'We will not be torturing our players' - Fixture row looms as Clare bosses stand firm
Clare 2-19 Waterford 3-13
Every day's a school day for Donal Moloney and Gerry O'Connor, but after Clare's "heartening" win against a second-string Waterford side the Banner's joint managers have no intention of "torturing" their players by playing again on Wednesday night.
With 13 players out in Fitzgibbon Cup action tomorrow, the treble All-Ireland U-21-winning managerial duo will be doing everything in their power to not fulfil that Munster SHL fixture against Cork, with a possible final four days later, as player welfare issues raise their ugly head again.
"We have stated from the start that we can't play. We have a whole lot of Fitzgibbon players and you cannot ask these players to play three senior games in one week and then play Fitzgibbon before a senior game against Cork, we're not doing it," Moloney stressed.
"We might be forced into it but that's our immediate space now, some players are being asked to play five games in ten days. If the fixture isn't changed we'll fight it, we're not going to torture our players."
O'Connor added: "We're looking at a panel of 27 players, we've used those as best and efficiently as we can, if 13 are playing full-blooded Fitzgibbon matches it'll be very difficult to put out a meaningful team."
On the pitch the Banner made hard work of a depleted Déise side, with no starters from last year's All-Ireland semi-final replay loss to Kilkenny, and trailed by 2-5 to 0-7 midway through the first half.
Peter Hogan got a brace of goals for Waterford, for whom DJ Foran impressed again in attack, but with Aaron Cunningham on song at the other end Clare were four up at the break through goals from Cathal Malone and Shane Golden.
Brendan Bugler's 57th-minute dismissal after a second yellow card left the Banner under pressure in the final quarter but the return of John Conlon, forced off twice as a blood sub due to a flesh wound in his hand, helped see them over the line despite a late Billy O'Keeffe goal.
It was a valuable exercise for Clare with Moloney stating that "a few players had to find out about themselves" while O'Connor reflected that they "found a few more soldiers, guys that are willing to battle and to give their all for the cause".
After a bonding weekend in Liverpool last week, Waterford boss Derek McGrath was delighted with players like Seamus Keating and Darragh Lyons putting their hand up for selection and isn't looking forward to trimming his panel.
"What we've had for the last two years has been built on that unity of purpose, and to see guys now who are very hungry, guys who were U-21 last year, and other lads with good form from the club championships, that all adds to it," McGrath said.
"I don't think there's a massive difference between the guys we had here and the guys we didn't have here but I'm not getting carried away at the same time."
McGrath listed Tadhg de Búrca (back), Jamie Barron (hamstring), and Darragh Fives as minor doubts for the national league opener away to Kilkenny on February 12, while Philip Mahony is likely to be out until the third-round clash against Dublin.
With a squad showing 17 changes from the match programme, Foran and Eamonn Murphy opened the scoring before Clare reeled off five points in a row through Conor O'Donnell (two), Golden, Malone and Cunningham.
Murphy and Billy Nolan (free) responded before Conlon pointed at the other end but the Déise burst ahead when Hogan reacted quickest and hit a powerful groundstroke to the net, 1-4 to 0-6.
Bobby Duggan replied with a free but an excellent Foran point and batted goal from Hogan gave Waterford the impetus.
That was as good as it good for McGrath's side in the opening half, however, as the Banner, playing a far more direct style than under Davy Fitzgerald, hit 2-4 in the second quarter as Malone scrambled the ball to the net and O'Gorman fired a brilliant team goal, 2-11 to 2-7.
Clare went a staggering 25 minutes without a score in the closing half until Conlon steadied the ship with a hat-trick of points, but O'Keeffe's injury-time effort made for an exciting finale.
Scorers - Clare: B Duggan (4fs), J Conlon 0-4 each, C Malone, B O'Gorman 1-1 each, A Cunningham 0-3, C O'Donnell 0-2 , P Duggan, J McCarthy, J Shanahan and S Golden 0-1 each. Waterford: P Hogan 2-0, B Nolan 0-6fs, B O'Keeffe 1-0, DJ Foran, E Murphy 0-2 each, S Roche, J Fagan, S Keating 0-1 each.
Clare - P Kelly; S McNamara, C Dillon, S O'Halloran; J McCarthy, C Cleary, B Bugler; S Golden, B O'Gorman; J Conlon, C Malone, P Duggan; C O'Donnell, B Duggan, A Cunningham. Subs: D Reidy for Conlon (5 BS), Conlon for (9 BS), Reidy for Conlon (19), Conlon for Malone (50), C Galvin for O'Gorman (57), J Shanahan for P Duggan (67), K Hehir for Golden (72).
Waterford - I O'Regan; C Lyons, S McNulty, C Chester; D Lyons, MJ Sutton, S Keating; K Fitzgerald, E Madigan; MF O'Neill, S Roche, B Nolan; P Hogan, J Fagan, E Murphy. Subs: C Dunford for S McNulty, T Ryan for Fagan (both ht), S Roche for Foran, B O'Keeffe for Hogan (both 47), A Molumby for S Roche (60).
Ref - J Larkin (Cork)