*Tony Kelly in full flight. Photograph: Martin Connolly
A Tony Kelly inspired Clare have advanced to the All-Ireland quarter-finals with a deserved seven point win over Wexford.
Venue: MW Hire O’Moore Park, Portlaoise
Tony Kelly’s display has almost certainly secured his second All Star, the Ballyea man registered ten points in the opening half and 1-05 in the second. In three championship games, he now has 1-46 scored.
Minutes before the throw-in, Brian Lohan and his management were forced to replace Aron Shanagher with David Fitzgerald while confirmation emerged from the Wexford camp that joint captain Lee Chin had failed a fitness test on Saturday morning.
Although they boasted a ten point advantage at half-time, it was their second quarter that built this foundation with the sides evenly matched for the first eleven minutes. This spell created an arm’s length cushion, one that Wexford were never able to recover from.
Kelly was first to register a score on three minutes from a placed ball but it was three sublime individual efforts that earned him deserved plaudits. The hard-working Cathal Malone and Colin Guilfoyle also raised white flags with Jason McCarthy pointing from a turned over Wexford puckout with twenty nine minutes on the clock.
Wexford failed to properly threaten their counterparts in the first half. Mark Fanning pulled off saves to deny Colin Guilfoyle and Ryan Taylor in the opening half but the Model County did not put a single shot on Eibhear Quilligan, indeed it would take them until the forty eighth minute to do so with a Rory O’Connor shot easily controlled by the Feakle shotstopper.
Points from Conor McDonald and Paudie Foley helped last year’s Leinster champions out of the traps but they would fail to score for the next thirteen minutes until Rory O’Connor added his first on the nineteenth minute mark, they did not score for the remainder of the half. All the while, the men in Saffron and Blue kept the scoreboard ticking mainly via the prolific Kelly who contributed five of the final six scores in the opening half.
Diarmuid Ryan pointed immediately upon his introduction as the second half commenced, as Wexford were beginning to reduce the gap with four points without reply, Clare stepped up via Kelly and McCarthy.
Shane O’Donnell sent Kelly on his way for the only goal of the game on fifty five minutes with a composed finish leaving Mark Fanning with no chance. Four points followed from the Banner as Wexford brought in Lee Chin but even his introduction was not sufficient, despite hitting six points in the final twenty minutes, it was not enough to stop Clare.
Leaders were lacking for Wexford in what is a successive below par display from Davy Fitzgerald’s men. Seen as All-Ireland contenders at the beginning of the campaign, the manner in which events have transpired have resulted in a complete flop for 2020.
For Clare, there was no shortage of players to step up, chief among them was the outstanding Kelly while Rory Hayes, Shane O’Donnell and Patrick O’Connor were others to set the tone for Brian Lohan’s men. Indeed, the win will go down as a highlight in the managerial career of the Shannon men. Supply of ball to the forward line is an area to work on for the Banner but to have advanced to the quarter-finals has certainly upset the odds.
Scorers for Clare: T Kelly (1-15, 0-8 frees, 1 65); J McCarthy (0-2); C Malone, C Guilfoyle, D Ryan, D Fitzgerald (0-1 each).
Scorers for Wexford: P Morris (0-6, 5 frees); S Murphy, P Foley (free) (0-3 each); R O’Connor (0-2); C McDonald, D Dunne, K Foley (0-1 each).
1: Eibhear Quilligan (Feakle)
2: Rory Hayes (Wolfe Tones)
3: Conor Cleary (St Josephs Miltown)
7: Seadna Morey (Sixmilebridge)
5: Stephen O’Halloran (Clarecastle)
6: Aidan McCarthy (Inagh/Kilnamona)
19: Patrick O’Connor (Tubber)
23: Jason McCarthy (Inagh/Kilnamona)
9: Tony Kelly (Ballyea)
10: Cathal Malone (Sixmilebridge)
18: David Fitzgerald (Inagh/Kilnamona)
11: David Reidy (Éire Óg)
13: Shane O’Donnell (Éire Óg)
12: Colin Guilfoyle (Newmarket-on-Fergus)
15: Ryan Taylor (Clooney/Quin)
17: Diarmuid Ryan (Cratloe) for Guilfoyle (HT)
24: Paidi Fitzpatrick (Sixmilebridge) for J McCarthy (59)
20: Aaron Cunningham (Wolfe Tones) for Reidy (67)
22: Cathal McInerney (Cratloe) for Taylor (73)
1: Mark Fanning (Glynn-Barntown)
2: Simon Donohue (Shelmaliers)
3: Liam Ryan (Rapparees)
4: Joe O’Connor (St Martins)
13: Kevin Foley (Rapparees)
7: Shaun Murphy (Oulart the Ballagh)
8: Diarmuid O’Keeffe (St Annes)
5: Paudie Foley (Crossabeg-Ballymurn)
6: Matthew O’Hanlon (St James)
12: Aidan Nolan (Halfway-House Bunclody)
10: Liam Óg McGovern (St Anne’s)
14: Conor McDonald (Naomh Éanna)
15: Paul Morris (Ferns St Aidans)
23: Jack O’Connor (St Martin’s)
11: Rory O’Connor (St Martin’s)
17: Damien Reck (Olyegate-Glenbrien) for Donohue (38)
9: Lee Chin (Faythe Harriers) for Jack O’Connor (56)
22: Mikie Dwyer (St Mogue’s Fethard) for McGovern (57)
21: David Dunne (Davidstown-Courtnacuddy) for A Nolan (61)
18: Shane Reck ( Olyegate-Glenbrien) for Joe O’Connor (64)
Referee: Liam Gordon (Galway)