Clare have qualified for the All-Ireland SHC semi-finals for the first time since 2013 as they recorded a seven point win over a Wexford managed by Davy Fitzgerald who was in charge the last time they played in Croke Park.
Venue: Páirc Uí Chaoimh
Overall the Donal Moloney and Gerry O’Connor side were on top and despite a late Wexford raly, they held out, unlike the Munster Final in which they let their dominance slip.
Similar to the opening half in the Munster decider, Clare were the superior side with eight different scorers over the hour. Wexford in contrast had three with Conor McDonald the only forward to register from play.
Mark Fanning’s puckouts were an area in which Wexford fell down on against the breeze. They won eleven and lost ten in the first thirty five, they failed to win several breaking balls from the puckouts and this acted as a launch pad for numerous Banner opportunities.
Tony Kelly’s display was another reason why Clare took control. Both he and Shane O’Donnell have shipped some unwarranted criticism about their ability in recent months and they provided the answer today scoring nine points between them.
It wasn’t until the thirteenth minute that Clare took the lead, but from here they never relinquished it. At half-time they boasted a seven point advantage with the wide range of scorers key to this.
Wexford added the first two efforts after the break with Shane O’Donnell and Peter Duggan duly obliged. The Slaneysiders had their opportunities to take over but hit eleven wides throughout the course of the second half.
On fifty six minutes, Clare’s lead stood at eight points but in their next attack, Wexford struck past Donal Tuohy with Conor McDonald raising the green flag. Further scores reduced the deficit to three points but the Banner were able to weather the storm and thus secure their place in the last four.
While it would be easy to get caught up with the fact that Clare are in an All-Ireland semi-final, the reality is had they faced better opposition today they would have exited the championship, of that there can be no doubt. A radical improvement is required if they are to compete with Galway.
As mentioned earlier, the displays of Kelly and O’Donnell were very positive but the indiscipline which resulted in the concession of twenty one frees and five yellow cards must be addressed.
Key to Clare’s progression was the amount of players to split the posts and this is a steady sign. Twenty seven points are not put over easily and the impact of their substitutes was another plus, a particular hook from Conor McGrath springs to mind as an example of the workrate and freshness they brought to the field. Reaching Croke Park is progression for Moloney and O’Connor, finding a full seventy five minute performance has to be their objective for the next couple of weeks.
While Wexford did manage to limit the influence of Peter Duggan and John Conlon, Liam Ryan’s battle with the Clonlara man was a sight to behold, they failed to win the majority of individual clashes. Some of their main men were far too quiet when they were under pressure and Rory O’Connor’s late dismissal stemmed from clear frustration, although Fergal Horgan was fully justified in sending him off.
As their campaign draws to a close, Fitzgerald’s side must reflect and discover what it is that they need to get over the hurdle that is an All-Ireland quarter-final. While maintaining their Division 1A status is a major plus for them, a brief review of their championship bid shows that in their biggest tests, they lost all three to Galway, Kilkenny and Clare.
1. Donal Tuohy (Crusheen)
2. Patrick O’Connor (Tubber) – CAPTAIN
3. David McInerney (Tulla)
4. Jack Browne (Ballyea)
7. Jamie Shanahan (Sixmilebridge)
6. Conor Cleary (St Josephs Miltown)
5: Seadna Morey (Sixmilebridge) (0-01)
8. Colm Galvin (Clonlara)
9. Cathal Malone (Sixmilebridge) (0-01)
10. Peter Duggan (Clooney-Quin) (0-07 5f)
11. Tony Kelly (Ballyea) (0-05)
12. David Reidy (Éire Óg Inis) (0-02)
15. Shane O’Donnell (Éire Óg Inis) (0-04)
14. John Conlon (Clonlara) (0-03)
13. Podge Collins (Cratloe) (0-02)
19. David Fitzgerald (Inagh-Kilnamona) for Galvin (57)
23. Ian Galvin (Clonlara) (0-01) for Reidy (58)
25. Conor McGrath (Cratloe) (0-01) for Duggan (66)
20. Michael O’Malley (Kilmaley) for Malone (70)
17. Rory Hayes (Wolfe Tones na Sionna) for Browne (72)
1: Mark Fanning (Glynn-Barntown)
17: Conor Firman (St Martins)
3: Liam Ryan (Rapparees)
2: Damien Reck (Oylegate-Glenbrien) (0-01)
5: Paudie Foley (Crossabeg-Ballymurn)
9: Shaun Murphy (Oulart the Ballagh) (0-01)
7: Diarmuid O’Keeffe (St Annes) (0-01)
6: Matthew O’Hanlon (St James)
8: Kevin Foley (Rapparees)
11: Aidan Nolan (MWH Bunclody)
10: Rory O’Connor (St Martins) (0-10 9f)
14: Lee Chin (Faythe Harriers) (0-01)
15: Conor McDonald (Naomh Eanna) (1-03)
13: David Dunne (Davidstown-Courtnacuddy)
22: Liam Óg McGovern (St Anne’s)
Jack O’Connor (St Martins) for Nolan (49),
Harry Kehoe (Cloughbawn) for Foley (57),
Simon Donohue (Curracloe) for Foley (61),
Willie Devereux (St Martins) for O’Keeffe (65)