Clare 0-23 Waterford 1-18
WHAT an evening it was in Cusack Park on Wednesday.
The Clare U-21s lifted the spirits of the entire county with a display of epic bravery, skill and pure passion, in front of a crowd of 6,639 people.
Incredibly, they have qualified for the county’s fourth successive final at this level. Inspired by the peerless Bobby Duggan and the equally superb Ian Galvin, Clare stunned Waterford, who were warm favourites.
Duggan hit 0-13, including six sublime points from play, while Galvin produced one of the best individual displays seen in the county grounds, hitting 0-5 from play in a glorious second half effort.
But while Duggan and Galvin put over 0-19 between them, they were surrounded by men who fought like lions for every ball. Without that intensity, added to their general calmness in possession, Clare would not be preparing for a Munster final on July 30. On a perfect evening for hurling they gave their last drop from one to 17, while Clare manager Donal Moloney expended as much energy as any of his players, ceaselessly pounding the sideline on behalf of his county.
Following an industrious opening half, Waterford led 0-11 to 0-10 at half-time. In the opening 20 minutes, Clare were reliant upon Duggan for scores and the Clarecastle man looked very sharp from both play and frees. In fact, he scored all five of Clare’s early points, with Galvin putting over Clare’s sixth in the 20th minute.
Prior to that, Duggan had put over three excellent scores from play, the third after sustained pressure resulted in Micheál Harney losing possession. That point was typical of Clare’s first half display in that their workrate and tackling, high up the field, was impressive. They were simply more up for it than Waterford, who thought it would happen. Clare, however, made it happen.
With Patrick Curran and Austin Gleeson hurling well for Waterford, they looked to have the better individual hurlers but Clare’s collective approach made it difficult for their opponents to exert any control in that opening period.
Along with Duggan and Galvin, Ryan Taylor and Shane Gleeson were the other Clare men to score in that opening half. Curran hit five first half points for Waterford, two from play, while Gleeson hit three from open play. Waterford deployed Tadhg De Búrca in a sweeper’s role and that made it difficult for the Clare full-forward line of Shane O’Donnell, Stephen Ward and Ryan Taylor to find space.
Clare needed to start the second half well and who better than Duggan to step up and fire the opening score from play. Galvin followed soon after, this time set up by Eoin Quirke and Kevin Hehir. Aidan McGuane followed up with a great score to further lift the Clare crowd.
In fact, McGuane typified the approach of this Clare team when he was levelled by Tom Devine by an exceptionally hefty shoulder close to the sideline on the stand side. While the crowd bayed for a free and a card, McGuane hopped up as if nothing had happened.
Thirteen minutes into the second half, Patrick Curran buried a Waterford goal they led 1-14 to 0-16 at that stage. Could Clare keep their nerve?
They responded superbly with Galvin firing over two more from play, followed yet again by Duggan. Three more Duggan pointed frees, followed by Galvin’s last score from play, left Clare three points ahead in injury time.
Waterford needed a goal and when Colin Dunford raced through, the crowd urged any Clare back within sight to pull him down. Eoin Quirke took the yellow, leaving Austin Gleeson to try for an equalising goal, which was beaten away. The last puck was a Waterford 65’ pointed by Stephen Bennett.
Seconds later, referee Johnny Murphy sounded the final whistle and a delirious Clare following went berserk. The second semi-final, Limerick v Tipperary, is on this Thursday night. If Limerick win, Clare will have home advantage in the Munster final, while they will be away to Tipperary if the Premier County prevail.
Incredibly, Clare haven’t lost a game at this level since losing to Limerick in the Munster championship on July 27, 2011.
Only one team has ever won four All-Ireland U-21 hurling titles-in-a-row. Cork did that between 1968 and 1971. While there is a lot of hurling to be played in the interim, if Clare win their next three matches, they will have matched that feat. Whether they pull it off or not, Wednesday evening’s game will stand the test of time.
On a memorable evening for Clare hurling, the performances pulled out by Bobby Duggan and Ian Galvin were heroic, epic and inspirational. That might seem like a bit of an exaggeration but not this time.
As earlier indicated though, they were surrounded by hugely committed team mates and that raw desire to compete honestly for every ball was equally significant. Keith Hogan’s clever puck-outs also played a key role in helping Clare to win primary possession.
There isn’t a Clare person who paid the €10 to attend who wouldn’t have paid double the entry free, such was the exquisite evening’s play they witnessed.
Clare: Keith Hogan (Clooney-Quin); Eoin Quirke (Whitegate), David Fitzgerald (Inagh-Kilnamona), Shane O’Brien (Clonlara); Aidan McGuane (Kilmaley), Conor Cleary (Miltown, captain), Ben O’Gorman (Wolfe Tones); David Conroy (St Joseph’s), Kevin Hehir (Inagh-Kilnamona); Bobby Duggan (Clarecastle), Shane Gleeson (Cratloe), Ian Galvin (Clonlara); Shane O’Donnell (Éire Óg), Stephen Ward (Clarecastle) Ryan Taylor (Clooney-Quin).
Subs: Shane Taylor (Broadford) for Shane Gleeson (38), Niall Deasy (Ballyea) for Kevin Hehir (57).
Scorers: Bobby Duggan (0-13, 0-7f), Ian Galvin (0-6), Eoin Quirke, Aidan McGuane, Shane Gleeson, Ryan Taylor (0-1 each).
Wides: 9 Frees: 10
Yellow card: Ryan Taylor.
Waterford: Jordan Henley; Shane McNulty, Kieran Bennett, Conor Gleeson; Michéal Harney, Tadhg De Búrca, Shane Bennett; Austin Gleeson, Tom Devine; Colin Dunford, Stephen Bennett, DJ Foran; Ryan Donnelly, Patrick Curran, Mikey Kearney.
Subs: Darragh Lyons for Micheál Harney (half-time), Cathal Curran for Ryan Donnelly (40), Seamus Keating for DJ Foran (47).
Scorers: Patrick Curran (1-7, 0-5f), Austin Gleeson (0-5, 0-1, 0-1 65’), Stephen Bennett (0-2, 0-1 65’), Colin Dunford, Mikey Kearney, Ryan Donnelly, DJ Foran (0-1 each).
Wides: 10 Frees: 8
Referee: Johnny Murphy (Limerick)