryan, E O’Halloran, S Bennett (f), D Lyons, 0-1 each.
Scorers for Clare: A Shanagher 0-7 (5f, 0-1 65); I Galvin 0-2; M O’Shea 0-2.
WATERFORD: B Nolan; D Prendergast, E Hayden, D Lyons; C Prunty, S Bennett, S Murray; C Gleeson, E O’Halloran; J Allen, C Curran, S Ryan (c); A Molumby, P Curran, P Hogan.
Subs: S Hogan for Allen (25); M Cronin for Molumby (38); J Mullaney for O’Halloran (50); E Meaney for Ryan (50); J Kennedy for Curran (59). Blood: Hogan for Allen (15/17); Kennedy for Lyons (51/53 & 57/59).
CLARE: J Loughnane; J Arthur, S Downey, R Hayes; D Fitzgerald, D Walsh (c), J McCarthy; M O’Malley, G Whyte; I Galvin, M O’Shea, D Chaplin; P McNamara, A Shanagher, B Guilfoyle.
Subs: C Fitzgerald for Whyte (30); C Quigley for O’Shea (52); C O’Halloran for O’Malley (inj. 56).
Referee: J Murphy (Limerick).