A Richie Foley free in injury time sealed victory at the end of an entertaining contest to the delight of his manager Davy Fitzgerald.
Fitzgerald admitted: “It’s great to be back in a final again. The most important thing for our guys is to be winning games. We were missing 17 or 18 guys who will be in contention for championship places but there had to be positives out of today for Clare as well. They were also missing a few guys.”
After a relatively even opening quarter, the hosts took the initiative and hit a purple patch before the break.
With the sides level (five points apiece after 18 minutes), Clare hit 2-7 before the break for a 2-12 to 0-7 interval advantage. The first of their goals came in the 21st minute when impressive corner-forward Cathal McInerney collected a Domhnall O’Donovan delivery. Waterford keeper Clinton Hennessy got a touch to this strike but couldn’t prevent it crossing the line. Five minutes later O’Donovan and McInerney were again involved before Fergal Lynch beat Hennessy.
Waterford regrouped after the restart and with Seamus Prendergast at full-forward, they set about narrowing the gap.
Richie Foley’s accuracy from placed balls was crucial to their cause, especially in the 40th minute when he smashed a 20-yard free to the Clare net after Banner full-back Cian Dillon had fouled Prendergast. The visitors took the lead in the 56th minute after Shane Casey’s goal edged them 2-16 to 2-14 ahead.
In a tight and tense final quarter, the visitors held all the aces. Clare had goal chance with four minutes remaining but James McInerney’s penalty flew over the bar. A late long-range point from Colin Ryan looked to have given Clare the win but two frees in added time by Foley won it for Waterford.
Clare boss Ger ‘Sparrow’ O’Loughlin admitted: “After 35 minutes of tremendous hurling in the first half, where Waterford had no answer to us, we took our foot off the pedal in the second half, instead of pushing it on and winning by ten or 11 points. We need to start learning to win.”
Scorers – Waterford: R Foley (1-11) 1-8 f’s, 2 ‘65’s, S Casey (1-3), S Molumphy (0-2), S Walsh, G Crotty, S Prendergast (0-3).
Scorers – Clare: N O’Connell (0-6) 3 f’s, 1 ‘65, C McGrath (0-6) 3 f’s, C McInerney (1-1), F Lynch (1-0), J Conlon (0-2), D McMahon, C Ryan, J McInerney (f) (0-1) each.
WATERFORD: C Hennessy, F McGrath, J Maher, D Fives, S O’Sullivan, M Walsh, J Nagle, S Molumphy, E McGrath, S Prendergast, R Foley, P Mahony, B O’Halloran, S Walsh, S Casey.
Subs: G Crotty for E McGrath inj. (35), C Ryan for F McGrath (ht).
CLARE: P Brennan, M Earley, C Dillon, J Gunning, C O’Doherty, J McInerney, L Markham, N O’Connell, D O’Donovan, F Lynch, J Conlon, C Ryan, C McGrath, D McMahon, C McInerney.
Subs: C Morey for Markham (59), C Chaplin for Gunning (65), G Quinn for O’Doherty (67).
Referee: J Ryan (Tipperary).