Clare 0-18 Galway 1-15: The dream days continue in Clare. A late free by Colin Ryan earned the All-Ireland champions, playing with 14 men in the second half, a late draw after a fiery match against a primed Galway side.
The visitors came close: Ryan's free originated from a sideline ball for Galway, which referee Dermot Kirwan cancelled for time wasting and then moved the ball forward when the visitors protested. Anthony Cunningham threw his arms up in despair.
This had been a very honest performance by the visitors but despite a great goal chance for Niall Burke in the 63rd minute – which goalkeeper Patrick Kelly got his body to, deflecting the shot for a point – they had to be content with a share of the spoils.
Earlier, Kelly seemed to drag Cathal Mannion down when he was through on goal but nothing was called: Galway can head up in the N18 with the consolation that on another afternoon, they might have three goals.
Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald noted that Tony Kelly probably played his best match since the All-Ireland final. It wasn't just the O-11 from frees: Kelly seemed involved in every attacking play. Cian Dillon responded well at full back when Galway rained ball down on its front line and Paul Flanagan and Conor Ryan had huge games in the Clare half-back line. The liveliness and invention of their forward play kept them in touch through the second half, with Conor McGrath striking two beautiful scores as Clare chased a result.
The first half, played in brilliant March sunshine, was engaging from the beginning and contained an edgy undercurrent. Both defensive units were primed not to allow the respective attacking talents to flourish.
As early as the second minute, Galway's Niall Healy lay still on the ground following an off-the ball collision with Jack Browne. Healy attempted to equal matters when he was restored to his feet: both men were booked and play resumed with every ball contested keenly.
In the 29th minute, Clare lost Shane Golden to a red card following another flare up deep in the Galway half. Kelly kept the home team ticking over in the scoreboard with seven first-half frees.
Galway, who pulled Aidan Harte back to mark Peter Duggan, the rangy wing forward to whom Clare looked with every restart, had to find more enterprising means for scoring and the voluble visiting crowd enjoyed stunning solo points from Cathal Mannion, Niall Burke and Johnny Coen, who scuttled up field to pitch in with a point during a period of Galway dominance.
But for the most part, this was end to end stuff and smouldered with intensity: suddenly, the season is getting serious. The draw was enough to see Galway join Clare in the quarter-finals. By the final whistle, there were few complaints from either dressing room.
CLARE: 1 P Kelly; 2 C O'Donovan, 3 C Dillon, 4 J Browne; 5 B Bugler, 6 C Ryan, 7 P Flanagan; 8 P O'Connor, 9 C Galvin; 10 P Duggan, 21 T Kelly (0-12, 11 frees) , 12 S Golden; 13 C McInerney, 14 S O'Donnell, 26 D Reidy (0-1) . Substitutes: J Conlon for C McInerney (half-time), C McGrath (0-3) for D Reidy (49 mins), P Donnellan for B Bugler (51 mins), C Ryan (0-2, one free) for P Duggan (61 mins), D McInerney for D O'Donovan (64 mins).
GALWAY: 1 C Callanan; 2 F Moore, 3 R Burke, 4 J Coen (0-1) ; 5 D Collins; 6 I Tannian, 7 D Burke; 8 D Burke, 9 P Brehony (0-1) ; 10 A Harte, 14 C Cooney (0-6, four frees) , 15 N Burke (0-3) ; 13 C Mannion (1-2) , 12 J Glynn (0-1) , 11 N Healy. Substitutes: D Hayes (0-1) for N Healy (42 mins), A Smith for D Burke (47 mins), Joseph Cooney for C Mannion (58 mins), J Flynn for N Burke (64 mins), P Killeen for A Harte (69 mins).
REFEREE: D Kirwan (Cork).