Slow start, but episode one sets up intriguing Munster trilogy

Clare 0-22 Waterford 0-22 (after extra-time): Say it was ugly. Say it was forgettable — at least for the opening 50 minutes or so — because it most certainly was. But don’t say it didn’t matter.

To do so would be to disrespect the phenomenal effort put into yesterday’s league final. Afterwards, the dressing room corridor under the Kinane Stand resembled a cast of the walking wounded. Shane O’Donnell, visibly grimacing, hobbled one way.

If his foot injury has flared up again, he will surely not feature next weekend. Shane Bennett limped in the other direction. Brendan Bugler, Podge Collins, Colin Dunford, Shane Fives, Austin Gleeson... they all suffered too. If this was shadow-boxing, then silhouettes pack a punch.

In a way, Bennett was the personification of this match. Despite putting two frees wide and hitting four overall, he recovered dramatically in unison with this game as a spectacle. The same could be said for Colm Galvin who had struggled to find the electric form he had brought into this final and was retired in the 62nd minute only to return with two fine extra-time points.

They were able to transform themselves just as this final was from the awfulness of the first half, where their combined wide count of 18 dwarfed their scores — Clare’s seven to Waterford’s six — and the standards were little in keeping with what we had witnessed of the two teams in previous games.

The more the clock ticked, the more the play developed, a total of 14 points scored in extra-time surely convincing most of the 19,498 in attendance that next Sunday’s replay will be worth the return visit to Thurles.

It was an 80-metre-plus free from substitute Maurice Shanahan that confirmed the second date, ensuring the sides will meet three times in Semple Stadium in the space of five weeks. Against longer odds, he struck long and true on an otherwise poor free-taking afternoon for Waterford.

Just before, Clare might have felt the tide had ultimately turned in their favour when Pat O’Connor beat Shanahan to a high ball and set up replacement Colin Ryan to split the posts from distance. But then they also may have considered they were in the ascendancy in the first half of extra-time, when they developed a three-point lead, only for Waterford to cancel it out by the change-around. Level 0-18 apiece at that stage, they were equal a further three times before Shanahan’s heroic score tied them for a 12th and final occasion.

Clare held the advantage after a dismal opening 35 minutes where Waterford managed just one point from play despite boasting oodles of possession.

Indeed, the biggest talking point in that period came when the respective management teams had a heated disagreement following an incident close to their sideline.

Waterford were playing far too much head-down hurling and Clare forwards, with the exception of McGrath, were struggling in their individual duels. It was noticeable on the resumption that Waterford were keener on carrying the ball than delivering aimless long ball into their inside line where they were outnumbered.

“It wasn’t a change of tack,” insisted Derek McGrath, who described their familiarity with Clare from yesterday until June 5 as a “trilogy”. “It was more a decision taken at half-time of maybe not being around the breaks as much as we wanted. And there was an awful lot of congestion around midfield but for me it is intriguing in itself to watch how that develops and how it played out.”

After Clare’s McGrath had fired over four points, Bennett took over proceedings with three in a row to restore parity and then Austin Gleeson was on the mark with a free from distance. Yet Clare managed to cultivate a two-point lead by the 66th minute but a Bennett brace following a Jamie Barron point turned the game again before McGrath’s late leveller.

Goal attempts had been few and far between. Tom Devine had a net-bound shot blocked by Patrick Kelly in the first minute of extra-time to match McGrath’s 47th-minute strike, which was negotiated by Stephen O’Keeffe. Devine had another later on as fatigue set in but these sides would not be separated.

“That’s probably one of the most tactical games I was involved in,” remarked Davy Fitzgerald. “We really enjoyed it but we’d have enjoyed it more if we had been on the right end of it by a point. But I think it would have been unfair today on any side to lose that — and I mean that genuinely. I think they both deserved another crack at it.”

The viewing public won’t complain. At one stage yesterday, they were shouting stop but now most want more.

Scorers for Clare:

C McGrath (0-13, 10 frees); T. Kelly (0-3); C. Galvin (0-2); P. Duggan, P. Collins, D. Reidy, C. Ryan (0-1 each).

Scorers for Waterford:

S. Bennett (0-9, 6 frees); P. Curran (0-4, 2 frees); A. Gleeson (frees), T. Ryan, M. Shanahan (1 free) (0-2 each); C. Dunford, J. Barron, B. O’Halloran (0-1 each).

CLARE:

P. Kelly; P. O’Connor, C. Cleary, C. Dillon; D. Fitzgerald, O. O’Brien, B. Bugler; D. Reidy, C. Galvin; T. Kelly, P.Collins, D. Honan; C. McGrath, P. Duggan, A. Cunningham.

Subs for Clare:

S. O’Donnell for P. Duggan (46); C. O’Connell for D. Honan (49); C. Ryan for A. Cunningham (54); A. Shanagher for C. Galvin (62); J. Browne for C. Cleary (77); C. Galvin for P. Collins (inj 80+1); S. Morey for B. Bugler (inj 84).

WATERFORD:

S. O’Keeffe; S. Fives, B. Coughlan, N. Connors; T. de Burca, A. Gleeson, Philip Mahony; K. Moran, J. Barron; M. Walsh, S. Bennett, J. Dillon; D. Fives (sweeper), C. Dunford, P. Curran.

Subs for Waterford:

B. O’Halloran for C. Dunford (blood, 29-31); T. Devine for C. Dunford (46); M. Shanahan for J. Dillon (57); B. O’Halloran for A. Gleeson (inj 63); C. Gleeson for S. Fives (inj), T. Ryan for P. Curran (both 66); C. Dunford for S. Bennett (87); Pauric Mahony for M. Walsh (88).

Referee:

B Gavin (Offaly)


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