By Michael O Connor.
One of the most creative displays of hurling by a county Intermediate side in living memory was constructed and displayed in glorious reality for Clare supporters in Thurles as Waterford were blown away after a promising first ten minutes that saw two goals piercing the Clare rearguard.
A blooding process for Clare with an eye at the under 21 championship tie versus Waterford away in the intervening month. 10 of the Clare starting side and 12 of the Waterford side would be thinking deeply of the under 21 clash with a number of the Clare side also involved with the training panel of the senior squad when required. Conditions were superb as usual at Semple stadium for the curtain raiser to the main event. Expectation of a sizable attendance for the two events were firmly squashed by the start of the Intermediate game with barely a trickle in for commencement of the action.
Shane McGrath had Clare's opening scoring chance but from a free sent the ball well wide as Colin Crehan got the game's first score in the 2nd minute before Waterford DJ Foran equalised soon after. David Gartland from a free and DJ Foran with his second point left Waterford 3-1 up after 6 minutes as Clare missed a goal chance when Danny Russell's effort was sent wide under pressure. Clare were under the cosh and this pressure intensified moments later as Foran grabbed a goal after a long range free was sent in. David Gartland added a second free and even at this interval Clare appeared leaderless and only Oisin Donnellan with a 9th minute wide relieved the pressure for half a minute. Andy Molumby was clear and pointed for Waterford in the 10th minute and now the decies led (1-5) to (0-1). Ryan Taylor won a free that was sent over by McGrath moments after the Feakle man had converted another free as Clare had appeared to settle into the game after the error strewn opening quarter. Danny Russell narrowed the deficit to four with a well taken effort in the 15th minute,. Clare were right back in the game following a third McGrath and a well finished goal from Ryan Taylor despite being rugby tackled by Gavin Power that levelled up proceedings.
DJ Foran responded to restore the Waterford lead that collapsed in the space of five minutes but within two minutes Jason McCarthy who was arguably Clare's best first half performers struck over a sweet effort from halfway before Kevin Hehir set up Colin Crehan's who low effort got past Power. Clare were now three clear after being 7 down early in the game. Tommy Waring and Oisin Donnellan who was impressing were exchanged scores (Donnellan required hawkeye) as Clare maintained a three point lead entering the final five minutes. Donnellan and David Conroy with two scores sent Clare clear but once again Waterford got DJ Foran at the end of a ball and he goaled to leave Waterford two clear and the Clare full back line struggling on every high ball sent in by the Decies. Clare finished the better as Shane McGrath once more from a free left Donal Moloney's side (2-10) to (2-7) clear at the interval. After the first ten minutes Clare outscored Waterford (2-9) to (1-1) which was one of the strongest comebacks witnessed by Clare supporters by a Clare side for some time.
DJ Foran who was now being marked by Eoin Quirke received the ball once more from Mark O Brien and pointed before Ryan Taylor was quick off the mark for Clare's opening score of the new half. Scores begin to rain in with regularity but unfortunately for Waterford it was their goalkeeper who was the busiest. Danny Russell, Shane McGrath (2) and Ryan Taylor all hit over minors as Russell who was the oldest on the Clare side dispossessed Gavin Power and goaled for the third Clare goal as Clare now raced (3-15) to (2-9) ahead.
Twenty minutes left to play and Clare appearing in control of their own destiny and a date in the provincial final looming. Waterford did stabilise at the back as Clare could not keep up the scoring rate. Seamus Keating and David Gartland(2) kept Waterford in hope of a late flourish but less than three goals conceded and Clare were home and hosed winners. Colin Crehan, David Gartland, Michael O Malley (2) and Crehan again were on target between the 50th and 55th minute as Clare raced 10 clear. Colin Crehan missed a clear goal opportunity trying to place the ball past Gavin Power instead of hitting with intensity. The last score of the game that trundled to the obvious result fell to Rory Hayes as Clare now moved on to the munster final.
Best for Clare was my man of the match Jason McCarthy, Aidan McGuane, Kevin Hehir, Shane McGrath, Danny Russell, Colin Crehan, Ryan Taylor and Oisin Donnellan. DJ Foran led the line for Waterford but unfortunately from their perspective they faded badly after an enterprising start. Others to hold their hold included David Gartland, Michael Harney and Mark O Brien.
CLARE: Daniel Vaughan, Eoin Quirke, Barry Fitzpatrick, Ciaran Cooney, Jason McCarthy (0-1), Aidan McGuane, Dara Walsh, David Conroy(0-1), Kevin Hehir, Oisin Donnellan (0-2), Shane McGrath (C)(0-5), Darragh Corry, Colin Crehan (1-2), Ryan Taylor (1-3), Danny Russell (1-3). Subs: Rory Hayes (0-1) for Fitzpatrick, Michael O Malley(0-2) for Corry, Michael O Neill for McGrath, Ben O Gorman for Hehir, Shane Gleeson for Donnellan,
WATERFORD: Gavin Power, William Hahessy, Niall Fives, Kieran Bennett, Michael Harney(0-1), Conor Prunty, Billy O Keeffe, Seamus Keating(0-1), Mark O Brien, Andy Molumby(0-1), David Gartland (0-4), Jordan Henley, Peter Hogan, DJ Foran (C) (2-4), Tommy Waring (0-1). Subs: John Paul Lucey for Molumby, Edmond O Halloran for Waring, Dermot Ryan for Fives, Robbie Flynn for Henley, Croistoir Breathnach for Gartland,
Referee: John McCormack (Tipperary)