Clare 3-24 Wexford 1-20 aet
The vagaries of youth were in no short supply in Saturday’s undercard qualifier where the greenness of one team and exuberance of an individual on the other side collectively brought this game into extra-time.
Clare had been coasting it, five points ahead with three minutes to go, with their last two scores in normal time courtesy of Seadna Morey and Tony Kelly as Wexford’s full-back Tomás Waters was refused a stoppage for treatment to a serious knee injury.
The 16 wides they had built up look to be just a small blot on the copybook until Wexford’s Jack Guiney grabbed the game by the neck.
He had made a couple of attempts earlier with shots at goal from 20-metre frees, one being saved and the other fizzing over the bar.
But after he, from a free, and then 17-year-old substitute Conor McDonald cut the gap to three in the second minute of injury-time, Guiney fielded Ciarán Kenny’s long ball in and turned for goal.
David McInerney, already on a yellow, pulled desperately at Guiney’s jersey but the 20-year-old brushed it off to strike past Patrick Kelly and level the game at 1-17 apiece.
Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald bemoaned his team’s attempt to kill the contest in the closing stages.
“I thought the problem we had in normal time was that we tried to play out the game. We were five points up with a few minutes to go and tried to play it out. You can’t do that because if a team get a point or two there’s always a chance they can get a goal.
“It was into the 72nd minute when they got it. We went too defensive. People say that we’re a defensive team but we’re not.
“We’re normally attack-minded. I’d like to think we’ve more scores than most teams this year and that’s what we’ve set out to do — attack.
“I’m just disappointed we went on the defensive in the last 10 minutes and if you draw a team onto you, you’re in trouble.
“We never looked in trouble in that whole game. I know they got the goal to draw but that was the only time they looked like it.”
Cathal McInerney’s two first half goals in extra-time eventually put Wexford to the sword, his first in the fourth minute of the additional period capitalising on sloppy play and restoring Clare’s five-point lead.
He goaled again four minute later when neat work by Tony Kelly and Conor McGrath put him in. Wexford managed just one point in those first 10 minutes as Clare led 3-20 to 1-18.
The second half was processional but for Guiney cracking the bar with a rasping strike and Bobby Kenny being sent from the pitch for a second yellow card offence.
“The momentum was well gone by half-time of extra-time but look it in fairness to the lads it wasn’t good enough in extra-time,” said Liam Dunne. “Clare got a good game today. Best of luck to Davy and the Clare lads but we didn’t come down to make up numbers and whoever Clare draw the next day (Clare) won’t be going out to make up the numbers. They’ve got a young team and fair play to them.”
Fitzgerald took the opportunity after the game to defend his team’s style and those who have supported it in the wake of the Munster semi-final defeat by Cork.
He knows Clare will be less fancied of the remaining teams in the Championship but isn’t bothered.
As the strains of the Rocky theme over the Semple Stadium PA could be heard, he said: “We’ll be total outsiders but we’ll like that. We’re fighters in Clare and I’d like to thank some of our great support here today.
“Some of them were absolutely fantastic and that’s what we needed at the end, all of Clare getting behind us. We’ll keep going. It isn’t so long ago that I know where we were in Clare. The progress that these young lads have made is fantastic. The backing that we have got from the county board and the sponsor (is superb), this thing doesn’t happen by accident. This happens by people working together and not knocking people.
“The genuine people who have come to me since the Cork game... to me, personally, that means an awful lot. The people who came to me and said ‘don’t change what you’re doing, stay with you’re doing, don’t mind the knockers who are in every county’... genuine people are great.”
Fitzgerald admits he’s a bit of a headache in picking his forwards the next day, with two-goal hero McInerney and Aaron Cunningham impressing off the bench and Darach Honan to come back from injury. He also has the U21s’ midweek Munster semi-final against Waterford to consider.
Shane O’Donnell, who replaced Honan in the starting line-up and scored Clare’s first-half goal in normal time, will also be featuring heavily in his thoughts.
That score helped Clare into a 1-10 to 0-8 lead and one they threatened to augment but for a catalogue of wides after the break.
As indicated on Saturday, ruthlessness is the last attribute that an aspiring team attains but Clare are getting there.
Scorers for Clare: C Ryan (0-10, six frees, two 65s); C McInerney (2-1); S O’Donnell (1-1); T Kelly (0-5, 0-1 pen); J Conlon (0-3); B Bugler, P Collins, S Morey, A Cunningham (0-1 each).
Scorers for Wexford: J Guiney (1-8, 0-6 frees); D Redmond, P Morris, P Doran, G Moore (0-2 each); G Sinnott, C Kenny, C McDonald, M O’Regan (0-1 each).
Subs for Clare: S Morey for P O’Connor (blood 11-15); S Morey for C Galvin (54); A Cunningham for P Duggan (59); C McInerney for S O’Donnell (65); F Lynch for J Conlon, N O’Connell for Colin Ryan (both 70+1); Colin Ryan for S Morey (full-time); J Conlon for C McGrath (80+1); S Morey for P O’Connor (inj 86).
Subs for Wexford: G Moore for E Quigley (34); H Kehoe for R Kehoe (half-time); E Doyle for T Waters (inj 64); PJ Nolan for H Kehoe, C McDonald for P Doran (both 68); M O’Regan for G Sinnott (76); C O’Shaughnessy for K Rossiter (79).
Red card: B Kenny (89, second yellow).
Referee: Diarmuid Kirwan (Cork).
CLARE: P Kelly; C Dillon, D McInerney, D O’Donovan; B Bugler, P Donnellan, P O’Connor; C Galvin, C Ryan; J Conlon, T Kelly, P Duggan; P Collins, S O’Donnell, C McGrath.
WEXFORD: M Fanning; E Moore, T Waters, B Kenny; R Kehoe, K Rossiter, C Kenny; A Shore, D Redmond; P Morris, E Quigley, G Sinnott; P Doran, J Guiney, R Jacob.
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