By Michael Dwyer
Clare crushed Wexford’s championship hopes as they clinically bombarded Liam Dunne’s men in extra-time to claim a sizeable margin of victory in Saturday evening’s All-Ireland Hurling Championship Phase 3 Qualifier clash at a tropical Thurles.
The Banner men were quick off the mark as Colin Ryan fired over a brace of frees after just two minutes. However, the diligence of Tomás Waters in defence was rewarded by a pair of Jack Guiney points. On 7 minutes, a 20 metre free from Guiney was denied by the Clare defence but Garrett Sinnott was on hand to give Wexford the lead for the first time. From there on, the Clare attack reached a blistering peak that found them easily weave through the Wexford half and pick off scores. The first of which was a ruthless one as John Conlon picked out the inrushing Shane O’Donnell who slammed the ball to the net at the end of the first quarter. Clare continued to capitalise on their opposition’s disarray, and a string of points followed before David Redmond lifted the siege around the half-hour mark. Even though Clare’s lead was significant, the figure could have been greater given their wasteful use of scoring chances, which incurred seven wides in the opening half. After a late exchange of points, Clare edged ahead by 1-10 to 0-7.
The outstanding resistance of the Wexford defence flourished during the second half but a clutch of wasted opportunities by their attack made it difficult to spark a revival. While Tomás Waters’ injury was a painful blow, the defensive unit were simply unyielding. The gap looked set to stick as Wexford still trailed by six on 54 minutes. Yet, the closing period saw the Slaneysiders claw their deficit back. Jack Guiney’s two pointed frees, mixed with David Redmond and Podge Doran efforts, cut the gap to four points in the 69th minute. 17-year old Naomh Éanna clubman Conor McDonald made a vital impact on his debut appearance as he elegantly slotted over a point to bring the game back in the melting pot. With time playing the enemy of the Wexford body of support, Ciarán Kenny cast the ball into the palm of Jack Guiney who raced through a labyrinth of Clare backs to rasp the ball to the net, and force extra-time.
The passion and grit of Wexford’s close to the regular 70 minutes gave the Model county’s support hope for a rejuvenated performance in extra-time. Yet that hope was quenched by the dogmatic Clare attack which notched 2-3 without reply. A late Guiney pointed free was small comfort as Wexford’s confidence crumbled and granted Clare the spoils. The heat of Tipperary’s scorching sun had gotten the better of Wexford, and Clare enjoyed a ten-point victory.
What stood out from the bout was how solid Wexford were at winning breaking-balls but equally how easy Clare found it to dispossess their opponents afterwards. The work, improvement and development nurtured by Liam Dunne and his back-room team is clearly evident from this year’s championship. Dunne has mastered a fusion of youth with experience giving rise to a tantalising glimpse of what’s in-store for Wexford supporters in the years to come.
Wexford: Mark Fanning (Glynn Barntown), Eoin Moore (Oulart-The Ballagh), Tomás Waters (St Martin’s), Bobby Kenny (Buffers Alley), Richie Kehoe (Faythe Harriers), Keith Rossiter (Oulart-The Ballagh), Ciarán Kenny (Buffers Alley 0-1), Andrew Shore (Parnells, Dublin), David Redmond (Oulart-The Ballagh 0-2), Paul Morris (Ferns St Aidan’s 0-2), Eoin Quigley (Sarsfields, Cork), Garrett Sinnott (Oulart-The Ballagh capt., 0-1), Rory Jacob (Oulart-The Ballagh), Jack Guiney (Rathnure St. Anne’s 1-8 5 frees, 1 65′), Podge Doran (Oylegate-Glenbrien 0-2). SUB’S.: Gary Moore (Glynn Barntown 0-2) for Eoin Quigley (34′); Harry Kehoe (Cloughbawn) for Richie Kehoe (35′); Eoin Doyle (Shelmaliers) for Tomás Waters (inj., 63′); PJ Nolan (Askmore) for Harry Kehoe (67′); Conor McDonald (Naomh Éanna 0-1) for Podge Doran (67′); Michael O’Regan (Glynn Barntown 0-1) for Garrett Sinnott (E/T); Ciarán O’Shaughnessy (Shelmaliers) for Keith Rossiter (E/T).
Clare: Patrick Kelly (Inagh-Kilnamona), Domhnall O’Donovan (Clonlara), David McInerney (Tulla), Cian Dillon (Crusheen), Brendan Bugler (Whitegate 0-1), Patrick Donnellan (O’Callaghan’s Mills capt.), Patrick O’Connor (Tubber), Colm Galvin (Clonlara), Colin Ryan (Newmarket-on-Fergus 0-10 6 frees, 3 65’s), John Conlon (Clonlara 0-3), Tony Kelly (Ballyea 0-5 0-1 pen.), Peter Duggan (Clooney Quinn), Pádraic Collins (Cratloe 0-1), Shane O’Donnell (Éire Óg 1-1), Conor McGrath (Cratloe). Sub’s.: Seadna Morey (Sixmilebridge 0-1) for Colm Galvin (temp., 53′); Aaron Cunningham (Wolfe Tones 0-1) for Peter Duggan (58′); Colm McInerney (Tulla 2-1) for Shane O’Donnell (64′); Fergal Lynch (Clooney Quin) for John Conlon (70′); Nicky O’Donnell (Clonlara) for Colin Ryan (70′); John Conlon for Conor McGrath (E/T); Seadna Morney for Patrick O’Connor (E/T), Conor Ryan (Cratloe) for Colin Ryan.
Referee: Diarmuid Kirwan (Cork).