Clare 2-25 Wexford 2-25 (after extra time)
Unfancied Wexford put it up to Clare at Cusack Park, Ennis on Saturday and almost pulled off the first sensation of the championship, only to have to settle for a draw after extra-time in front of 12,187 spectators.
The impressive visitors raced into a 2-7 to 0-3 lead by the 16th minute with early goals by Liam Óg McGovern and Conor McDonald. Even though Clare reduced the deficit to five points (2-9 to 0-10) by the break, advantage lay with the Slaneysiders for the second period as Clare were reduced to 14 men in injury-time after Podge Collins received a red card for interfering with the helmet face-guard of opponent David Redmond, in a tussle.
In the second half, Wexford showed no signs of relinquishing their lead and even though Colin Ryan kept Clare in touch with some very valuable frees, plus a number of fine saves by their re-instated keeper Pa Kelly, Wexford probably should have wrapped it up with three minutes remaining.
The in-form McGovern was fouled in possession and the referee awarded a penalty. Leading by 2-17 to 0-20, free-taker Paul Morris elected to take his point and put four between them. The Banner were then awarded a penalty following a foul on Cathal McInerney.
Conor McGrath's shot was stopped on the line by full back Matthew O'Hanlon but in-rushing sub Seádna Morey made no mistake from close range, batting the re-bound to the net. Subsequently, in the dying moments, Clare centre back Conor Ryan grabbed the equaliser, to send this scintillating tie to extra-time (2-18 to 1-21).
Back to the full compliment of 15, with the introduction of Shane Golden, at the beginning of the extra 20 minutes, Clare led at half-time in extra-time (2-22 to 2-21) thanks to a Conor McGrath goal, five minutes in.
After a short break Clare lead by two, thanks to a Tony Kelly effort, before Ian Byrne and Rory Jacob for Wexford, levelled matters once more, with two fine scores. McGrath and Morris exchanged points before McGrath once again put Clare in front with a minute left on the clock. The final action of the afternoon saw Morris shoot over the equaliser, to send the tie to a replay in Wexford Park next weekend.
After the game and when he got the time to catch his breath, Wexford manager Liam Dunne regained his composure as he spoke to the assembled media.
“I suppose 2-25 apiece, would any team deserve a game like that?” he asked. “However, Clare are not All-Ireland champions for nothing and they proved it today. We put them under pressure in the first-half and they were able to respond.”
The former centre back graciously spoke of the sending-off of Clare’s Podge Collins just before half-time, when he said: “I felt sorry for him. I know what it’s like to be sent off but to clip a helmet like that – and I know the referee had to go by the rule-book – but at the same time it’s really harsh on a player like that.”
Referring to Wexford’s opening loss to Dublin, Dunne added: “There were things that went wrong for us that day that were very fixable. When you are getting a commitment from a group of players you can’t ask for anything more and I think the people got value for their money today.”
Clare team-boss Davy Fitzgerald paid tribute to Wexford and their performance after the match.
“I’ve said from day one that Wexford are a serious team. I felt that against Dublin that they had five or six goal chances. They didn’t convert them. They had wides that they missed. They are a decent team.
“The work that Liam Dunne and the boys have done is very good and I’m delighted to see it – it’s great for hurling and fair play to them. But we are going into the Lion’s Den the next day and I can’t wait. I’m looking forward to going down (to Wexford) and looking forward to having a go. They came up to our place today and showed their grit and determination. It’s our turn the next day,” he said.
CLARE: P Kelly; J Browne, D McInerney, C Dillon (0-1); B Bugler, Conor Ryan (0-1), P O'Connor; P Donnellan (capt.), C Galvin; J Conlon, T Kelly (0-4), Colin Ryan (0-12, nine frees, one '65); P Collins, C McInerney (0-2), C McGrath (1-5).
Subs: P Duggan for Donnellan (50 mins), D Honan for Conlon (55 mins), S Morey (1-0) for Galvin (65 mins), Shane Golden (70 mins, extra-time – brought on to make up 15), D O'Halloran for Morey (70 mins, extra-time), S Morey for C McInerney (80 mins), P Flanagan for O'Connor (87 mins).
WEXFORD: M Fanning; L Ryan, M O'Hanlon (capt), K Rossiter; A Shore (0-1), E Moore (0-1, free), C Kenny; L Chin (0-3), D Redmond (0-1); P Morris (0-10, five frees, one penalty pen, one '65), P Doran, H Kehoe; L Óg McGovern (1-4), C McDonald (1-1), R Jacob.
Subs: J Guiney (0-1) for Jacob (30 mins), G Sinnott for Kehoe (half-time), D O'Keeffe (0-1) for Redmond (44 mins), PJ Nolan for Doran (47 mins), R Kehoe for Shore (63 mins), I Byrne (0-1) for McDonald (70 mins, extra-time), W Devereux for Rossiter (80 mins), R Jacob (0-1) for Sinnnott (83 mins), C Devitt for Chin (87 mins).
Referee: C McAllister (Cork).