Clare 2-24 Wexford 2-18
Fourteen-man Clare staged a storming second half comeback to guarantee their place in the 2010 All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship, beating a dogged Wexford side by six points at O’Moore Park in Portlaoise.
The dismissal of centre-back Brendan Bugler, following a straight red card in the 67th minute, ensured a pressurised finish for Clare but they held out for victory.
After last night's Disputes Resolution Authority decision ensured that Clare, Wexford, Offaly and Antrim would have to fulfil their relegation play-off fixtures, this game certainly did not lack bite and the intensity growing as the game progressed.
Diarmuid Lyng bagged 1-11 for Wexford but despite his best efforts, the Slaneysiders’ skipper finished on the losing side.
Wexford led by four points, nine minutes into the second half, after goalkeeper Damien Fitzhenry dispatched a powerful penalty shot past his opposite number Philip Brennan.
But Clare bounced back in fine fashion as second half goals from Mark Flaherty and Niall Gilligan pave the way for the Banner men to stave off relegation from hurling’s top tier.
The sides were level on four occasions inside the opening 11 minutes, but Wexford edged ahead as the half wore on and were fully deserving of their 0-11 to 0-09 half-time lead.
Lyng converted seven of Wexford's first half points with David Redmond and Rory Jacob also on target.
Colm Bonnar's charges dominated midfield early on, but Clare kept in touch thanks to the free-taking abilities of Niall Gilligan.
Points from Tony Griffin and Barry Nugent had Clare trailing by the minimum, at 0-07 to 0-06, at the end of the opening quarter.
The game was firmly in the balance over the second quarter, with Lyng's accuracy from frees handing his side a two-point interval advantage.
The intensity levels were increased on the restart with a goal flurry setting up an entertaining finish.
Clare nipped it back to a one-point game, seven minutes after the restart, courtesy of a Jonathan Clancy brace and Gilligan's fourth point.
Wexford had started the second half strongly with points from Lyng and Stephen Doyle and despite Clare's efforts, a 44th minute penalty from Fitzhenry had the Model men in command.
Wexford were awarded the penalty by referee James McGrath after the inrushing Rory Jacob was dragged down by Clare full-back James McInerney.
However, Clare swung the game back in their favour with a powerful display in the final quarter.
Points from Gilligan and half-time substitute Mark Flaherty cut the gap to the minimum, before Flaherty fired home his side’s first goal.
Clare ran hard at the Wexford defence and they were rewarded for their efforts when Tony Griffin launched the ball forward to Flaherty who crashed it crisply to the net.
This three-pointer ensured Clare led for the first time since the second minute, by 1-14 to 1-13.
Although Lyng notched his ninth point to level the tie with 23 minutes remaining, a Diarmuid McMahon point soon after had Clare ahead again and they held the lead until the finish.
Wexford kept in touch thanks to the efforts of Lyng and substitute Jim Berry, but Clare were given the extra boost they needed when Gilligan drilled a 55th minute penalty to the back of the Wexford net.
Lyng grabbed a second goal for Wexford with six minutes remaining and although Bugler’s sending-off added to the tension, Clare held firm to take the spoils.
Scorers: Clare: N Gilligan 1-10 (1-00pen, 0-07f, 0-01 ‘65’), B Nugent, J Clancy 0-04 each, M Flaherty 1-00, D McMahon, A Markham (0-02f) 0-02 each, T Griffin, P Vaughan (0-01f) 0-01 each
Wexford: D Lyng 1-11 (0-09f), D Fitzhenry 1-00 (1-00pen), D Redmond, S Doyle, J Berry, PJ Nolan, R Jacob, W Doran, H Kehoe 0-01 each
CLARE: P Brennan; C Cooney, J McInerney, C McMahon; P Donlon, B Bugler, G O'Connor; P Vaughan, T Griffin; T Carmody, D Barrett, J Clancy; N Gilligan, D McMahon, B Nugent.
Subs used: M Flaherty for Barrett (26 mins), A Markham for Carmody (48), C McNamara for McMahon (60), M Murphy for Vaughan (62).
WEXFORD: D Fitzhenry; M Travers, P Roche, B Hobbs; D Stamp, R Kehoe, C Kenny; PJ Nolan, D Lyng; H Kehoe, W Doran, S Doyle; D Redmond, S Banville, R Jacob.
Subs used: J Berry for Banville (half-time), M Jacob for Doyle (58), P Atkinson for R Jacob (both 58 mins), J Tonks for Hobbs (69).
Referee: James McGrath (Westmeath)