Both sides took some time to get to grips with the conditions – the grass was so short on the sunbaked ground that the sliotar took some unexpected bounces, testing the players’ close control.
Clare faced the breeze in the first half but made light of the handicap. With a sprinkling of senior panellists out to impress watching senior boss Davy Fitzgerald, who was among the 2,288 in attendance, ahead of their All-Ireland quarter-final on Sunday week, they settled quickly. They had three wides and two points, from Daire Keane and a Cathal O’Connell free, inside the first ten minutes, before adding a terrific sideline cut from Peter Duggan to make it 0-3 to 0-0.
Waterford couldn’t get a toehold in the game, largely due to their inability to win their own puckouts against Seadna Morey and Alan O’Neill in the visitors’ half-back line, but Colm Curran got them off the mark on 11 minutes; Alan O’Neill answered with a towering free from inside his own half.
Waterford senior Jake Dillon hit a free and added a fine effort from play to make it 0-4 to 0-3, but Clare answered through Stephen O’Halloran, sub Jamie Shanahan (on early for the injured Tony Kelly) and another O’Connell free.
Clare were coming forward in waves but Dillon kept Waterford in touch with a free to make it 0-7 to 0-4, and then Deise midfielder Donie Breathnach’s effort made it a two-point game.
O’Connell and Dillon swapped frees before a good Colin Dunford run into Clare territory won another Waterford free, which Dillon pointed.
When the De La Salle clubman got yet another placed ball late in the half, he levelled the scores at 0-8 each – and added the lead point immediately afterwards from play.
With the half almost over, Dillon then drove over a free from his own half to make it 0-10 to 0-8 – five points in-a-row from the corner-forward. Colm Galvin pulled one back for Clare just on the stroke of half-time to make it 0-10 to 0-9.
They swapped points on the resumption, Stephen Roche of Waterford and Clare’s O’Connell, before Dillon, again, pointed two frees – 0-13 to 0-10 on 37 minutes.
The game then took a significant twist with Waterford losing Paudie Prendergast on a second yellow: though O’Connell missed the resulting free, Soon afterwards O’Connell knocked over a close-in free but Dillon responded in kind before O’Connell nudged Clare closer.
Then came the goal – Clare had enjoyed long puckouts from Ronan Taaffe all night, and on 45 minutes one of them broke to Seadna Morey, who struck a fine goal on the run. Podge Collins pointed from the puckout to make it 1-13 to 0-14: Clare in the driving seat.
Dillon pointed yet another free on 50 minutes, but while Clare were in the ascendancy, they hit three poor wides before O’Connell pointed from play – 1-14 to 0-15 with five minutes left.
With the teams flagging in the heat, Waterford then hit two wides of their own before the decisive score. Yet another long, long Taaffe puckout ended up deep in the opposing half, and Aaron Cunningham finished well – 2-14 to 0-15 and two minutes left. Dillon’s late free was academic, but made it a baker’s dozen of points for the wing-forward.
Clare now play Tipperary in the provincial final.
Scorers for Waterford: J. Dillon 0-13 (0-11 fs); D. Breathnach, C. Curran, S. Roche and P. Mahony (f) 0-1 each.
Scorers for Clare: C. O’Connell 0-6 (0-4 fs); A. Cunningham and S. Morey 1-0 each; A. O’Neill 0-2 (fs); D. Keane, P. Collins, S. O’Halloran, D. O’Halloran, J. Shanahan, C. Galvin, P. Duggan (sideline) 0-1 each.
WATERFORD: D. Duggan; S. McNulty, T. Bourke, S. Roche; R. Barry, D. Fives, P. Prendergast; K. Power, D. Breathnach; J. Dillon, E. Murphy, C. Curran; C. Dunford, S. Roche, J. Barron.
Subs: P. Mahony for C. Dunford, 40; A. Gleeson for Barron, 45; C.
Heffernan for E. Murphy, 49.
CLARE: R. Taaffe; P. Flanagan (c), D. McInerney, J. Browne; S. Morey, A. O’Neill, S. O’Halloran; C. Galvin, T. Kelly; P. Duggan, P. Collins, A. Cunningham; C. O’Connell, D. Keane, S. O’Donnell.
Subs: J. Shanahan for T. Kelly, 10; D. O’Halloran for D. Keane, 42; C.
Malone for S. O’Donnell, 52; M. O’Neill for P. Collins, 60.
Referee: J. Ryan (Tipperary).