Clare withstand late rally as Wexford come up just short again

Brian Lohan’s side build a big lead and just hold onto it in Semple Stadium qualifier

Clare’s Mark Rodgers shoots under pressure from Liam Ryan of Wexford. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Clare’s Mark Rodgers shoots under pressure from Liam Ryan of Wexford. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

Clare 2-25 Wexford 2-22

The refusal of either side to lie down led to a real classic before Clare, having withstood a late Wexford surge, eventually emerged with a three-point victory in this thrilling All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Qualifier at Semple Stadium, Thurles, on Saturday afternoon.

The explanation for this classic is quite simple. Clare stormed out of the blocks building up a 10-point, 1-10 to 0-3, lead by the 20th minute, and this after Wexford had taken the lead through a Conor McDonald point inside 30 seconds.

Such was the exhilarating hurling of Clare through this opening spell, the brfeakneck speed of their hurling, a tremendous Cathal Malone finish for a goal after just nine minutes, that there seemed no way back for Wexford, who were fresh off the back of the heartbreak of a provincial semi-final defeat to Kilkenny.

Wexford’s high octane running game was in real difficulty during this spell, but a breaking ball picked up by Diarmuid O’Keeffe, who cut through the defence before finishing splendidly to the net, lifted his side’s spirits. They began to storm back at their arch Munster rivals, who had defeated them in their previous two championship meetings.

Brian Lohan's men hit the ground running enjoying a scorching start in the sweltering heat, setting up a lead they would never subsequently surrender despite the best efforts of Wexford and a surging finish that once again fell short.

Afterwards, Lohan hailed his side’s application: “There was a great desire and application shown by our lads in tough conditions.

“No one really wants to be in a first-round qualifier in Thurles on Munster final weekend, but that’s what it was and we’re happy to win the game. The quality on both sides is really good.

“I know Limerick are a bit ahead of everyone else but there’s so much quality and the standard is so high, the professionalism of all the teams is so good you are never going to dominate a game. We were delighted with the start but knew the game wasn’t over, there was still so much to play for.

“We’ll now look forward to the next round and hope to build on this victory.”

Indeed Wexford must once again settle for the bridesmaid tag, but they will be remembered having lost out in an enthralling game, similar to their provincial defeat to Kilkenny.

And boss Davy Fitzgerald was left to rue his sides slow start: “The gave it 110 per cent but we just didn’t turn up for the first 10 to 15 minutes. It was a big lead we gave away but we clawed it back, while we also probably gave away a soft goal towards the end.

“We were sitting off our men too much, we were waiting on things to happen and it wasn’t happening.

“It was nip and tuck there in the second-half for a long while, we got it back to one or two quickly, and there were one or two big decisions in the second-half that might have gone against us a small bit. I don’t know if they won the game but they are big decisions.

“I’ve seen frees and stuff given for less but in fairness I thought the referee had a decent game,probably bar that one penalty shout. I felt he might have got that wrong but that’s just my opinion.”

Conor McDonald pointed Wexford in front in the opening minute, the only time they led in the game. Clare’s David Reidy, Tony Kelly and Diarmuid Ryan were soon on target, followed by a ninth minute goal from Cathal Malone with an emphatic finish, which left them leading 1-9 to 0-3 at the first water break.

Wexford managed to play themselves more into the game helped by an opportunist 22nd minute Diarmuid O’Keeffe goal, but it was Aaron Shanagher and Tony Kelly points, along with efforts from Reidy and Ryan Taylor that helped the Banner County lead 1-15 to 1-5 on the half-hour mark.

Cathal Dunbar and Lee Chin with superb points hauled Wexford back into contention reducing the deficit to 1-15 to 1-10 at the interval.

Wexford resumed with unanswered points from Conor McDonald, Rory O’Connor and Liam Og McGovern to reduce the deficit to just two, 1-15 to 1-13 by the 40th minute.

Tony Kelly ended Clare’s 12-minute barren spell and extended their lead to six points, but at the opposite end desperate defending denied Conor McDonald and Chin as both David McInerney and John Conlon got in tremendous tackles to keep their goal intact.

Clare secured their passage through sub Gary Cooney who flicked a Tony Kelly lob past advancing keeper Mark Fanning, but Wexford eventually got the goal they craved for so long when Chin latched onto a breaking ball to find the net.

But it came too late, leaving Clare relieved to hear the final whistle.

Clare: Eibhear Quilligan; Paul Flanaghan, Conor Cleary, Rory Hayes (0-1); Diarmuid Ryan (0-1), John Conlon, Paidi Fitzpatrick; Colm Galvin, Tony Kelly (0-7, seven frees); Cathal Malone (1-1), David Reidy (0-3), Ryan Taylor (0-3); Aaron Shanagher (0-2), Aidan McCarthy (0-3), Ian Galvin. Subs: David McInerney for Fitzpatrick (half-time), Mark Rodgers (0-2) for I Galvin (48 mins), Jack Browne for C Galvin (55), Aaron Fitzgerald for Conlon (65), Gary Cooney (1-0) for Shanagher (70).

Wexford: Mark Fanning; Gavin Bailey, Liam Ryan, Matthew O’Hanlon; Joe O’Connor, Simon Donohoe, Liam Og McGovery (0-1); Shane Reck, Diarmuid O’Keffe (1-0); Paul Morris, Lee Chin (1-12, nine frees, one 65), Rory O’Connor (0-2); Cathal Dunbar (0-5), Conor McDonald (0-2), Kevin Foley. Subs: Damien Reck for J O’Connor (46 mins), Jack O’Connor for McGovern (47), Aidan Nolan for Morris (53), Connal Flood for Bailey (58), Mikie Dwyer for O’Keeffe (66).

Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary).

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