Its message: winners never quit.
The reigning All-Ireland champions, having been put to the pin of their collar, had done just that and were rewarded with a place in the Munster decider on July 13.
Successive points from Waterford’s Shane Bennett and Patrick Curran had moved the home outfit two in front entering time added on, a remarkable overtaking effort given they were two adrift and very much under the cosh coming down the home stretch.
Clare, having dragged themselves back into contention in the second-half, minus the services of midfielder Michael O’Malley who received a red card on 35 minutes for striking Darragh Lyons, were not prepared to fold. Jason McCarthy launched a probing delivery into the Waterford danger area. Up went well over a dozen hands, Patrick Fitzgerald rising highest. The Clare midfielder pulled down possession and unleashed a powerful effort on goal. Save, an outstanding one at that by Déise keeper Billy Nolan.
Nolan had gift-wrapped Clare’s opening major when running out over a half-hit Aaron Shanagher effort 10 minutes in. Still U16, the goalkeeper could easily have dropped the head.
Winners, though, never quit.
“I never believed it was gone from us because I know the quality of lads we have,” said Lyons.
“When they got back level within 10 minutes of the second-half you were saying where are we going to pull this from and at that stage you do have a little doubt, but the calibre of the players and the subs that came in, particularly Eddie Meaney, was crucial. I think the turning point was centre-forward Conor Gleeson going back centre-back midway through the second-half when Clare were on top. He controlled that whole area and it did give us an impetus which we fed off.”
As for Nolan’s intervention at the death?
“I just said to him there he is lucky he got it because he made a balls of the first one. He would be the first to acknowledge that. If I saw anything coming here tonight the one thing I wouldn’t have seen coming was Billy making a mess of that first one. He is an absolutely brilliant goalkeeper and my heart would have went out to him had we lost this game. It was ironic that he kept us in the game in the end.”
Waterford, boasting five changes in personal and 12 positional switches to the side which overcame Clare in their first round meeting back in April, roared into proceedings and had two white flags raised inside the opening minute. Indeed, by the seventh minute their advantage stood at 1-6 to 0-0.
Corner-forward Patrick Curran crashed home the opening major of the contest, with Conor Gleeson, Aaron O’Sullivan and the aforementioned Curran splitting the posts.
Then followed Nolan’s blunder, the stroke of luck which Clare badly required. A second major arrived in the subsequent action as Shanagher, holding off the challenge of full-back MJ Sutton, fired to the net. Game on.
Waterford ratcheted it up a further notch with Curran sniping a pair of frees. Shane Bennett, following a superb run down the right wing, struck for goal number two on 28 minutes — 2-8 to 2-2 the interval difference, hugely unreflective of Waterford’s dominance.
In keeping with the strange nature of the contest, ridden with errors and poor decision making, Clare assumed control at the change of ends, notching eight unanswered points to edge 2-10 to 2-8 clear — Ian Galvin, Cormac Curran (0-3, 0-2 frees), Shanagher and Patrick Fitzgerald all on target. An ultra-productive period for the Banner, all the more impressive given it was achieved with only 14-men.
Winners, though, never quit and Curran and substitute Eddie Meaney pegged back the difference before Waterford drove for the line.
“Early in the second-half was squeaky bum time for us because Clare brought the game massively to us,” continued Lyons.
“We responded, thankfully.”
Scorers for Waterford: P Curran (1-7, 0-4 frees); S Bennett (1-2, 0-2 frees); C Gleeson (0-2); E Meaney, A O’Sullivan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Clare: A Shanagher (2-2, 0-1 free); C Corbett (0-4, 0-3 frees); J McCarthy, G Whyte, M O’Malley, I Galvin, B Guilfoyle, D Fitzgerald (0-1 each).
WATERFORD: B Nolan; E Hayden, MJ Sutton; M Cronin; C Prunty, C Roche, J Mullaney; D Lyons, A Molumby; S Bennett, C Gleeson, C Curran; P Hogan, A O’Sullivan, P Curran.
Subs: S Ryan for O’Sullivan (HT), B Nolan for Hanley (47), J Allen for Curran (47), S Murray for Hayden (50).
CLARE: J Loughnane; C Cooney, S Downey, R Hayes; J McCarthy, D Walsh, B O’Gorman; M O’Malley, D Fitzgerald; C Corbett, M O’Shea, I Galvin; P McNamara, A Shanagher, B Guilfoyle.
Subs: G Whyte for M O’Shea (27 mins), L O’Donovan for McNamara (55), D Chaplin for Corbett (57).
Referee: J McCormack (Tipperary).