All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Round 1 Qualifier
Clare 2-25 Wexford 2-22
AS the championship heated up so did Clare after completing a hat-trick of championship knock-out victories over Wexford since 2018 in Semple Stadium, Thurles this afternoon, reports Eoin Brennan.
It was a testament to all 40 players for providing such entertainment amidst a veritable sauna as Clare passed a true test of character with flying colours after feigning off an inevitable Wexford backlash.
Davy Fitzgerald’s side had previously exited the championship at the hands of the Banner in two of the last three campaigns but far from being a motivational tool, they appeared to be suffering sunstroke in the opening quarter as a sharper Clare completely dominated proceedings with 1-7 without reply in just eleven minutes.
The goal arrived in the ninth minute through the tireless Cathal Malone who made an excellent burst to finish to the roof of Mark Fanning’s net on their way to a 1-9 to 0-3 advantage by the water break.
That cushion would actually be stretched to eleven by the 20th minute after Aron Shanagher and Aidan McCarthy resumed with points. Not even a Diarmuid O’Keeffe opportunist goal could dampen Clare’s buoyancy as Ryan Taylor, Shanagher and Tony Kelly restored a ten point lead by the 30th minute.
A patient Wexford did finally gather pace either side of the half-time break with eight points without reply to slash the arrears to just two by the 40th minute at 1-15 to 1-13.
Clare inspirationally hit back with four of their own through Kelly (2), McCarthy and the lively David Reidy. However, smelling blood, Wexford would keep pace with the leaders for the remainder which would provide a tense grandstand finish.
With both sides visibly tiring, the benches were emptied with Clare receiving the better boost as Mark Rodgers grabbed a brace while Gary Cooney scored the clinching goal in the 71st minute after steering Tony Kelly’s delivery past Mark Fanning.
It was the ultimate sucker-punch for Wexford having been previously denied a breakthrough of their own when David McInerney make a vital interception to deny Lee Chin, John Conlon blocked a Conor McDonald effort while goalkeeper Eibhear Quilligan repelled a Chin 20 metre free.
Wexford did finally breach Clare’s last line through Chin but only after another superb Quilligan stop, this time from Conor McDonald. However, it was immediately followed by the final whistle as Clare deservedly advanced to next weekend’s last eight qualifier, with their opponents to be realising on Monday morning when the Round 2 draw is made.
Clare: Eibhear Quilligan (Feakle); Paul Flanagan (Ballyea), Conor Cleary (St Joseph’s Miltown), Rory Hayes (Wolfe Tones); Diarmuid Ryan (Cratloe), John Conlon (Clonlara) (Captain), Paidi Fitzpatrick (Sixmilebridge); Colm Galvin (Clonlara), Tony Kelly (Ballyea); Cathal Malone (Sixmilebridge), David Reidy (Éire Óg), Ryan Taylor (Clooney-Quin); Aron Shanagher (Wolfe Tones), Aidan McCarthy (Inagh-Kilnamona), Ian Galvin (Clonlara)
Subs: David McInerney (Tulla) for Fitzpatrick (HT), Mark Rodgers (Scariff) for I. Galvin (48, inj), Jack Browne (Ballyea) for C. Galvin (55), Aaron Fitzgerald (Éire Óg) for Conlon (65), Gary Cooney (O’Callaghan’s Mills) for Shanagher (70)
Scorers: Tony Kelly (0-9, 7f); Cathal Malone (1-1); Aidan McCarthy, David Reidy, Ryan Taylor (0-3 each); Gary Cooney (1-0); Aron Shanagher, Mark Rodgers (0-2 each); Diarmuid Ryan, Rory Hayes (0-1 each)
Wexford: Mark Fanning (Glynn-Barntown); Gavin Bailey (Ferns St Aidan’s), Liam Ryan (Raparees), Matthew O’Hanlon (St James’); Joe O’Connor (St Martin’s), Simon Donohoe (Shelmaliers), Liam Óg McGovern (St Anne’s); Shane Reck (Oylegate-Glenbrien), Diarmuid O’Keeffe (St Anne’s); Paul Morris (Ferns St Aidan’s), Lee Chin (Faythe Harriers), Rory O’Connor (St Martin’s); Cathal Dunbar (Naomh Eanna), Conor McDonald (Naomh Eanna), Kevin Foley (Rapparees)
Subs: Damien Reck (Oylegate-Glenbrien) for J. O’Connor (46), Jack O’Connor (St Martin’s) for McGovern (47), Aidan Nolan (Halfway House Bunclody) for Morris (53), Connal Flood (Cloughbawn) for Bailey (58), Mikie Dwyer (St Mogue’s Fethard) for O’Keeffe (66)
Scorers: Lee Chin (1-12, 9f, 1’65); Cathal Dunbar (0-5); Diarmuid O’Keeffe (1-0); Conor McDonald, Rory O’Connor (0-2 each); Liam Óg McGovern (0-1)
Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary)