Wexford dig deep to defeat champions Clare

Wexford 2-25 Clare 2-22 (after extra-time)

Wexford dig deep to defeat champions Clare

Wexford 2-25 Clare 2-22 (after extra-time)

Clare’s All-Ireland SHC title defence is over in mid-July after Wexford earned their first-ever Championship win over the Banner men.

Davy Fitzgerald’s side forced extra-time despite having Brendan Bugler and Jack Browne sent-off in either half, before a Harry Kehoe goal and three late Jack Guiney points made certain of victory.

Darach Honan’s 22nd-minute goal had Clare leading 1-5 to 0-6 at half-time and John Conlon and Conor McDonald netted in quick succession in a thrilling second half.

There were plenty of twists and turns in this absorbing round 1 qualifier replay at Wexford Park, with Colin Ryan coolly bringing Clare level (2-15 to 1-18) with a last-gasp ‘65’ at the end of normal time.

The Liam MacCarthy Cup holders were back to their full complement for the two additional periods, but Liam Dunne’s charges edged back in front as Guiney set up fellow substitute Kehoe for a vital goal.

Some 2-20 to 2-18 down at half-time in extra-time, off-colour Clare were in resilient form as Tony Kelly levelled the sides for the 13th time.

But Guiney was the game’s scoring star as his late salvo - taking his own haul to 0-10 - sealed a memorable success.

Both managers made tweaks to their teams from the drawn game, with the hosts bringing in Diarmuid O’Keeffe at wing forward in place of Guiney who scored 0-08 as the Wexford Under-21s retained their Leinster crown last Wednesday. Garrett Sinnott also started instead of Rory Jacob.

The suspended Podge Collins’ place in the Clare attack went to Honan, while Seadna Morey - a goal-scoring substitute the last day - and Peter Duggan came in for 2013 All-Ireland captain Pat Donnellan and Cathal McInerney respectively.

Wexford had the wind behind them from the throw-in and went close to scoring an early goal. Patrick Kelly denied the onrushing Podge Doran before McDonald’s close-in effort was scrambled away by Browne.

Conor McGrath broke free from Eoin Moore to point Clare in front. Paul Morris equalised from a free during a defence-dominated opening spell with Pat O’Connor and Andrew Shore standing out in that regard.

John Conlon nudged the Banner men back in front at 0-2 to 0-1 but the first 10 minutes were notable for a series of disappointing turnovers and wides - with Wexford most guilty.

Morris missed two frees from short and long range - increasing his side’s wides tally to six - before he converted from the left in the 16th minute.

O’Keeffe cancelled out a pointed free from Colin Ryan, but Clare - showing better use of possession with Morey prominent in the sweeper role - went 0-5 to 0-3 ahead after Tony Kelly and Conlon both slotted over from play.

The reigning All-Ireland champions pushed on when Shore, in attempting to clear, was pressurised by Ryan and the loose ball was fed through to an unmarked Honan who turned and finished smartly to the net past goalkeeper Mark Fanning.

However, back-to-back points from David Redmond and Morris (free) settled Wexford again and Lee Chin came up with an inspired point from a very narrow angle to cut the gap to 1-5 to 0-6.

The quality of hurling dipped once more as the interval approached and for the second week running, Clare suffered a red card as experienced defender Bugler, who had been held off-the-ball by Liam Óg McGovern, retaliated and hit the Wexford man in the stomach with the butt of his hurley.

Referee Johnny Doyle swiftly dismissed Bugler and then drew the ire of the large home support when he ruled out a goal from Under-21 star McDonald, who had managed to flick a high delivery in from Moore to the net.

Scores proved easier to come by in the early stages of the second half, Jacob making an immediate impact as he teed up McGovern to make it a one-point game.

Morris had the sides level for a fourth time before Conlon and Honan steadied things for Clare at 1-7 to 0-8.

Guiney, who had come on for Doran, landed two frees either side of a Colm Galvin score, but again Clare seemed to have the answers as McGrath and Kelly hit back with well-taken points (1-10 to 0-10).

But the game took another massive swing in Wexford’s favour when, with 48 minutes on the clock, Clare corner back Browne picked up his second yellow card for hauling down the increasingly influential McGovern.

Guiney pointed the resulting free, however Wexford were suddenly rocked by the concession of a second goal. Conlon raised Clare’s hopes with an excellent strike off his left.

Wexford, so wasteful during the first 35 minutes, crucially managed to fashion an immediate response as McDonald’s neat catch and shot rippled the net and brought the deficit back to 2-10 to 1-11.

McGovern, with a terrific effort from wide out on the left, Jacob and Guiney all split the posts as Wexford’s confidence grew and they took a 1-14 to 2-10 lead.

Space opened up for Ryan and Chin to swap points and Clare stopper Kelly tried to inspire his side by lashing over a long range free on the hour mark.

Nonetheless, shorthanded Clare were struggling to keep the likes of Guiney and McGovern off the ball.

The former pointed his fifth free and then scored from play in response to another accurate effort from Conlon, easily Clare’s best forward on the night.

The margin was still a single point - 1-18 to 2-14 - after free-taker Guiney and Ryan exchanged scores and in a breathless finish, a bad Kehoe wide was followed by a Cathal McInerney attempt which was deflected wide for a ‘65’. free-taker Ryan coped admirably with the pressure and his equalising placed ball gave Fitzgerald’s team a lifeline.

With their Munster rivals Waterford waiting in the next round, Clare duly found some rhythm in the first period of extra-time as McGrath and substitute Jamie Shanahan (0-2) gave them a 2-18 to 1-20 advantage.

But, barely two minutes later, key man Guiney and Kehoe combined for a classy second goal for the Model men and this latest twist had the hosts two points to the good at the break.

Clare were quick out of the blocks on the resumption as Ryan (free) and Conlon made it 2-20 apiece. Morris, who was guilty of some poor shooting earlier, then redeemed himself with two points that sandwiched a McGrath score at the other end.

Kelly had the sides level at 2-22 each and although the wides continued to mount for Wexford with goal scorer Kehoe the latest offender, Clare were finally banished by Guiney at the end of a drama-filled two-match duel.

WEXFORD: Mark Fanning; Liam Ryan, Matthew O'Hanlon, Keith Rossiter; Andrew Shore, Eoin Moore, Ciaran Kenny; David Redmond (0-1), Lee Chin (0-2); Paul Morris (0-7, 0-4f), Podge Doran, Diarmuid O'Keeffe (0-1); Garrett Sinnott, Conor McDonald (1-1), Liam Óg McGovern (0-2).

Subs used: Jack Guiney (0-10, 0-8f) for Doran (27 mins), Rory Jacob (0-1) for Sinnott (half-time), Ian Byrne for Morris (42), PJ Nolan for Redmond (46), Harry Kehoe (1-0) for O’Keeffe (59); Morris for Byrne, Richie Kehoe for Kenny; Shane Tomkins for Nolan, Doran for Jacob, Willie Devereux for Rossiter, Rossiter for Moore (extra-time).

CLARE: Patrick Kelly (0-1, 0-1f); Jack Browne, David McInerney, Cian Dillon; Brendan Bugler, Conor Ryan, Pat O'Connor; Seadna Morey, Colm Galvin (0-1); Peter Duggan, Tony Kelly (0-3), Colin Ryan (0-5, 0-4f, 0-1 ‘65’); Darach Honan (1-1), John Conlon (1-5), Conor McGrath (0-4).

Subs used: Cathal McInerney for Conlon (28 mins-half-time, blood sub), Pat Donnellan for Duggan (56), Aaron Cunningham for Honan (65); McInerney for Conlon (70+2); Jamie Shanahan (0-2), Paul Flanagan (extra-time).

Referee: Johnny Ryan (Tipperary).

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