Waterford will toss with Galway for the home draw in next weekend’s Division 1 quarter-final but the quip in Cusack Park yesterday evening was that the Déise will be happy to travel, given their poor home record this spring.
Allianz HL Division 1A
Clare 1-22 Waterford 2-21
“Yeah, hopefully we’ll get a draw away in Salthill and we mightn’t have to go to Walsh Park!” smiled Derek McGrath after his team’s third consecutive away win this campaign.
As much as his comment was in jest, last year’s league final replay loss to Clare in Thurles remains their one defeat in their last 14 league games outside Waterford.
It’s against the odds that this Waterford team clearly thrive.
Without the likes of Jamie Barron, Noel Connors, and Maurice Shanahan for all different reasons, they were fortunate to be just two points down at half-time, 1-13 to 1-11, having enjoyed the wind factor.
That deficit had doubled by the 57th minute when Cathal McInerney sent over a point, assisted by Tony Kelly, who in doing so had dummied Austin Gleeson.
Last year’s hurler and young hurler of the year made way a minute later but Waterford turned on the charm in the following nine minutes, taking Clare for an unanswered rally of 1-3.
Tom Devine, the lone gunman from the 42nd minute onwards, was so effective in making ball stick and supplying on-rushing players like Shane Bennett, who by the time he was retired had won four second-half frees, converted by Pauric Mahony.
Devine made it a three-point game and further scores came from the Bennett brothers, to cut the gap to the minimum in the 63rd minute.
Then came Devine’s goal, set up by Shane Bennett’s direct run at Cian Dillon. Andrew Fahy did so well to save Devine’s first shot but was still recovering when the sub delivered the follow-up shot.
David Fitzgerald, who had been such a successful outlet for Clare puck-outs, responded quickly to bring Clare within a point but Stephen Bennett was the next scorer and while Bobby Duggan made it a one-point game once more, it was Tommy Ryan who sent over Waterford’s insurance score deep into additional time.
The Clare following in the 6,640 crowd won’t have gone home wondering where they lost this but on general play their men were the better team. However, eight second-half wides were so costly.
Aaron Shanagher tailed off after an excellent start. Podge Collins was brilliant throughout and while John Conlon was prominent particularly in the second half, there wasn’t enough end product to really trouble Waterford.
The visitors had definitely taken something that shouldn’t have been theirs and McGrath was proud of them.
“I’ve been saying it religiously over the last two or three years these lads have a lot of character about them, the same as the Clare lads and all inter-county players, but they have a lot of guts and stood up tall in the second half.
"Stephen Bennett nipped two or three points in the second half. You know, young fellas standing tall in the face of a little bit of adversity.”
Waterford began the game as convincingly as they finished it, going 1-3 to 0-0 up after six minutes. Shane Bennett’s fifth-minute goal came via a long delivery from Conor Gleeson but sibling Stephen’s movement was crucial to upsetting the Clare defenders.
Clare more than recovered from that early blitz, hitting Waterford for 1-7 without reply in 11 minutes.
Collins was a nuisance as were the good balls sent into the corners, which negated Waterford’s compact centre.
Collins’ peach of a goal in the 15th minute was courtesy of Shanagher doing well to feed Cathal McInerney, who in turn found Collins and his finish couldn’t have been better placed.
Waterford hit back with a brace but then Clare enjoyed a second purple patch with four points on the trot to go five up.
Again, Waterford settled themselves but the dominance of Clare at that stage was characterised by a marvellous team point finished by Kelly and involving Collins, Ian Galvin, and Conlon.
Four Mahony frees brought Waterford within touching distance before the break and two more from his marksmanship levelled the game in the 40th minute but Clare, despite amassing wides, managed to twice build up four-point leads before Waterford’s emphatic finish.
“We were in a great position at half-time,” reflected Clare joint-manager Gerry O’Connor.
“We had a poor start but came back well and led at half-time. We started the second half sluggishly and I don’t know whether we ran out of a little bit of gas but we didn’t finish out the deal. We were in a good position only to concede a goal. Their substitutions seemed to have more of an impact than ours.”
Scorers for Clare:
T. Kelly (0-7, 5 frees); P. Collins (1-3); I. Galvin, J. Conlon, C. McInerney (0-2 each); D. McInerney, A. Shanagher, J. McCarthy, J. Shanahan, D. Fitzgerald, B. Duggan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Waterford:
P. Mahony (0-10, 8 frees); Shane Bennett, T. Devine (1-1 each); Stephen Bennett (0-3); B. O’Halloran, A. Gleeson (0-2 each); P. Curran, T. Ryan (0-1 each).
A. Fahy; S. Morey, C. Dillon, D. McInerney; J. McCarthy, C. Cleary, D. Fitzgerald, T. Kelly (c); C. Malone, P. Collins, J. Conlon; A. Shanagher, C. McInerney, I. Galvin.
Subs for Clare:
A. Cunningham for I. Galvin (58); P. Donnellan for J. McCarthy, C. Galvin for C. Malone (both 66); B. Duggan for C. McInerney (69); P. Flanagan for D. McInerney (70+6).
S. O’Keeffe; S. McNulty, B. Coughlan, S. Fives; S. Daniels, T. de Burca, C. Gleeson; A. Gleeson, K. Moran (c); Stephen Bennett, M. Walsh, P. Mahony; B. O’Halloran, Shane Bennett, P. Curran.
Subs for Waterford:
T. Devine for P. Curran (42); M. Kearney for A. Gleeson, T. Ryan for B. O’Halloran (both 58); C. Dunford for Shane Bennett (inj, 69); S. Roche for B. Coughlan (inj, 70+7).
J. Keenan (Wicklow).
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