Clare jump-start their summer as they punish hesitant Wexford

Fitzgerald’s side brushed off after getting back within touching distance in Cork

Clare’s Tony Kelly is challenged by Aidan Nolan of Wexford. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Clare’s Tony Kelly is challenged by Aidan Nolan of Wexford. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

 Clare 0-27 Wexford 1-17

Clare relaunched their season with a comprehensive win over Wexford in Cork’s Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday.

In what was a merited success after a positive display, Clare racked up an impressive 27 points, but the opposition didn’t help themselves with an overly cautious set-up that helped to drain the possibility from a late comeback. Wexford had trimmed the margin to three points before the winners strung together a sequence of scores to move them smoothly out of sight.

Having trailed Clare for more or less the entire match, Wexford got a goal from Conor McDonald in the 59th minute to cut the gap eight to five and the momentum enabled a further reduction to three by the 67th minute.

But rather than attempting the full-court press in attack where McDonald and Lee Chin, who struggled to get into the game, were finally exerting pressure, they remained hesitant and committed to the sweeper despite the system’s obvious defects for a team attempting to chase down a lead.

The glimmer of a chance was there because another goal opportunity arose in the 61st minute when Aidan Nolan’s shot was saved by Donal Tuohy and Jack O’Connor’s follow-up was blocked by McInerney.

The first of the weekend’s two All-Ireland hurling quarter-finals had brought together the two more downbeat counties in the last six, both having reason to brood over their concluding defeats in the provincial championships even though Wexford had an unconvincing win against Westmeath in the interim.

Both had endured much the same disappointment in their last provincial matches, looking mightily impressive in the first half before sliding to demoralising defeats.

Wexford’s Lee Chin after his side’s defeat to Clare in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Photograph: Yommy Dickson/Inpho
Wexford’s Lee Chin after his side’s defeat to Clare in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Photograph: Yommy Dickson/Inpho

With the teams’ campaigns accordingly more in need of a jump-start than a kick-start, it was Clare who managed to clamp their leads on Wexford’s battery and end the afternoon chugging off in the direction of an All-Ireland semi-final against champions Galway.

The low-key mood certainly appeared to affect the supporters with a meagre 10,225 in attendance despite what was a beautiful afternoon by the Lee.

It was a decent rehabilitation for Clare after a bitterly disappointing Munster final defeat. Their forwards were sharper – Shane O’Donnell considerably more so than recently in what was an encouraging return to form – whereas at the back, David McInerney controlled things as the spare man, a luxury that was at times extended by Wexford’s inclination to drop even more than one forward out the field.

In a tactical first half, Wexford played into the wind and for a while looked to be keeping the match within range even though they were being out-gunned with Liam óg McGovern and Rory O’Connor ploughing lonely furrows. This inevitably impacted on their attempts to keep in touch on the scoreboard although O’Connor made all but one of his frees count.

Against this, Clare were far busier and more menacing. By the moment Podge Collins finished off an intricate attack in first-half injury-time all of the forwards had scored and the seven-point lead, 0-16 to 0-7, looked beyond the influence of the breeze.

Tony Kelly was particularly accurate, dropping just one shot short, and scoring four and adding a point but he was assisted by O’Donnell, whose energetic work-rate made him a constant problem. The team’s leading forward this year, John Conlon, would finish with three points but his marker Liam Ryan did well in a number of the tussles but a couple of Conlon’s points were spectacular, one pulled out under the noses of two defenders, hemming him in on the sideline.

Clare’s Peter Duggan carries against Wexford with Kevin Foley in pursuit. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho
Clare’s Peter Duggan carries against Wexford with Kevin Foley in pursuit. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Wexford started the second-half with a couple of encouraging points from Diarmuid O’Keeffe and Chin but when Clare matched that in the following minutes, O’Donnell shrugging off Damian Reck to hit the first, that early momentum stalled.

Clare were winning too many key battles around the pitch for Wexford to find a revival easy to launch. The winners’ forwards were too productive and at centrefield, even though Colm Galvin was quiet, Cathal Malone had his best display of the championship.

Faced by an attack in which only McDonald was thriving – he ended with 1-3 – and lacking a steady supply of worthwhile ball, Clare’s defence was largely in control even when under pressure in the closing phase.

It might have been different if Wexford had utilised their chances more effectively but as well as sitting back too much when they had a bit of momentum, they also exhibited the same poor shot selection and shooting accuracy that had undermined them in the second-half in Nowlan Park in June.

 For all those opposition shortcomings, Clare still showed cool nerves in reacting to the reduction of the lead to three points: O’Donnell, Ian Galvin, Conlon and Conor McGrath saw out the match.

A late, straight red card for Rory O’Connor after an off-the-ball incident caused some alarm for Wexford with an Under-21 championship match against Cork in the offing but he is believed to be in the clear, as only infractions against match officials carry blanket – as opposed to championship- and grade-specific –suspensions.

If the hurling summer has become shorter and sharper with the format changes, the winter will be all the longer down in Wexford, Clare however have a fortnight of possibility before them as they get ready for a first All-Ireland semi-final in five years.

CLARE: 1. Donal Tuohy; 2. Patrick O’Connor (capt.), 3. David McInerney, 4. Jack Browne; 5. Séadna Morey (0-1), 6. Conor Cleary, 7. Jamie Shanahan; 8. Colm Galvin, 9. Cathal Malone (0-1); 10. Peter Duggan (0-7, five frees), 11. Tony Kelly (0-5), 12. David Reidy (0-2); 13. Pádraic Collins (0-2), 14. John Conlon (0-3), 15. Shane O’Donnell (0-4). Subs: 19. David Fitzgerald for Galvin (58 mins), 23. Ian Galvin (0-1) for Reidy (59 mins), 18. Conor McGrath (0-1) for Duggan (67 mins), 24. Michael O’Malley for Malone (72 mins), 17. Rory Hayes for Browne (73 mins).

WEXFORD: 1 Mark Fanning; 2 Damien Reck (0-1), 3 Liam Ryan, 17 Conor Firman; 7 Diarmuid O’Keeffe (0-1), 5 Paudie Foley, 6 Matt O’Hanlon; 11 Aidan Nolan, 8 Kevin Foley; 13 David Dunne, 14 Lee Chin (0-1), 15 Conor McDonald (1-3); 10 Rory O’Connor (0-10, 0-8 frees), 9 Shaun Murphy (0-1), 22 Liam Óg McGovern.

Subs: 12 Jack O’Connor for Nolan (49 mins), 21 Harry Kehoe for K Foley (58 mins), 4 Simon Donohoe for P Foley (61 mins), 18 Willie Devereux for O’Keeffe (66 mins).

Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary).

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