All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Round 1 Replay: Wexford 2-25 Clare 2-22 (AET)
Wexford Park erupted in joyous celebration this evening after Wexford knocked out the reigning All-Ireland champions Clare in the first-round of the qualifiers.
This was scintillating hurling and an energy-sapping game for all the players. While Clare were reduced to 14 before half-time and 13 men later in the second-half, the visitors continued to work doggedly but Wexford’s new-found sense of resilience reached its climax in the second-half of extra-time.
Earlier in the year, Liam Dunne spoke of how he knew his men had the potential to pull off “a big scalp” and that someone would “feel the force” of his youthful charges. Davy Fitzgerald’s brigade is the first to fall victim to the blistering progress of the Model County.
The first-half was low-scoring but it was pumped with the same passion that was evident in the game in Ennis. This time Wexford didn’t have the same composure and aimless shooting hampered the hosts’ progress as they struck 12 wides in the first-half in comparison to three Clare misses.
Since the first game, improvement was evident in the Clare camp. They were much more clinical in defence. Despite playing against a strong wind, Conor McGrath opened the visitors’ account with four minutes gone. Even though Conor McDonald and Podge Doran efforts had been denied by the impressive Patrick Kelly, Paul Morris eventually established parity with a pointed free. It continued to be tit-for-tat until Clare reached the 20th minute when Tony Kelly and John Conlon points preceded a brilliant Banner movement of play. Colm Galvin picked out Darach Honan who weaved through the Wexford defence at one of its weakest moments. Clare now led by 1-5 to 0-3 on 22 minutes.
Wexford’s unquenchable thirst for victory was renewed by the impressive defensive endeavour of Keith Rossiter and Andrew Shore. David Redmond, Paul Morris and Lee Chin all obliged with points to pare down the half-time gap to 1-5 to 0-6. But there was drama in the dying minutes of the half. Brendan Bugler was dismissed by Johnny Ryan and an Eoin Moore free from distance was flicked to the net by 18-year-old Conor McDonald, but the Tipperary referee cancelled the goal due to a square-ball infringement. The stage was set for a cracking second-half.
Wexford re-opened with points from Liam Óg McGovern and Paul Morris (free) but they were soon matched by John Conlon and Honan points. While Conlon had to be substituted temporarily twice in the game, the Clonara clubman did dogged work in attack. A pair of Jack Guiney pointed frees were interrupted by a Colm Galvin point, which was the second to come from a Patrick Kelly ball-in. An inspirational point from Tony Kelly and a further Conor McGrath effort epitomised the strength of the Banner men as now led by a goal with 46 minutes on the clock (1-10 to 0-10).
Clare defender Jack Browne then saw red for a second bookable offence, and even though Jack Guiney pointed the resultant free, it was Clare who sought to reassert their dominance. Honan played the ball back towards John Conlon who netted a sublime shot. The home crowd might have become nervous by this five-point lead, but a piece of magic from Naomh Éanna clubman Conor McDonald took them off tenterhooks. McDonald caught the delivery and buried the ball in the back of the net to pull the gap back to two-points. Wexford Park was rocking.
McDonald’s major ignited the Wexford revival as a trio of points from Rory Jacob, McGovern and Guiney gave Wexford the lead for the first time of the game on 55 minutes (1-14 to 2-10). It was helter-skelter for the final 15 minutes. Colin Ryan made it all square with a pointed free and the sides shared the next four points. With the game’s fate hanging in the balance, Jack Guiney, a member of Wexford’s recent Leinster U21 two-in-a-row team, landed a brace of points but Colin Ryan’s two placed-balls established parity. It was time for extra-time once more.
With the replenished squad of 15, Davy Fitzgerald introduced Paul Flanagan in defence and Jamie Shanahan up-front. After Conor McGrath had exchanged points with McDonald, Shanahan made an impressive mark on the game as he claimed two white flags. But Wexford bounced back in style. After Paul Morris had split the posts, a marvellous piece of play placed the initiative back in Wexford’s favour. Lee Chin caught the ball from the half-way point and Jack Guiney subsequently found Harry Kehoe who rifled the ball to Patrick Kelly’s net. Wexford now led by 2-20 to 2-18 at the break.
But the All-Ireland champions made it even within three minutes of the restart. Colin Ryan’s pointed free was followed by a John Conlon point, which had been set-up by Colm Galvin. The crowd’s roar matched the intensity of the game’s flow as Morris’s pair of points were interspersed by spectacular points from Conor McGrath and Tony Kelly. The latter’s point levelled the game for the 13th time. But Wexford were not willing to succumb to the reigning champions.
Andrew Shore, Richie Kehoe and Keith Rossiter all thwarted the Clare attack and a string of three Jack Guiney points (2 frees) was the sucker-punch to Clare’s title defence and the first championship replay victory for Wexford since a 1994 tie against Dublin. Wexford now face Waterford on Saturday next.
Wexford Scorers: J Guiney (0-10, 8f); P Morris (0-7, 4f); C McDonald (1-1); H Kehoe (1-0); Liam McGovern (0-2); L Chin (0-2); D O’Keefe (0-1); D Redmond (0-1); R Jacob (0-1).
Clare Scorers: J Conlon (1-5); Colin Ryan (0-5, 4f, 1 65′); C McGrath (0-4); D Honan (1-1); Tony Kelly (0-3); J Shanahan (0-2); P Kelly (0-1); C Galvin (0-1).
Wexford: M Fanning; L Ryan, M O’Hanlon (capt.), K Rossiter; A Shore, E Moore, C Kenny; D Redmond, L Chin; P Morris, P Doran, D O’Keefe; G Sinnott, C McDonald, L McGovern. Subs: J Guiney for P Doran (27); R Jacob for G Sinnott (HT); I Byrne for P Morris (41); PJ Nolan for D Redmond (45); H Kehoe for D O’Keefe (59); P Morris for I Byrne (FT); R Kehoe for C Kenny (FT); S Tomkins for PJ Nolan (ET); P Doran for R Jacob (ET); W Devereux for K Rossiter (ET); K Rossiter for E Moore (ET).
Clare: P Kelly; C Dillon, D McInerney, J Browne; B Bugler, Conor Ryan, P O’Connor; S Morey, C Galvin; P Duggan, T Kelly, Colin Ryan; C McGrath, D Honan, J Conlon. Subs: C McInerney for J Conlon (27 – HT); P Donnellan for P Duggan (55); A Cunningham for D Honan (65); C McInerney for J Conlon (72 – FT).
Referee: J Ryan (Tipperary).
Report: www.gaa.ie Michael Dwyer from Naomh Eanna & Wexford