Cyril Farrell: Waterford are serious title contenders
Waterford are a team who have shown the ability to learn from their mistakes and yesterday's performance proved that as they banished the memories of the League final defeat last month.
The were excellent from start to finish and never looked like losing to what was a misfiring Clare side who looked flat throughout.
Waterford are now serious contenders and I would definitely have them in the top two teams in the country.
They won the League last year and never really kicked on but they have more confidence now and I think that comes on the back of learning from mistakes.
They have a very strong panel and the subs that came on in Thurles made a huge difference. There is a lot of pace in their forward line, which will cause any defence in the country problems.
I admired the way Derek McGrath handled himself after the League defeat to the Bannermen. He didn't whinge or moan about the controversial free that won Clare the game but instead he refocused his players' minds and that paid off yesterday.
McGrath focused on the positives and he has shown that he is willing to change his tactics, which makes him a very astute manager. Austin Gleeson started at full-forward and asked plenty of questions of the Clare defenders.
The pitch in Thurles was like a golf course and the ball was flying off the turf at serious speed. Waterford handled it much better than Clare which was a bit of a surprise given how much pace is in the Banner side.
Gleeson was exceptional and his movement was a joy to watch. He had six shots on goal and scored six points. His accuracy was deadly.
He is one of the most gifted hurlers in the country and it's great to see him fulfilling his potential. It will be an exciting summer watching him in full flow.
Waterford are very comfortable in the system that they play and McGrath deserves huge credit for that. Tadhg de Burca impressed as sweeper while Kevin Moran rolled back the years to put in his best performance in a while.
Darragh Fives was excellent again and Colin Dunford had an impact when he came off the bench late on.
Maurice Shanahan's early goal was of course crucial but so too was Stephen O'Keefe's brilliant, point-blank save from David Reidy.
It was great to see Pauric Mahony back from injury and he'll only get better with more game time. He scored five frees and looked confident every time he stood over a dead ball.
Clare on the other hand had three different free takers which is never a good sign, especially when the opposition are so deadly. Conor McGrath struggled and so too did Tony Kelly so Colin Ryan hit them when he came on in the second half. Missing frees at this level is unforgivable really.
Clare had an excellent League campaign but every team will have an off day so there shouldn't and won't be any sense of panic in the Banner County.
They couldn't be faulted for their effort but their accuracy was way off and no doubt that will be something that will be addressed by Davy Fitzgerald in training this week.
Waterford had their strongest possible team out. Clare didn't and that is important to remember. No one will want to draw them in the round robin that is for sure.
John Conlon is still working his way back to full fitness and David McInerney will make a big difference when he's fit enough to start.
Being hurling fit is much different to being physically fit and Clare were simply caught cold yesterday but like Waterford, they must now learn from their mistakes going forward.
Waterford have been down this road before and they will know the importance of not getting carried away. Nothing has been won yet. They await the winners of Limerick and Tipperary but there is an ever growing sense that their time is now.
Tougher tests ahead for Galway
Galway would always have been expecting to post the kind of score they did on Westmeath but it was still pleasing to see them come out and deliver on that promise.
I had a feeling that Westmeath would feel the pressure playing at home and so it proved as they were no match for their opponents.
Galway have all the pieces of the jigsaw in place in that they have excellent players.
It is just a matter of knitting them all together which is often easier said than done, as we have seen so often in the past. They will feel as if they have the ability to do well this year though and that expectation will come from inside and outside the squad.
This Galway team has serious potential but tougher tests unquestionably lie ahead. They will however always take a lot of confidence from scoring 3-27, no matter who the opposition is.
Everyone’s fingers will now be crossed that Joe Canning’s injury isn’t too serious.
Offaly’s win over Laois was also massive, not just in terms of the margin but they really needed that in terms of building momentum.
They have been down in the dumps lately but they are a proud county and they were always going to rise again and hopefully we are now seeing the beginning of that.
They will certainly feel as if there is still a lot of work to be done over the next few weeks but they’ve used their get out of jail free card and bounced back impressively.
Like Galway, they needed that win for their confidence and the challenge for both now is to build on these two victories in their semi-final clash.