Wexford’s wave finally breaks to wash away champions
Brave Clare display when down to 13 comes up short on amazing night in Wexford Park
Wexford’s Liam Óg McGovern collides with the knee of Clare’s Jack Browne during the All-Ireland SHC Qualifier Round 1 Replay at Wexford Park. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Clare’s Brendan Bugler is shown a straight red card by referee Johnny Ryan during the All-Ireland SHC Qualifier Round 1 Replay at Wexford Park. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Wexford 2-25 Clare 2-22 (AET)
Wexford deposed All-Ireland champions Clare amidst extraordinary scenes of jubilation in Wexford Park this evening before the venue’s biggest crowd since the 2001 redevelopment.
Having apparently fluffed their lines when holding a two-man advantage over their opponents by the end of normal time, the home side surged in extra time and had the added satisfaction of beating 15 men and doing it the hard way.
A goal at the end of the first half of extra time finished by Harry Kehoe overturned Clare’s apparently growing ascendancy to give Wexford a two-point lead, 2-20 to 2-18, as the match paused before the final 10-minute testing.
Although the champions again caught up, they never regained the lead and with the match poised at 2-22 each, Wexford broke for the line. Jack Guiney, a model of consistency off dead balls, stroked a point from play and followed it with two frees to drive the stake through the champions’ heart.
And what heart they had showed. Clare demonstrated for the first time this summer the stuff of champions when under phenomenal pressure in the last quarter, reduced to 13 men, they sustained themselves on scraps. Never giving up, they always seemed able to eke out another point to keep either in touch or level.
Wexford’s composure evaporated and they failed to set up sufficient attacking positions to put the match away, even though their forwards looked to have the beating of their markers.
At the start both sides played with a sweeper – Clare replicating the switch which had tightened up the defence in the drawn match in Ennis. Replacement Séadna Morey, sent in for captain Patrick Donnellan before the throw-in, dropped back for Clare with Tony Kelly filling in at centrefield.
The first quarter was full of sound and fury, signifying if not quite nothing, little enough on the score board. It concluded with Colin Ryan converting a free to push the champions 0-3 to 0-2 ahead.
Diarmuid O’Keeffe equalised but during the next five minutes Clare made what looked like a decisive move, hitting 1-2 without reply to lead by five while playing against a significant wind.
The goal came from a momentary lapse of concentration by Wexford captain, Matthew O’Hanlon, allowing Darach Honan to peel away and take Colm Galvin’s nicely judged ball in on the square. Honan stepped back inside his marker and finished to the net.
It had followed hot on the heels of points from John Conlon and Tony Kelly and seemingly Clare were set fair. Their game showed improved intensity from the drawn match and their calm use of possession was in marked contrast to Wexford’s customary compilation of industrial quantities of wides – 11 in the first half.
Conor Ryan was imperious in their half-back line and John Conlon – a sterling display for 1-5 throughout – combined with Honan up front to pose serious questions of Wexford.
But the match lurched as it had a week previously. In a ruck for the ball near the Clare goal, Brendan Bugler gave the butt of his hurl to Conor McDonald and was immediately red carded. Clare got some relief when an apparently good goal by McDonald was ruled out for a square ball but the outcome was now right back in the balance.