By Brendan O’Brien
Innovate Wexford Park
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE DIVISION 1B
Davy Fitzgerald's Clare maintained their push for promotion back to hurling's top league tier with a hard-fought defeat of a dogged Wexford side in Division 1B on Sunday afternoon.
Wexford, in need of momentum, won the toss and captain Matthew O’Hanlon unsurprisingly opted to start with the wind. It worked. The hosts scored four of the first five points, but they let Clare claw their way back without the visitors having to do all that much.
Indiscipline cost Liam Dunne’s side, with Colin Ryan claiming Clare’s first four scores from frees, and the Munster outfit was much more adept at orchestrating the odd scoring chance that developed from play via some intricate teamwork.
They were 0-7 to 0-4 to the good by the half-hour before Wexford landed a pair of points to bring to an end a scoreless run that stretched to 19 minutes and they even managed to take a lead into the break when goalkeeper Mark Fanning hit the net with a penalty.
Clare captain Cian Dillon was shown yellow for his part in the concession which left Podge Doran on the ground and requiring medical attention, but Wexford’s hopes of coming out of the afternoon with their promotion hopes still looked in trouble.
They thumbed their nose up at the laws of probability for a while. Harry Kehoe’s trio of frees and an effort from Andrew Shore helped to extend their lead to four points by the 50-minute mark and the crowd responded accordingly.
An upset looked doable.
Credit to Clare, then, who never reached for the panic button. Slowly but surely the game turned in their favour and the scores began to pile up in their column, although they fell one behind again as late as the 65th minute.
A late burst of scores did it for them in the end, four points in a row giving them the breathing space they desired and putting an end to Wexford’s spirited display. That’s six wins from six for Clare this year between the league and January’s pre-season appointments.
Wexford have rather less to smile about.
Scorers for Wexford: H Kehoe (0-6 frees); M Fanning (1-0 penalty); D Dunne (0-2); E Moore, A Shore and P Doran (all 0-1).
Scorers for Clare: C Ryan (0-10, 8 frees and 1 ‘65’); C McGrath, J Brown and B Duggan (all 0-2); D Reidy and J Conlon (both 0-1).
Wexford: M Fanning; J Breen, M O’Hanlon, L Ryan; E Moore, P Foley, S Murphy; L Chin, A Kenny; H Kehoe, A Shore, A Nolan; D Dunne, P Doran, L Og McGovern. Subs: E Conroy for Murphy (29); I Byrne for Breen (42); C McDonald for McGovern (58).
Clare: P Kelly; P Flanagan, C Dillon, P O’Connor; J Brown, C Cleary, D McInerney; C Ryan, G O’Connell; J Conlon, C McGrath, C Ryan; A Shanagher, S O’Donnell, C McGrath. Subs: B Duggan for O’Connell (46); A Cunningham for Shanagher (56).
Referee: J McGrath (Westmeath).