John Conlon led by example with a personal tally of 1-3 as Clare put their Munster championship to Cork behind them. Of their next two games, the encounter against Limerick in Cusack Park is set to be a cracker.
Munster Senior Hurling Ch. Round 2 Clare 2-27 Waterford 2-18
Waterford were without the inspirational Austin Gleeson and star forward Pauric Mahony. Injuries to Tadgh de Burca, Noel Connors and Darragh Fives plus the sending off of their captain Kevin Moran further weakened the Decies.
Clare never looked like losing this tie as Cusack Park welcomed its first Munster Senior Hurling Championship tie in 21 years in front of 13,746 spectators. Joint managers Gerry O’Connor and Donal Moloney retained much the same team with the only change being Jamie Shanahan entering the fray at the expense of his Sixmilebridge clubmate Seadna Morey.
Waterford’s chances of making the last three in the group were long due to playing all four games away as there was a 70% ration of home wins in the league this year. For Clare this game was a must win, the team rose to the occasion to produce the goods with target man John Conlon (1-3), Tony Kelly (0-6) and 1-10 from Peter Duggan providing leadership. The three delivered 2-19 of the tally of 2-27 while Conlon was once again the man of the match.
Waterford meanwhile, are now in real danger of seeing their championship campaign implode after only one game. Injuries going into the game was bad enough but to lose three or four more during the game was a morale knocker. For their next outing, team manager Derek McGrath must now plan without veteran Kevin Moran who was sent off at the three-quarter mark after a clash with Tony Kelly.
Waterford got off to a good start thanks in the main to a ninth-minute goal from Maurice Shanahan who was perfectly positioned when Tom Devine’s initial shot was saved by goalkeeper Donal Tuohy. However, this was as good as it got for the visitors. The departure through injury of inspirational star Tadgh de Burca allied to a 17th-minute penalty, earned by John Conlon, saw momentum shifted irrevocably in Clare’s favour. This was compounded when Peter Duggan stepped up to rifle the penalty to the top left corner of the net. Clare’s top scorer on the day had been in Cusack Park for most of Saturday as well, lining the pitch for the game.
Suddenly, Clare sparked into life, led by a Shane O’Donnell dispossessing shoulder on Barry Coughlan that resulted in a point for the 2013 hero. Two minutes later, John Conlon bulldozed his way past two defenders for Clare’s second goal while a further four-point rally without reply, three from Duggan, put the hosts 2-10 to 1-06 clear by the 32nd minute. The vocal Clare support was now at its loudest, sensing a Munster championship win.
Waterford did hit back with points from Tom Devine, Maurice Shanahan and Kevin Moran to reduce the half-time deficit to five with the scoreline reading 2-11 to 1-09. However, early retirements for defensive trio Noel Connors, Darragh Fives and Barry Coughlan soon quenched whatever slim hopes Waterford harboured as the second half developed. The run of bad luck was heart-breaking from a Waterford perspective heartbreaking, with Clare needing the win they could not afford to hold back even though they had a few shaky moments early in the second half.
A goal from substitute Tommy Ryan went some way to compensating for Clare’s early blitz from Kelly (2) and Conlon but after the dismissal of captain Kevin Moran, this proved to be merely a damage limitation exercise from Derek McGrath’s side despite a strong showing from Stephen Bennett. The Waterford bench did its job quite well with substitutes adding 1-4 from play yet it was the only resistance of note experienced by a now rampant Clare side.
Peter Duggan continued to add to the home side’s advantage as Tony Kelly and Colm Galvin also surged to the fore ensuring that Clare would finally run out easy winners with the only drawback a late salvo of Waterford scores to reduce the winning tally. Best for the winners on a good day for Clare hurling included John Conlon, Colm Galvin, Peter Duggan, Tony Kelly, Jamie Shanahan, David Fitzgerald and David Reidy.
Waterford will improve from this game but the shortage of players may hamper the extent of this improvement despite the best efforts of Noel Connors, Jake Dillon, Maurice Shanahan, Jamie Barron, Philip Mahony and Shane Fives.