Clare make history in epic semi-final

Clare 3-23 Galway 5-15 (after extra-time)

Clare 3-23 Galway 5-15 (after extra-time)

Clare came through an exhaustive All-Ireland U-21 Hurling Championship semi-final against Galway this afternoon, making it through to the final for the first time in the county’s history.

The first-time Munster champions will face either Kilkenny or Antrim on September 13 after they overcame a Joe Canning-inspired Galway side in Thurles.

Canning scored 4-7 in all but it was not enough to deny the Banner youngsters, for whom Conor McGrath, Darach Honan and Colin Ryan scored the clinching points at the end of extra-time.

Some 5,741 spectators got more than their money’s worth as an injury-time point from Conor Tierney ensured 20 minutes of extra-time.

The first hour was full of goal-scoring chances, with the forward lines making full use of the wide Semple Stadium pitch to stretch both defences at every opportunity.

Sean Collins pointed after just 10 seconds to set Clare on their way but Galway, in their first game of the Championship, provided a platform for their forwards by winning a succession of puckouts.

Eamonn Glynn was booked for a foul on 11 minutes and Canning punished him further by rasping the placed ball to the Clare net from 20 yards out.

Ryan, John Conlon and Darach Honan kept Clare ticking over with scores, with the latter foiled by Galway goalkeeper James Skehill as he touched his goal-bound shot over the crossbar.

Canning was very much a marked man but he helped his side moved 2-7 to 0-9 ahead for half-time, when he won a 24th-minute penalty which he rocketed to the net.

Clare hit back immediately after the restart. Conlon cleverly teed up Honan for a goal after just a minute and 20 seconds.

As they pressed for further scores, Galway stopper Skehill produced an outstanding save to deny Honan again when a goal seemed certain.

A Canning free levelled the side at 2-9 to 1-12 but Clare raced through for their second goal, four minutes later, as Nicky O’Connell’s interception had a telling effect.

The ball was worked forward and although Skehill managed to block the first shot from Tierney, Conor McGrath was on hand to bat home.

Cormac O’Donovan soon nudged Clare into a four-point lead – 2-14 to 2-10 – but Canning’s goal-scoring touch got Galway firing once again.

He produced a superb catch under pressure to lay off for Niall Quinn who was pulled down for a penalty. Canning stepped up to fire it into the roof of the net, squaring an enthralling game up at 3-11 to 2-14.

Quinn then shot wide when a goal looked on and Eoin Forde succeeded in edging Galway a point clear, before Tierney’s last-gasp effort levelled it at 3-13 to 2-16 and set up extra-time.

Both sides tired in the additional periods. Conlon and Honan pointed before the latter nipped through for a goal, which Galway’s Aodhan Harte responded to with a goal of his own.

It was nip and tuck as Tierney pointed brilliantly from the wing in the second period of extra-time.

Canning swung the game back in Galway’s favour with his fourth goal for a 5-15 to 3-20 lead, but the Tribesmen could give no more and battle-hardened Clare pulled out the stops in the closing minutes.

McGrath landed the equalising point, Honan hit the lead one and then Ryan tagged on the insurance score as John Minogue’s charges made history in what was a truly epic encounter.

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