By John Fogarty in Croke Park
Jason McCarthy’s last-gasp equaliser guaranteed Clare another bite of the cherry after a Johnny Coen score appeared to have claimed this epic All-Ireland semi-final for Galway in Croke Park.
Clare had never been ahead in the game until the second half of extra-time when substitute Aron Shanagher rose high to claim a ball and blast it to the net.
Galway fought back then as they did when Shane O’Donnell put Clare two ahead. Jason Flynn could have given Galway the edge but his free tailed wide although Coen was then accurate after Daithí Burke had done well to set him up. However, McCarthy was the last to find the posts.
Worryingly for Galway, they look like they could be without All-Stars and last year’s hurler of the year and nominee Joe Canning and Gearóid McInerney for the replay after the pair were forced off with injuries.
Clare had a pitiful shooting show in the first half of extra-time, hitting seven wides and trailing 1-26 to 0-27 at the short interval. Ian Galvin’s point was their only score of that period in contrast to three from Canning, two from frees and a sideline cut.
The 54,191 in attendance were treated to a spectacle that could have gone either way in the final seconds of normal time, which finished 1-23 to 0-26. Johnny Coen had a clear chance to win but his shot dropped short. Ian Galvin also had an opportunity only to be blocked by Cathal Mannion.
Clare had been three behind up to the 68th minute but they saw out the game with a Tony Kelly sideline, a twist and turn point from John Conlon and Peter Duggan’s 10th free after David Burke had upended Kelly.
If Cathal Mannion was the best Galway player over the course of normal time, captain Burke and Conor Whelan had been Galway’s best performers in a second half where they were far more accurate looking at the posts although Conor Cooney had a shot saved by Dónal Tuohy in the 44th minute.
They saw a five-point lead disappear in five minutes before building up a three-point advantage by the 66th minute despite some inspired hurling from Duggan.
Galway’s prolificacy was the primary reason they weren’t out of sight at half-time having created 25 scoring chances but converting only 11 of them and managing a hefty 12 wides.
Conor Cooney’s 14th minute goal put them 1-6 to 0-1 ahead although Cathal Mannion and Jonathan Glynn could have found the net before that only for the last act in their attacks to go astray.
Clare appreciated the let-off and despite being as far back as nine points were within two points in the 34th minute, three of them frees as Galway were penalised for their attempts to stymie the Banner’s runners.
Colm Galvin dropping back to help out Conor Cleary sure helped and between the 18th and 28th minutes they struck five points without a response from Galway.
Kelly’s exquisite 28th minute point may have been followed immediately by a beauty from Cathal Mannion, who like Galvin was falling back to help his team, but it illustrated the confidence that had returned to the Clare team.
However, Clare’s challenge on James Skehill was weak. Conlon only had to catch a ball to create himself a goal chance in additional time as Daithí Burke had lost him but he failed to do so, Galway recovered, Glynn finished out the half with a point and their advantage was 1-10 to 0-9.
Scorers for Galway: J. Canning (0-12, 6 frees, 2 sidelines); C. Cooney (1-1); C. Mannion (0-4); J. Flynn (1 free), D. Burke, C. Whelan (0-3 each); J. Coen (0-2); J. Glynn, N. Burke (0-1 each).
Scorers for Clare: P. Duggan (0-14, 11 frees); J. Conlon (0-4); S. O’Donnell, T. Kelly (1 sideline) (0-3 each); A. Shanagher (1-0); I. Galvin (0-2); D. Reidy, D. Fitzgerald, C. Galvin, J. McCarthy (0-1 each).
GALWAY: J. Skehill; J. Hanbury, Daithí Burke, A. Tuohey; P. Mannion, G. McInerney, A. Harte; J. Coen, David Burke (c); J. Cooney, J. Canning, C. Mannion; C. Whelan, C. Cooney, J. Glynn.
Subs for Galway: N. Burke for J. Cooney (52); P. Killeen for G. McInerney (inj 54); J. Flynn for C. Cooney (63); S. Loftus for A. Tuohey (e-t); J. Cooney for David Burke (80+2); C. Cooney for C. Whelan (e-t h-t); D. Glennon for J. Canning (inj 82).
CLARE: D. Tuohy; D. McInerney, P. O’Connor (c), J. Browne; S. Morey, C. Cleary, J. Shanahan; C. Galvin, C. Malone; P. Duggan, T. Kelly, D. Reidy; P. Collins, J. Conlon, S. O’Donnell.
Subs for Clare: D. Fitzgerald for C. Malone (48); C. McGrath for P. Collins (58); I. Galvin for D. Reidy (61); A. Shanagher for S.O’Donnell (67); S. O’Donnell for C. McGrath (80+3); J. McCarthy for J.Shanahan (e-t h-t).
Referee: J. Owens (Wexford).