Galway 1-30 Clare 1-30 [After extra time]
Clare had lamented for the past five years their inability get back to Croke Park and Saturday's extraordinary All-Ireland hurling semi-final vindicated that sense of loss. The Munster finalists gave their best championship display since 2013 to recover from an horrendous start and take champions Galway to a replay next week in Thurles.
Clare will be the happier campers on that trip to Tipp, as they led for just under three minutes, admittedly late in the match, and their opponents emerged with injury concerns about Hurler of the Year Joe Canning, taken off in extra time, and fellow nominee, Gearóid McInerney, who left in the 54th minute and who may be the principal worry for manager Micheál Donoghue next week.
Even the grammar and syntax of the draw were similar to the classic tie with Cork in the All-Ireland final of five years ago. Galway had just hit the front in injury-time at the end of extra time. Johnny Coen – and how an under-hit, easier chance at the end of normal time must haunt him – drove them ahead, 1-30 to 1-29.
They then won a sideline ball just as Cork had done but instead of trying to play the remaining seconds in front of the Hill 16 goal, Niall Burke went for the score and from the resulting wide Clare built from the back. Replacement David Fitzgerald, who had brought terrific energy to the match, punched through the middle and saw another sub, Jason McCarthy wide on the left.
McCarthy’s chance was more straightforward than the fabled Domhnall O’Donovan equaliser in 2013 but it still took nerve and he flighted over the last score, dotting an emphatic full stop on the latest chapter this year’s un-put-downable hurling championship.
You’d have got long odds on this being the outcome at the end of the first quarter. By that point, Galway’s Leinster final blitz against Kilkenny was looking like just a warm-up for what was happening.
They imposed themselves physically. By congesting the middle with their forwards, they helped themselves to a sequence of Clare puck-outs, yielding scores in the first 10 minutes for Canning and Conor Whelan.
On the inside Jonathan Glynn, although outnumbered, terrorised the Clare defence by getting highest to dropping ball and setting up attacks, one of which would have been a goal in the 12th minute had the otherwise excellent Cathal Mannion controlled the lay-off.
In defence they were forceful and as early as the third minute bottled up Podge Collins on the sideline, as he attempted to weave one of his sinuous runs, and without ceremony hooshed him over the sideline. The much anticipated heavyweight clash between two All Stars-elect, John Conlon and Galway full back, Daithí Burke was going so badly for the Clare full forward that the bout was threatened with losing its status.
Pádraic Mannion, who hurled magnificently all through, unaffected by the ebb and flow of his team’s fortunes, gave early notice of his impending display.
The goal wasn't too long delayed, either – a rugby-style foot-rush ending in Pat O'Connor deflecting the ball into Conor Cooney who slammed it into the net and within seconds Canning had swept over a point from the right wing for a nine-point lead in the 16th minute, 1-7 to 0-1.
Galway have a tradition of sustaining urgency loss in these situations. In the Leinster replay, a 12-point lead got shaved back to a single point before they had to rally and go again. They were about to experience another power cut.
It was however to Clare's great credit that they responded. The management team dropped Colm Galvin back as a sweeper and almost immediately, complicated Galway's full-court press. Tony Kelly had more room at centrefield and sprang into prominence.
Most tellingly, a run of five unanswered points – David Reidy, Shane O'Donnell battling through, what would become the familiar sight of Peter Duggan dispatching frees from anywhere, a brace from the now energised Kelly – brought the match back into the undecided column.
Galway’s shooting frustrations were symbolised in a sequence of missed opportunity, a couple of them so borderline that they required referral to Hawk-Eye, and they ended the half with a dozen wides but still four ahead, 1-10 to 0-9.
More damagingly, they fluffed goal chances. Cathal Mannion's at least ended in a point but as the game wore on, Conor Cooney was thwarted by a great save from Tuohy and in extra time, replacement Jason Flynn was one-on-one and blazed over the bar.
The second half of normal time – eventually after Clare left the champions waiting for minutes beyond the allotted interval – marked another scoring surge for Clare. Conlon forced his way into the match and began to trouble Burke – he would finish with four points, two to equalise – whereas the other attacking red helmet, Duggan, also surged into action.
His dead-ball striking was back up to the pre-Munster final levels of reliability, bordering inevitability. Further, his score from play to equalise in the 64th minute, one handed, off the stick and surrounded by angry defenders, could hardly have been bettered had he been chained, Houdini-like, and locked in a chest at the bottom of the canal.
What became clear was that Galway for all their evident – even if not massive – superiority, were finding it hard to shake Clare. Their disappointment and anxiety at not putting this away shouldn’t detract from their own persistence and ability to keep the scoreboard moving.
David Burke shot three points, Whelan got a couple but they couldn't move out of sight and Duggan's 73rd minute free triggered extra time.
Furthermore Clare's bench made the bigger impact. After a more precise start to extra time by Galway, assisted by Clare wides, Aron Shanagher, opened the second period with a goal.
On as a replacement, his return from a November cruciate injury would have impressed Lazarus. He caught a high ball and negotiated his landing to drive in a goal to put Clare 1-27 to 1-26.
For the first time you could sense that Galway might actually lose but they responded and amidst the drama of Duggan actually missing a 65 after John Hanbury’s block on Conlon, Clare leading by two, Galway coming back, Flynn’s missing his goal chance and then a free, courtesy of Hawk-Eye’s final decision and McCarthy’s late run for broke, they couldn’t be separated.
GALWAY: 1. James Skehill; 4. John Hanbury, 3. Daithí Burke, 2. Adrian Tuohey; 5. Pádraic Mannion, 6. Gearóid McInerney, 7. Aidan Harte; 8. Johnny Coen (0-2), 9. David Burke (capt; 0-3); 10. Joseph Cooney, 11. Joe Canning (0-12, six frees, two sidelines), 15. Cathal Mannion (0-4); 13. Conor Whelan (0-3), 12. Jonathan Glynn (0-1), 14. Conor Cooney (1-1). Subs: 22. Niall Burke (0-1) for J Cooney (52 mins), 25. Jason Flynn (0-3, one free) for C Cooney (61 mins), 17. Paul Killeen for McInerney (54 mins), 18. Seán Loftus for Tuohy (extra time), 10. J Cooney for David Burke (81 mins), 26. Davey Glennon for Canning (82 mins).
CLARE: 1. Donal Tuohy; 2. Patrick O'Connor (capt.), 3. David McInerney, 4. Jack Browne; 5. Séadna Morey, 6. Conor Cleary, 7. Jamie Shanahan; 8. Colm Galvin (0-1), 9. Cathal Malone; 10. Peter Duggan (0-14, 11 frees), 11. Tony Kelly (0-3, 1 sl), 12. David Reidy (0-1); 13. Pádraic Collins, 14. John Conlon (0-4), 15. Shane O'Donnell (0-3). Subs: 19. David Fitzgerald (0-1) for Malone (48 mins), 18. Conor McGrath for Collins (58 mins), 23. Ian Galvin (0-2) for Reidy (61 mins), 26. Aron Shanagher (1-0) for O'Donnell (67 mins), 15. S O'Donnell for McGrath (83 mins), 21. Jason McCarthy (0-1) for Shanahan (second half, extra time).
Referee: James Owens (Wexford).
First half 1-10
Second half 0-13
Extra time 0-7
From Play 1-22
Frees conceded 16
Yellow cards 2
Red cards 0
Yellow cards: Harte (30 mins), Dathí Burke (31 mins).
First half 0-9
Second half 0-17
Extra time 1-4
From Play 1-18
Frees conceded 11
Yellow cards 2
Red cards 0
Yellow cards: Cleary (45 mins), McInerney (82 mins).