Clare 0-27 Wexford 1-17
The general trend of their respective seasons was maintained by Clare and Wexford in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday. The first of the All-Ireland quarter-finals went the way of Clare but it took a surprising amount of time before they tidied away the whole contest.
Without ever looking like they were going to win, Wexford had managed to cut the deficit to three by the 67th minute but in keeping with the drift of a frustrating afternoon they couldn't maintain the pressure on Clare, who skated away with a run of four unanswered points, from Shane O'Donnell, Ian Galvin, John Conlon and Conor McGrath to close out the match.
This was a decent display by the winners, racking up a useful 27 points, after the desperate disappointment of the Munster final defeat by Cork.
The margin of victory might have been fluid up until the end but they got good performances from players around the field. In attack they looked buoyant no matter that Liam Ryan gave a battling display in marking the in-form Conlon, who still managed 0-3 from play including a couple of scores that typified his perseverance under pressure.
Tony Kelly had another of his curious contributions this season: irresistible for one half, with 0-4 in the opening 35 minutes, and not so much for the other. Paudie Foley was given the task of marking him but struggled and it appeared to impact also on his regularly impeccable long-distance free taking, which yielded nothing more than three wides.
For Clare there was real encouragement in the ramped-up displays of Podge Collins and in particular, Shane O'Donnell, whose whirlwind energies were more focused and left him with a handy four-point haul from play. Peter Duggan's free-taking was also rehabilitated after the blips of the Munster final.
Wexford trailed for essentially – they led by a point early on – the whole match. Manager David Fitzgerald was gracious afterwards, accepting that the better side won although, when wishing his former charges well, he gently flew the flag for the short-game style he had employed to take Clare to an All-Ireland.
Assisted by the breeze Clare had been lively and all of the forwards had got on the scoreboard by half-time, fall except Duggan from play.
From a Clare perspective they could take the positives of that more inventive attack, a career-best display by centrefielder Cathal Malone and a calmly authoritative defensive display in which David McInerney efficiently played the role of extra man.
The winners were helped though by the caution of Wexford in committing so hesitantly to attack. When they staged the mini-revival in the last quarter – their best forward Conor McDonald finishing smartly in the 59th minute – it indicated that an aerial assault might bear dividends.
McDonald and Lee Chin caused problems and at one point just after the goal Liam Óg McGovern was in for a shot well saved by Donal Tuohy and the follow-up by Damien Reck was also blocked.
But Wexford's would-be revival foundered on familiar rocks; the reluctance to reconfigure the sweeper system with Shaun Murphy staying back and press man-for-man and some terrible shot selection with consequent inaccuracies – they accumulated 10 wides in the second half.
The downbeat mood prevalent in the two counties, who had each experienced gloomy conclusions to their provincial campaigns, was reflected in a notably poor attendance of 10,225, despite what was a beautiful afternoon. It also raised questions about the scheduling.
Clare are up and running again and heading for an All-Ireland semi-final and Croke Park, a venue they like and which they haven’t played in since winning the title five years ago. The jury remains out to an extent in that they never under sustained pressure on Saturday and certainly not of the type they can expect from champions Galway.
A late, straight red card for Rory O’Connor after an off-the-ball incident caused some alarm for Wexford with an U-21 championship match against Cork in the offing but he is believed to be in the clear, as any suspension is likely to be championship and grade specific.
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, 5. Paudie Foley, 6. Matt O'Hanlon (joint-capt); 11. Aidan Nolan, 8. Kevin Foley; 13. David Dunne, 14. Lee Chin (joint-capt), 15. Conor McDonald (0-3); 10. Rory O'Connor (0-10, eight 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).