Clare 3-15, Wexford 3-07 (result)
Clare won this qualifier to make their way through to the All-Ireland senior hurling championship quarter-final after a blistering display of attacking hurling as they completely demolished a Wexford side who seemed unable to respond to the challenge at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise.
The veterans in the side made a huge contribution but it was substitute Tony Carmody, sprung from the bench just before the break, who rose to the occasion in magnificent fashion as his two second half goals destroyed Wexford’s championship aspirations.
Clare dominated the opening 35 minutes due to the midfield dominance of John Reddan and Colin Lynch.
Amazingly during this opening spell the two midfielders contributed five of their sides first half total of nine points a reflection of the control they held in this sector.
After a rocky week with Tony Dempsey and his backroom mentors unable to name a team until just before the game, they found that opening spell a chilling experience.
There was no room for the two Larry’s, Murphy and O’Gorman in attack, which meant a championship debut at midfield for David O’Brien with Nicky Lambert handed the task of curbing the great Seanie McMahon.
Already without the suspended Liam Dunne and the injured Adrian Fenlon, it proved somewhat of a crisis for Dempsey and his team against a Clare side showing great hunger and appetite for the game, looking determined to prolong their summer championship campaign.
Manager Dempsey said they did not look over their shoulders following the Kilkenny defeat but Cyril Lyons clearly had his charges up for the challengers.
However they came up against a magnificent Wexford defence and but for their heroics they could have had the game out of their reach by the interval.
Lyons felt he had the players particularly motivated for the challenge, re-finding their hunger following their championship exit to Tipperary.
Being able to field the side which demolished Dublin in a first round qualifier game proved a real boost to Clare for they settled quickly putting the Wexford defence under intense pressure.
Being able to find their feet so quickly admittedly helped the Banner side.
There had been questions asked of the Clare forward division and the Wexford defence asked some searching questions but they still managed to fashion a seven point interval lead.
Midfielder Colin Lynch pointed them in front after just one minute, and the Wexford goal was living a charmed existence even at this stage and it was only the heroics of the full-back line of Colm Kehoe, Darragh Ryan and David O’Connor which was holding the Clare attack at bay.
Clare for all their early pressure still only led 0-5 to 0-0 after 20 minutes the points flowing through Colin Lynch, John Reddan, Sean McMahon from a free and Jamesie O’Connor.
Wexford had to wait until the 21st minute for their opening score a Paul Codd pointed free but the Clare dominance was to continue with points been added by Colin Lynch, Tony Griffin, before Rory McCarthy had Wexford’s second point six minutes before the break.
Nial Gilligan was making a positive response in attack and it was the wing-forward who eluded his marker to shoot a delightful point enabling his side to go in with a seven point lead at the break, 0-9 to 0-2.
The Clare forward division looked sprightly on this occasion as they were fed a stream of delightful ball out of defence and midfield.
The Clare half-back line of David Hoey, Sean McMahon and Gerry Quinn were playing superbly and really it took exceptional defending from Wexford to remain within reach of their opponents to the break.
It was Gilligan who assisted in Calre’s second goal within two minutes of the restart when his hig lobbing ball was flashed to the net by substitute Tony Carmody.
When John Reddan added a point almost immediately Wexford were left with a real mountain to climb trailing by 11 points, 1-10 to 0-2.
Wexford somehow summoned up the energy to stage a storming comeback.
Paul Codd who had switched to centre-forward for the second half stormed through the Clare defence for a magnificent goal. When points followed from Barry Lambert and MJ Furlong, the deficit was reduced to six points after 42 minutes.
But Wexford’s old failing returned as they shot three successive wides when scores were badly needed.
Tony Griffin helped to lift the Wexford siege with a point, but Wexford were still powering forward in search of crucial scores.
After Paul Codd and Tony Carmody exchanged points, the game came alight when substitute corner-forward Rory Jacob powered home a breaking ball from the edge of the square leaving just four points separating the sides, 1-12 to 2-05 after 50 minutes.
But Cyril Lyons was always confident his forward would answer the critics. After a Paul Codd pointed free left three points separating the sides, it was Clare who regained the initiative with a blistering finish.
It was in the 54th minute that Clare buried Wexford’s championship prospects. Seanie McMahon lobbed a huge free on the edge of the square which was brilliantly struck overhead to the net by Tony Carmody for his second goal of the game.
Three minutes later it was again Carmody who ripped open the Wexford defence before flicking the ball to the unmarked Niall Gilligan who gave Damian Fitzhenry no chance from close range.
Although Wexford managed a third goal two minutes from the end from a Paul Codd free it was Clare who blazed their way through to the All-Ireland quarter-finals with a comprehensive nine point victory in the end.