Clare make hard work of it to finally come out ahead against heartbroken Waterford

Brian Lohan’s side should have won more easily but succession of misses kept Waterford in it until the end

Munster SHC: Clare 4-21 Waterford 2-26

Ultimately, this game arrived at the right answer – but only after Clare made a cryptic crossword out of a simplex. They plundered four goals against Waterford and could have had at least four more. Yet they still had to rely on an umpire guessing in the 75th minute to squeeze out the win.

For Waterford, this was a cruel way to lose. They hung in there through sheer stickability all the way to the end, even though they were only ahead once in the whole afternoon – the first point of the game. They trailed by eight on the half-hour, by five on the hour and were three down in the 72nd minute. But they haunted Clare’s dreams right to the final puck.

That belonged to Mark Rodgers, the Clare centre-forward. A long free from Tony Kelly dropped to the side of the Waterford square and in the ensuing hullabaloo, the ball went out over the sideline. In all truth, nobody had a rashers what had caused it, least of all the umpire at that post. In the end, he plumped for a Clare 65 – correctly as it happened.

Waterford felt aggrieved but it was the right call. Rodgers did his duty and Clare were out the gap. But man oh man, what hard work they made of it. They pucked nine wides in the second half alone, keeping Waterford in a game that ought to have been put away long before the end.


“Yeah, just about getting over the line,” said Brian Lohan afterwards. “We showed a good bit of resilience towards the end and delighted with our lads, delighted to get the result.

“A lot of silly wides and if we got those shots again you’d think that you wouldn’t hit those wides. But you are up against a tough team and fair play to them, they did well and nearly everything they hit went over the bar, so credit to them. But we stuck at it, showed resilience and we got our reward in the end.”

Judged on a curve with some of the other Munster Championship rock operas this summer, this one was light on heavy metal for most of the way. The clashes were not as elemental, the intensity only occasionally got turned up to 11. It was noticeable that both teams slowed down their puck-outs considerably, maybe deciding that the heat of the summer’s day was enough without adding to it.

As a consequence, it really only took a couple of sustained openings of the throttle for Clare to zip off into the clear blue yonder. The first came between the 10th and 15th minute, where they reeled off a succession of fine points to turn a level game into a five-point lead. The second came between the 20th and 26th minute, when their midfield duo, Darragh Lohan and David Fitzgerald, ran in a goal each to go eight points up.

Waterford were pretty unimaginative in reply but hung on to only trail by 2-13 to 0-14 at the break. When they came out and pitched the first two scores after the restart through Shane Bennett and Tadhg De Búrca, the gap was down to a manageable three points.

Clare gave them plenty of help from this point on. Having been reasonably sharp with their shooting throughout the first half, their accuracy went to pieces. They shot five wides in the opening eight minutes of the half. They dropped another one short. Shane O’Donnell put Fitzgerald in the clear for what looked like an easy goal, only for the big midfielder to tip it over the bar.

Stephen Bennett took advantage of a dropped hurley by Conor Cleary at the other end to bang in a goal on 51 minutes, and soon after the game was somehow level, Waterford 1-20 to Clare’s 3-14. Tony Kelly came off the bench to whizz through for what should have been a handy goal soon after but his finish bounced off a post and back off Waterford goalkeeper Shaun O’Brien. It dribbled over the line and Clare were suddenly five clear again.

But Waterford would not go away. Patrick and Pádraig Fitzgerald came off the bench and both swished points with their first touch. Calum Lyons pointed from downtown. With three minutes to go, it was level again.

The drama wasn’t done. What had been a deeply underwhelming encounter had erupted into a barnburner. Peter Duggan landed a monstrous score, Ian Galvin came off the bench to whip two of his own. Waterford needed a miracle – it came in the form of Patrick O’Sullivan getting on a break and drawing a foul from Diarmuid Ryan. Penalty.

Shane Bennett dispatched it, and we were level again, deep in injury-time. Clare came again and found the 65 they needed. They got away with it. Just about.

“We just made a few small errors today,” Davy Fitzgerald said afterwards. I think the character was unreal. We played with unbelievable character. Them boys gave me everything they had today.

“We should have got something out of that game, there is no doubt about it. I’ve played Clare the last few years and we were well beaten. We weren’t beaten today.”

CLARE: Eibhear Quilligan; Adam Hogan, Conor Cleary (0-1), Rory Hayes; Diarmuid Ryan (0-1), John Conlon, Cian Galvin; David Fitzgerald (1-4), Darragh Lohan (1-0); Cathal Malone (0-1), Mark Rodgers (1-3, 0-1 65), Peter Duggan (0-1); Aidan McCarthy (0-5, 0-4f), Shane O’Donnell (0-2), David Reidy (0-1). Subs: Tony Kelly (1-0) for Reidy (49 mins); Seadna Morey for Lohan (57); Conor Leen for Hayes (59); Ian Galvin (0-2) for McCarthy (65).

WATERFORD: Shaun O’Brien; Kieran Bennett (0-1), Mark Fitzgerald, Iarlaith Daly; Ian Kenny (0-1), Tadhg de Búrca (0-2, 0-1f), Calum Lyons (0-1); Darragh Lyons, Jamie Barron (0-1); Jack Prendergast (0-2), Patrick Curran, Michael Kiely; Dessie Hutchinson (0-6, 0-5f), Stephen Bennett (1-2), Kevin Mahony (0-4). Subs: Jack Fagan (0-1) for D Lyons (16 mins); Shane Bennett (1-2, 1-0 pen) for Curran, (32); Conor Ryan for K Bennett (57); Patrick Fitzgerald (0-1) for Kiely (59); Pádraig Fitzgerald (0-2) for Stephen Bennett (65); Peter Hogan for Barron (67).

Referee: Liam Gordon (Galway).

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin

Malachy Clerkin is a sports writer with The Irish Times