*Cathal Malone. Photograph: Burren Eye Photography
Clare have advanced to the second round of the All-Ireland SHC qualifiers following a tense three point win over Wexford.
Venue: Semple Stadium, Thurles
A meeting with either Cork or Galway is the reward for Clare’s senior hurlers after they dispatched of Wexford in Thurles on Saturday afternoon played in sweltering Tipperary heat.
It is the second year in a row that Brian Lohan’s side have knocked Davy Fitzgerald’s charges out of the All-Ireland SHC, this contest played in a far warmer climate than November meeting in Portlaoise.
Gary Cooney’s introduction sealed the deal with the O’Callaghans Mills man getting a vital touch on a Tony Kelly dropping ball to flick the sliotar past Mark Fanning in what would be his only but hugely influential contribution on proceedings.
From the get-go, Clare had a firm grip on proceedings and with eighteen minutes on the clock, they boasted an eleven point advantage. However, a drop in discipline and composure from their perspective would allow Wexford to gradually cut the deficit and by half-time, there was only five points between the sides, a margin that pleased Davy Fitzgerald far more than Brian Lohan.
Although it was Wexford that were first to register a score via Conor McDonald eleven seconds in, Clare responded impressively with 1-07 in succession. Cathal Malone raided for the goal on nine minutes but the most striking score was Diarmuid Ryan’s long range effort on three minutes, not for the distance which in itself made it a good score but rather for the workrate applied by both Ryan Taylor and Ryan to pressurise Lee Chin and win a turnover which created the opportunity.
Lively corner back Rory Hayes closed off proceedings before the first water break by exploiting a significant gap in the Wexford spine to boost the lead to nine points. They returned to the field with white flags from Aron Shanagher and Aidan McCarthy to carve out that eleven point gap.
Slack defending from Clare was punished by Diarmuid O’Keeffe who weaved passed too many soft challenges before sticking into Eibhear Quilligan’s net on twenty two minutes. This would give the Yellow Bellies a badly sought reason to shout and they closed out the half the better of the two sides including an unanswered five point brace to leave it 1-15 1-10 at the half-time whistle.
On the restart, Wexford fired three points without reply closing the deficit to a nervy two points. Tony Kelly ended Clare’s scoring drought of twelve minutes (excluding half-time) and it was a timely lift as it kickstarted a four point brace with McCarthy and David Reidy also getting on the scoring act.
When the game entered additional time, Wexford reduced the distance to three points and while they continued to hunt for a goal, it was Cooney’s green flag that killed off the game and ironically the Leinster side’s coveted three pointer came in the final act with Lee Chin hitting the net. This followed two vital Eibhear Quilligan saves.
For Clare, Cathal Malone got through a mountain of work, Rory Hayes, David Reidy and Tony Kelly were others to impress for the winners. Undoubtedly delighted to get the right result, Clare will be well aware letting an eleven point advantage drop will be punished against stronger sides.
Scorers for Clare: Tony Kelly 0-9 (0-7f), Cathal Malone 1-1, Aidan McCarthy, David Reidy, Ryan Taylor 0-3 each, Gary Cooney 1-0, Mark Rodgers, Aron Shanagher 0-2 each, Rory Hayes, Diarmuid Ryan 0-1 each.
Scorers for Wexford: Lee Chin 1-12 (0-9f, 0-1 ’65), Cathal Dunbar 0-5, Diarmuid O’Keeffe 1-0, Conor McDonald, Rory O’Connor 0-2 each, Liam Óg McGovern 0-1.
1: Eibhear Quilligan (Feakle)
4: Paul Flangan (Ballyea)
3: Conor Cleary (St Josephs Miltown)
2: Rory Hayes (Wolfe Tones)
5: Diarmuid Ryan (Cratloe)
6: John Conlon (Clonlara)
7: Paidi Fitzpatrick (Sixmilebridge)
8: Colm Galvin (Clonlara)
11: Tony Kelly (Ballyea)
9: Cathal Malone (Sixmilebridge)
13: David Reidy (Éire Óg)
15: Ryan Taylor (Clooney/Quin)
10: Aron Shanagher (Wolfe Tones)
12: Aidan McCarthy (Inagh/Kilnamona)
14: Ian Galvin (Clonlara)
18: David McInerney (Tulla) for Fitzpatrick (HT)
19: Mark Rodgers (Scariff) for I Galvin (47)
17: Jack Browne (Ballyea) for C Galvin (54)
23: Aaron Fitzgerald (Éire Óg) for Conlon (65)
24: Gary Cooney (O’Callaghans Mills) for Shanagher (70)
1: Mark Fanning (Glynn-Barntown)
5: Gavin Bailey (Ferns St Aidan’s)
3: Liam Ryan (Rapparees)
6: Matthew O’Hanlon (St James’)
15: Kevin Foley (Rapparees)
7: Joe O’Connor (St Martin’s)
4: Simon Donohue (Shelmaliers)
9: Liam Óg McGovern (St Anne’s)
8: Diarmuid O’Keeffe (St Anne’s)
2: Shane Reck (Oyelgate-Glenbrien)
12: Conor McDonald (Naomh Éanna)
11: Lee Chin (Faythe Harriers)
14: Rory O’Connor (St Martin’s)
21: Cathal Dunbar (Naomh Éanna)
10: Paul Morris (Ferns St Aidan’s)
19: Damien Reck (Oylegate-Glenbrien) for J O’Connor (46)
22: Jack O’Connor (St Martin’s) for Óg McGovern (47)
20: Aidan Nolan (Halfway House Bunclody) for Morris (53)
18: Conall Flood (Cloughbawn) for Bailey (58)
13: Mikie Dwyer (St Mogue’s Fethard) for O’Keeffe (65)
Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary)