Alas, the county’s U21 outfit remain afloat in the championship, having survived this semi-final cliff-hanger against neighbours Tipperary by the skin of their teeth.
An Aaron Cunningham effort on 58 minutes rescued Clare’s cause and in extra-time the reigning Munster champions didn’t need a second invitation, six unanswered points in the first period opening up a 3-19 to 1-22 advantage at the second change of ends.
Tipperary, as they had done all evening, refused to bend the knee and two points in quick succession from Conor Hammersly and Stephen Cahill reduced the margin to the minimum.
Then arrived the key moment of this affair. Tony Kelly’s effort from out the field came down of the post, Aaron Cunningham snapped up the breaking ball and beat Tipp keeper Paul Maher with a venomous strike — the home outfit moving 4-19 to 1-24 clear.
Back again came the visitors. Dan McCormack split the posts and Clare ‘keeper Kieth Hogan was twice called into action to deny Jason Forde, the full-forward’s second effort drawing a superb save from the Banner custodian. It was this moment that appeared to finally end Tipp’s resistance.
Down the field swept the winners, Colm Galvin’s goal effort stopped by Maher, Shane O’Donnell on hand to whip home the rebound.
Clare had prevailed in a massively entertaining game which was level on no fewer than five occasions.
The home outfit appeared in trouble for much of the second period of normal time with Tadhg Gallagher’s goal on 38 minutes opening up a two-point Tipperary advantage. It was one they would maintain entering the final quarter, that was until David Reidy raised Clare’s third green flag of evening.
It was roles reversed during the first-half with Clare dictating the terms of war courtesy of a blistering four-minute salvo early on. Gearóid O’Connell and Bobby Duggan split the posts in quick succession before Aaron Cunningham, set-up by David Reidy, pounced for the opening goal of the tie on five minutes.
Little over a minute later and the sliotar again nestled in Paul Maher’s goal. Aaron O’Neill supplied the delivery and Peter Duggan, with the deftest of touches, steered home the leather.
Tipp responded admirably, reeling off six of the next eight points, the dead-ball accuracy of full-forward Jason Forde central to their cause.
Jamie Shanahan and Bobby Duggan (’65) kept Clare’s noses in front, Jason Forde’s fourth free on the stroke of half-time reducing the margin to two (2-6 to 0-10). Thereafter, this contest reached one dizzying height after another before Clare prevailed.
Scorers for Clare: B Duggan (0-8, 0-4 frees, 0-2 ’65); A Cunningham (2-2); D Reidy, P Duggan (1-1); S O’Donnell (1-0); C Galvin (0-3); G O’Connell, J Shanahan (0-2 each)
Scorers for Tipperary: J Forde (0-12, 0-7 frees); C O’Riordan (0-3); T Gallagher (1-0); D McCormack (0-2); S Maher, B Maher, R Maher, C Hammersley, S Cahill, T Fox, S Kennedy, L McGrath (0-1 each).
CLARE: K Hogan (Clooney-Quin); J Colleran (St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield), J Browne (Ballyea), S Morey (Sixmilebridge); G O’Connell (Ballyea), A O’Neill (St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield), C Cleary (Kilmaley); C Galvin (Cratloe), T Kelly (Ballyea); P Duggan (Clooney-Quin), S McGrath (Feakle), J Shanahan (Sixmilebridge); B Duggan (Clarecastle), D Reidy (Éire Óg), A Cunningham (Wolfe Tones).
Subs: E Enright (Kilmaley) for McGrath (35 mins), S Gleeson (Cratloe) for O’Neill (44), S O’Brien (Clonlara) for O’Connell (70), S O’Donnell (Eire Og) for P Duggan (72),
TIPPERARY: P Maher (Moyne Templetuohy); C Barrett (Holycross Ballycahill), M Breen (Ballina), T Fox (Éire Óg Anacarty); R Maher (Thurles Sarsfields), J Meagher, (Loughmore Castleiney), T Hamill Moyne (Templetuohy); S Kennedy (St Marys), B Maher (Kilsheelan Kilcash); C O’Riordan (JK Brackens), L McGrath (Loughmore Castleiney), D McCormack (Borris-Ileigh); S Cahill (Thurles Sarsfields), J Forde (Silvermines), S Maher (Clonoulty Rossmore).
Subs: T Gallagher (Kildangan) for S Maher (25 mins), D Fitzelle (Cashel King Cormacs) for L McGrath (HT), C Hammersley (Clonoulty Rossmore) for S Kennedy (55), S O’Brien for Ballina (70) for Gallagher, S Kennedy for M Breen (80).
Referee: C McAllister (Cork).
Too many to note, but this game was ultimately decided by Aaron Cunningham’s goal on 73 minutes. A long-range Tony Kelly effort came back off the post and the corner-forward reacted quickest to push Clare four in front.
Clare’s hurling interest at inter-county level sustained, for now at least.
Shane O’Donnell’s 81st minute goal, the Éire Óg hurler rattling the net on his return from injury. A fitting conclusion to a remarkable contest.
John Meagher was the outstanding hurler over the 60 minutes but his sending-off on the stroke of full-time meant he would play no part in extra-time. Team-mate Jason Forde hit 0-12 on the night and represented Tipperary’s most productive forward asset.
Tactics played no part in this one.
John Meagher’s sending-off. Difficult to see how much contact the centre-back made with Clare’s David Reidy. McAllister consulted with his linesman before reaching for the back pocket.
Clare will attempt to complete the three-in-a-row against Cork on July 30.