Clare must face a relegation battle against a Dublin side bolstered by the returning Cuala players after experiencing one of the most frustrating days in Cusack Park for a long some time. The game will be part two of a double header on Sunday with the national football league clash of Clare v Meath first up at 2.00pm in Cusack Park. The Clare v Dublin hurling play-off is at 4.00pm. If required extra time will be played, in the event that the teams remain deadlocked additional extra time my be followed by a free taking competition to decide the winner.
Clare 1-22 Waterford 2-21. Allianz Hurling League Div 1A Round 5 by Michael O’Connor
Bright summer sunshine greeted a crowd of more than 6,640 to Ennis with both teams aware of how much was at stake in this final round tie. Clare recovered from their early shock to dominate much of the game before a late goal from substitute Tom Devine secured a national league quarter final for Waterford against Galway leaving Clare with an unwanted relegation play-off against Dublin.
After their fightback Clare established a solid four point lead and held their own in most areas of the field. However, despite having a strong wind at their backs in the second half, the league title holders were outscored by 1-5 to 0-2 in the last 15 minutes leaving loyal supporters shellshocked.
Waterford flew out of the blocks to stun the home side, Shane Bennett’s goal eased them 1-3 to 0-0 clear before Clare went on to dominate the next 20 minutes. The home side finally got going with a 1-6 rally including Podge Collins’ brilliant goal, set up by Aron Shanagher, to go in front by 1-7 to 1-4 by the end of a high tempo opening quarter. Tony Kelly added five to put Clare four points clear by the midway point.
When referee John Keenan awarded three scored frees to Waterford, the Clare supporters were greatly annoyed as this most definitely kept Derek McGrath’s side in the game. Further points from Pauric Mahony frees either side of the break had the sides on parity at 1-13 to 1-13 by the 39th minute.
Playing with the breeze at their backs in the second half, Clare added successive points from Tony Kelly, Podge Collins, John Conlon and Cathal McInerney. Clare’s lack of a coherent defence saw their attack-minded defenders to take off up the field with abandon creating huge gaps and proving their downfall when they failed to shore up the lead. This allowed Waterford bit by bit to pick off their scores and eventually finish the better team.
Impact sub Tom Devine gave Waterford the perfect target as he first pointed before scoring a 64th minute goal at the second attempt after goalkeeper Andrew Fahey saved brilliantly to somehow keep out the initial point blank effort but his efforts were not supported by his backs. Clare went in search of an equaliser, however this proved to be beyond them after Tommy Ryan’s 77th minute insurance point from maintained Waterford’s 100% record on the road as they once again reached the knock-out stage for the third consecutive season.
Best for Waterford included Pauric Mahony, Brian O’Halloran, Tom Devine, Stephen Bennett, Shane Fives, Tadgh DeBurca, Kevin Moran, Shane McNulty and Shane Bennett. Leaving aside the opening five minutes, Clare were superb for 20 minutes of the first half and competitive in the second half but suffered from conceding some very harsh frees and from leaving too much space for their opponents to move into behind their half back line. Their better performers included Andrew Fahy, Tony Kelly, Podge Collins, Aron Shanagher, David Fitzgerald, Jason McCarthy and David McInerney. Having won the national league last year, Clare have set their priorities on a strong performance in the championship this year, so they will soon overcome this setback as they prepare for their Munster semi-final clash against neighbours Limerick in June.