Clareboss Ger O’Loughlin was torn between feelings of immense pride and bitter disappointment after watching his young team battle gamely before losing by four points to Waterford on Sunday. In the end, pride won out.
O’Loughlin’s team included seven debutants and many of the team that won the Bord Gais Energy All Ireland U21 title last year. They led at half-time and but for some wayward shooting and a poor finish might have earned a place in the Munster final.
"My initial feeling is one of fierce disappointment. The thing was we came down as underdogs but we gave it everything I’m disappointed that, on another day, we might just have got over the line,” said O’Loughlin.
"We gave away some soft scores in the last 15 minutes and there were one or two frees, a bit dubious. That’s the way the game goes but we’ll take an awful lot of heart out of it.
“We introduced an awful lot of new lads this year and they did us proud today. Moral defeats aren’t much good to us really. They gave everything. We’ll go away very disappointed but I think that down the road that game will bring a lot of maturity to the team."
Leaving Thurles on Monday, the perceived wisdom was that the Banner had been undone by the pace of the game in the second half, when Waterford battled back gamely in the closing stages to steal the win.
Clare spent the spring months hurling in Division 2 of the Allianz GAA Hurling National League and the lack of competition at that intensity and speed may have worked against them, although O’Loughlin was keen to play down its relevance.
"I don’t know, we are where we are in Clare in Division Two hurling. I can’t really comment on it. I don’t think it affected us out there now on today’s display. We’ve upped the intensity of the hurling ourselves,” he added.
"We’ve played Division One teams over the last month or so, so we knew the pace of the game. If anything we were probably fitter than Waterford were but we gave them some awful soft scores."