Clare easily accounted for a leaderless Waterford side when the minor hurlers handed out a 18 point thrashing at Cusack Park to set up a Munster semi-final appearance on June 26th.
Munster Minor Hurling Championship Rd 1
Clare 1-24 Waterford 0-09
Following a number of underwhelming years at minor level, Clare’s last Munster final appearance was back in 2012, hopes are somewhat high that this current crop will give supporters a run in the 2017 edition. Over the winter and early spring, the new management team of Sean Doyle, Cyril Lyons, Gerry McIntyre and Liam Behan have invested heavily in this panel with a shortage of inter-county challenges the only possible downside and this was due to inclement weather in February.
Prior to this game little was known of the Waterford challenge as they have had an indifferent run in underage hurling including a heavy defeat by Clare at under 17 level in 2016. Clare’s half back line-up is the powerhouse of the team, consisting of Aidan McCarthy, Cian Minogue and Diarmuid Ryan with some suggesting McCarthy might be equally effective at 15, although Breffni Horner put in a good shift at this position. Indeed much is expected of the full-forward line of Gary Cooney, Tiernan Agnew and Horner.
Inagh/Kilnamona have a strong hand with four starters including team captain Cian McInerney. Keith White had the game’s opening score after two minutes action quickly followed by a Conor Tierney point when he was set up by Breffni Horner. Sean Crotty responded for the first Waterford score before Gearoid Cahill sent the ball wide for Clare. Lee Brack pointed a free won by Conor Tierney in the 6th minute before Breffni Horner’s goal effort was saved by Eoghan Browne in the Waterford goal.
Billy Power narrowed the Clare lead to the minimum before Ian Beecher had parity between the sides in the 9th minute at three points apiece. Lee Brack sent a free wide before Billy Power scored a free for the Decies to send the visitors ahead by 4-3 by the 11th minute. The intervening minutes saw plenty of hurling but no scores until a speculative effort from Iarlaith Daly went over the bar from midfield in the 17th minute.
Keith White hit a great effort for a point, Clare’s first score in 12 minutes to leave the home side 0-5 to 0-4 in arrears. Billy Power struck back with a free and it appeared at this stage that Clare might need goals. Keith White had his third point from play on the 20 minute mark but Waterford were responding and closing down the Clare attack. A point from play by Billy Power restored the visitor’s two point lead as the off-form Clare forwards were dependent on White for scores.
Cathal Darcy hit Clare’s seventh wide in the 24th minute. With four minutes remaining in the opening half Lee Brack sent over a 65 as Clare struggled to get back on level terms. Once more Keith White with his fourth point, and Tiernan Agnew with his first, put Clare in front as the game entered the final minute. A wonderful point from Diarmuid Ryan handed Clare a two point interval lead, 0-9 to 0-7.
After a number of wides in the first four minutes of the new half Clare took the first score with Conor Tierney on target, a second point from Tiernan Agnew sent Clare 0-11 to 0-7 ahead before Billy Power’s effort was wide of the mark in the 36th minute. Points from Lee Brack (2) and Gearoid Cahill had Clare seven clear in the 42nd minute.
By this stage it was apparent that Clare’s minor hurlers were on a shooting spree with Waterford in freefall and looking at the possibility of a non-scoring second half on the horizon. As it transpired Waterford failed to raise a flag for 34 minutes of action while at the other end their goalkeeper Eoghan Browne pulled off three magnificent saves.
With 1,622 spectators in attendance Clare brought on their full complement of substitutes. Lee Brack, Conor Tierney, Tiernan Agnew, Gary Cooney and Keith White, who finished with an amazing tally of 6 points from play from midfield, all got a rousing acclamation when replaced late on. The game’s only goal came from substitute Colin Haugh who took possession of a pinpoint pass from Rian Considine before finishing to the net with deadly accuracy. With that this Clare minor side will now look forward to their biggest game of the year at the end of June.