Clare 1-17 Tipperary 2-10
ALL the predictions were for a close contest, with opinions divided as to who would be ahead at the end of the 60 minutes.
When the final whistle sounded at Semple Stadium in Thurles on Wednesday, Clare were deservingly ahead by four points, after a most impressive performance, to retain the Munster U-21 hurling title.
The only disappointing note on the night was the sending off of Seadna Morey on a second yellow card with just a minute remaining. It was a harsh booking at the end of a marvellous Clare performance.
Sharper, fitter and in control throughout the pitch, they would not have been flattered by a bigger margin, such was their dominance.
A further reason for celebration by the Clare fans in the attendance of 8,296 was the awarding of the man of the match accolade to full-back David McInerney, who was outstanding throughout.
This was the 26th meeting of the counties at this level since the championship was introduced to the GAA calendar in 1964.
Going into the latest meeting, the Premier County had 19 wins to their credit, with just one draw. A little fortunate in some people’s eyes to have won last year’s final between the teams in Ennis, there was certainly no doubting the merit of the Banner side’s victory on this occasion. They ruled matters everywhere from start to finish. Tipperary’s second goal, from a Jason Forde penalty in the final minute, gave a rather flattering look to the final scoreline.
The win has earned Clare an All-Ireland semi-final date with neighbours Galway on Saturday, August 24 but before that there is the matter of an All-Ireland senior semi-final date with Limerick, which will involve the majority of these players.
Clare made one change in personnel from the side that beat Waterford in the semi-final. Éire Óg’s Davy O’Halloran replaced Daire Keane in attack. O’Halloran came in at corner-forward releasing clubmate Shane O’Donnell for duty at wing-forward, which meant Aaron Cunningham lined out at full-forward
From an early stage Clare were in control. On top in most sectors, the defence was dominant, which is reflected in the fact the home side failed to get a single score from play in the first half.
At the other end of the field, the movement of the Clare forwards caused huge problems for their opponents with Cathal O’Connell, in particular, making life difficult for Tipperary.
Jason Forde put the Premier outfit ahead twice from frees but O’Connell and Aaron Cunningham replied each time, before O’Connell put the holders into the lead with seven minutes played.
Clare had edged two points ahead by the end of the first quarter and stretched it to five points when Peter Duggan found the net following a long-range free from Alan O’Neill. This helped Clare to lead at the interval 1-9 to 0-6.
There was no let up when the second half resumed and while Tipperary matched the champions point-for-point in the opening ten minutes, the Banner men were still dictating matters. It was 1-14 to 0-9 as the third quarter drew to a close.
Jason Forde gave Tipperary hope when he broke through to find the net but Clare responded with two excellent points from Podge Collins and Aaron Cunningham to be seven clear with ten minutes remaining.
To their credit Tipperary, who by now had made a number of changes, continued to pile on the pressure but there was no way past the powerful Clare defence, in which McInerney was magnificent at full-back and team captain Paul Flanagan also excelling.
The Colm Galvin/Tony Kelly midfield partnership turned in another excellent performance, dominating throughout while, up front, Cathal O’Connell and Podge Collins led the way.
Clare: Ronan Taaffe (Tubber); Paul Flanagan (Ballyea), David McInerney (Tulla), Jack Borwne (Ballyea); Seadna Morey (Sixmilebridge), Alan O’Neill (St Joseph’s), Stephen O’Halloran (Clarecastle); Colm Galvin (Clonlara), Tony Kelly (Ballyea); Peter Duggan (Clooney-Quin), Podge Collins (Cratloe), Shane O’Donnell (Éire Óg); Davy O’Halloran (Éire Óg), Aaron Cunningham (Wolfe Tones), Cathal O’Connell (Clonlara),
Subs: Jamie Shanahan (Sixmilebridge) for D O’Halloran (54 minutes); Cathal Malone (Ennistymon) for Duggan (55 minutes); Niall Arthur (Inagh-Kilnamona) for Cunningham (60 minutes).
Scorers: Cathal O’Connell (0-8 0-6f), Peter Duggan (1-0), Colm Galvin, Tony Kelly, Podge Collins and Aaron Cunningham (0-2 each), Shane O’Donnell (0-1).
Frees: 15; Wides: 10
Bookings: Seadna Morey (20 minutes and 59 minutes); Aaron Cunningham (50 minutes).
Sent off: Seadna Morey (59 minutes).
Tipperary: Daragh Mooney; Michael Breen, Andrew Rya, Cathal Barrett; Joe O’Dwyer, Tomas Hamill, Seamus Kennedy; Justin Cahill, Brian Stapleton; Jason Forde, Niall O’Meara, Tommy Heffernan; Liam McGrath, Bill Walsh, Aidan McCormack.
Subs: John McGrath for Heffernan (27 minutes); Colin O’Riordan for Cahill (35 minutes); Tadhg Gallagher for Walsh (42 minutes); John Meagher for B Stapleton (48 minutes); Michael O’Brien for A McCormack (56 minutes).
Bookings: Justin Cahill (19 minutes); John McGrath (48 minutes).
Scorers: Jason Forde (2-7 (1-0 pen, 0-6f, 0-1 65’), Liam McGrath (0-2, 0-1f), Niall O’Meara (0-1).
Frees: 20; Wides: 8
Referee: Shane Hourigan, Limerick.
WEDNESDAY’S U-21 win will pose further headaches for Clare GAA in relation to finding dates for the domestic championships.
The U-21s have been installed as favourites to retain the All-Ireland title and with a semi-final scheduled for August 24 and the final set for September 15, it is difficult to see where the domestic fixtures will be slotted in, particularly if the senior hurlers advance to the All-Ireland final.