Waterford 1-17 Clare 0-8
WHAT a difference five days makes. On Tuesday of last week, Clare hurling followers left Borrisoleigh in upbeat mood after watching a new-look Banner outfit beat a strong Tipperary side in the quarter-final of the Waterford Crystal tournament.
Last Sunday, a smaller number of Clare supporters left Ballyduff Upper in Waterford disappointed after seeing a side that included many of the same players comprehensively beaten by Waterford. On this occasion, Clare were outplayed in almost every department by a physically stronger and much sharper Waterford side and there will have to be a huge improvement if the Banner men are to reverse this result come June 7, when the sides clash in the Munster championship in Thurles.
The fact that these counties will meet in the provincial semi-final, added to Davy Fitzgerald’s role as Waterford boss, ensured that there would be a lot of interest in this fixture, which attracted an attendance of over 1,500 to the picturesque Waterford venue.
Clare made four changes in personnel from the side that accounted for Tipperary five days earlier. Donal Tuohy, Gerry Quinn, Diarmuid McMahon and John Cusack were in the starting line-up on Sunday in place of Philip Brennan, Domhnall O’Donovan, Fergal Lynch and John Conlon.
Clare supporters who made the journey for Sunday’s tie did so in a confident mood but from an early stage, it was evident that Waterford were the stronger side. They quickly raced into a three-point lead and this was still the margin at the end of the first quarter, when the score stood at 0-6 to 0-3.
The next 10 minutes belonged to Waterford and during that time they stretched their lead to eight points, as they hit 1-2 without reply. The goal came from a 20m free, which Eoin Kelly blasted to the corner of the net nine minutes from the half-time whistle.
The visitors pulled back two points before the break and they should have had a goal just before referee John Sexton signalled for the interval but Killaloe man John Cusack’s effort went across the goal and wide after he had been put through by Aonghus O’Brien.
It’s an indication of how poor the Clare attack did in this tie that the management had replaced three of the front six before the start of the second half. David Barrett came in for Michael Scanlan before the end of the opening period while Cormac O’Donovan and Barry Nugent came out for the second half in place of Aonghus O’Brien and John Cusack.
Two points in the space of a minute from Nugent suggested that a rally was on the way for the Clare men, who found themselves with an extra man two minutes into this half after Eoin McGrath was shown a red card following a tackle on Alan Brigdale, which left the Crusheen man needing attention.
The sending off, however, only served to motivate Waterford, who stepped up a gear and from here to the finish. They played as if they were the team with a numerical advantage. Clare only managed one more score and this came from a long-range free by Michael Hawes as Waterford dominated the play, with centre-back Michael Walsh directing operations.
The Déise outfit could have had a greater winning margin, having had an Eoin McGrath goal disallowed shortly before the end of the first half.
Walsh was outstanding for the winners and others to impress were his flankers Declan Prendergast and Jamie Nagle, James Murray, Shane Walsh, Gary Hurney in the first half and top scorer Maurice Shanahan.
Cian Dillon struggled against big Gary Hurney in the opening quarter but the Crusheen man came more into the game after this and he did well in the second half. Team captain Brian O’Connell battled hard throughout while goalie Donal Tuohy could not be faulted for the winners’ goal.
Elsewhere, Clare struggled in all areas and manager Ger O’Loughlin and his fellow selectors will have plenty to work on in the coming weeks as they prepare for their next competitive outing, which will be against Down in the opening round of the National league (Division 2) on February 21.
Waterford: Clinton Hennessy; Jerome Meagher, Liam Lawlor, Mark O’Brien; Declan Prendergast, Michael Walsh, Jamie Nagle; Eoin Kelly, James Murray; Shane Walsh, Kevin Moran, Maurice Shanahan; Eoin McGrath, Gary Hurney, Thomas Ryan.
Subs: Owen Whelan for Ryan (52 minutes); Martin O’Neill for Hurney (56 minutes); Nicky Jacob for Shanahan (59 minutes).
Scorers: Maurice Shanahan (0-7), four frees; Eoin Kelly (1-1), 1-0 free; Gary Hurney, Shane Walsh (0-3); James Murray, Kevin Moran, Thomas Ryan (0-1).
Frees: 14; Wides: 8
Bookings: Shane Walsh (46 minutes)
Red card: Eoin McGrath (32 minutes)
Clare: Donal Tuohy; Pat Vaughan, Cian Dillon, Alan Brigdale; Pat Donnellan, Brian O’Connell, Gerry Quinn; Martin ‘Ogie’ Murphy, Jonathon Clancy; Aonghus O’Brien, Michael Scanlan, Alan Markham; Mark Flaherty, Diarmuid McMahon, John Cusack.
Subs: David Barrett for Scanlan (28 minutes); Cormac O’Donovan for O’Brien (half-time); Barry Nugent for Cusack (half-time); Fergal Lynch for Clancy (44 minutes); Michael Hawes for Quinn (47 minutes).
Scorers: Mark Flaherty (0-3), two frees; Barry Nugent (0-2); Pat Donnellan 0-1, one free; Michael Hawes 0-1, one free, Diarmuid McMahon, 0-1.
Frees: 12; Wides: 10
Bookings: Alan Brigdale (18 minutes); Gerry Quinn (46 minutes); Fergal Lynch (57 minutes)
Referee: John Sexton, Cork
Much to learn from defeat, says Doyle
Clare selector Liam Doyle believes “there are times when you can learn more in defeat than you can in victory” and the Bodyke man is clearly hoping last Sunday was one such day.
The outstanding wing-back from the All-Ireland winning teams of 1995 and 1997 didn’t hide his disappointment after watching Clare go down to Waterford at Ballyduff Upper on Sunday.
“Obviously, we are disappointed with a lot of aspects of today’s game. They were fitter and sharper and they covered a lot more ground than our fellas. Our first touch was very poor and while I know that we have very little done in terms of hurling training, that performance was disappointing. That was true of our performance all over the field,” he said.
According to the former All-Star, “When you line out in any game, you like to win. We have had three games in the Waterford Crystal tournament this year.
“We learned something from each of the first two and, as I said, we probably learned more today about certain players. These games have given us an opportunity to try out players in competitive outings and see how they will perform in the cut and thrust of competition.
“The upcoming league is important and we will be looking to a good run in that competition.”
Will Sunday’s game have any bearing on the June 7 championship meeting of the counties?
“Obviously, the June meeting will be a huge day for both teams and our level of performance will have to be one hundred times better if we are to reverse this result,” he said.
Meanwhile, Waterford manager, Doyle’s former Clare team-mate Davy Fitzgerald, was adamant that Sunday’s game will have no bearing on the championship tie.
“I am not one bit fooled by that result today. This was not a patch on the Clare performance of last Tuesday night. I watched Clare play that game and I watched Sparrow on the line.
“Today, he hardly moved or said a word to them whereas he was all over the place on Tuesday night. They were much more vicious in their approach in that game. A game would have been good for both of us today.
“We were both missing a lot of players. I know that there are serious hurlers and serious fighters in Clare and I know that we are going to face a big contest in June, a contest that will be decided by a point either way.
“I have no illusions about that and I have left the lads (Waterford team) with no illusions as to what the story is,” the Sixmilebridge man said after seeing his charges progress to a meeting with UCC in the final, which will be played in Dungarvan this Sunday.
His Clare counterpart, Ger O’Loughlin, had a different view, however. “The evidence today shows that we have a lot of work to do.”