Clare 1-23 Waterford 2-19
Well now. Hurling still has a bit to recommend it, has it not?
A belter of an Allianz League final replay ended with Clare captain Tony Kelly downing Waterford with a one-two punch that would put Floyd Mayweather to shame. A monstrous free in the second of three injury-time minutes looked like it was sending us into another swatch of extra-time but from the puck-out, Kelly sent Semple into orbit.
For Waterford, this was a chance missed. If they fancy making a case for being done by referee Diarmuid Kinsella, they have a fair amount of justification given that Jamie Barron was denied a stonewall free in injury-time just before Kelly's equaliser. Certainly Derek McGrath and Dan Shanahan were dismayed by the decision at the time. That said, they had enough of the game to be out the gap by then. They let Clare hang around and never quite washed them out of their hair.
Clare never led in this game until the last puck dropped. They trailed by six near the end of the first half and again midway through the second. Even with just four minutes to go, they were a goal down. Yet somehow, against the most miserly defence in the game, they managed to haul themselves back into it. They scored the last four points of the game, the winner a glorious swish of the hurley from his weaker side by Kelly running up along the right sideline. So much for hurling, eh?
Things are rarely as bad we let ourselves paint them, of course. Or at least they rarely stay that way for long. After a week of wailing and gnashing teeth at The State Of Things, it was probably somehow inevitable that these sides would come out and put on a show. They still played with sweepers at either end and there was no shortage of crowding around the middle but it was never as suffocating as last Sunday.
After waiting all of 90 minutes for a goal in the drawn game – and it frequently felt like longer – we had one here after 16 seconds. Patrick Curran skinned Pat O'Connor along the endline more or less directly from the throw-in before finishing high past Patrick Kelly's left shoulder. The young Dungarvan corner forward followed up with a free soon after and we were away.
From there to the end, the game pulsed at a frantic rate. Podge Collins was lolling around in whatever area of the pitch took his fancy and had a hand in the first three Clare points. But with a decent wind behind them, Waterford soon had a healthy lead built up.
Tom Devine banged home their second goal on 24 minutes and it was followed by points from Curran, Barron, Shane Bennett and Austin Gleeson. With five minutes to go until half-time, they led by 2-9 to 0-9. But three points on the spin from Conor McGrath inched Clare back to within striking distance.
For long stretches of the second half, Waterford looked like they had this in hand all the same. Gleeson flashed a cracking score upon the restart and Curran, who was having a stormer, added another of his own from play and two more from frees. Barron – another who put in a terrific performance – pulled a shimmy in midfield to buy himself a yard of space and take a score, followed by another from Gleeson. With 48 minutes on the clock, Waterford were 2-15 to 0-15 ahead and looked to be cruising.
Up popped Kelly, when most needed. A spellbinding pick and handpass by Aaron Cunningham put him through and he struck Clare's only goal on the day from 20 metres. Game on.
They nipped and tucked at each other all the way to the end. Curran, Bennett and Brian O'Halloran kept the scoreboard rolling for Waterford, Darach Honan, David Reidy and the nigh-on faultless Kelly replied for Clare. And yet, as the endgame arrived, Waterford looked to have it sown up.
But Kelly wouldn’t be beaten.
June 5th should be a bit of fun, shouldn’t it?
CLARE: P Kelly; C Cleary, C Dillon, P O'Connor (0-1); J Browne, D Fitzgerald (0-1), B Bugler; D Reidy (0-1), C Galvin; C McGrath (0-8, five frees), T Kelly (1-6, one point a free), P Collins (0-1); D Honan (0-2), A Cunningham (0-1), S O'Donnell.
Subs: C Ryan (0-2, one free) for Galvin (43 mins), C O'Connell for Collins (55 mins), A Shanagher for O'Donnell (65 mins).
WATERFORD: S O'Keeffe; B Coughlan, N Connors, S Fives; D Fives (0-1), P Mahony, K Moran (0-1); J Barron (0-2), T de Búrca; M Walsh, A Gleeson (0-3), J Dillon (1-0); S Bennett (0-2), P Curran (1-9, six points frees and one 65), T Devine.
Subs: C Dunford for Devine (46 mins), B O'Halloran (0-1) for Dillon (57 mins), M Shanahan for Bennett (67 mins),
Referee: D Kirwan (Cork).