O'Donnell provides spark for electric Banner
CLARE 5-18 WATERFORD 0-20
Care's stunning first-half performance exuded class, confidence, and a degree of ruthlessness, that left Waterford gasping for air at half-time at Cusack Park.
The goals, four of them, flew into the net; the white flag was raised 15 times.
All-Ireland final replay star man Shane O'Donnell was virtually unstoppable, scoring one goal and assisting Pat Donnellan, Podge Collins, and Peter Duggan to heap misery on the hapless Waterford defence for the other three goal in that half.
O'Donnell's senior partners in the plunder were Cathal McInerney, and Collins.
This trio formed a devastating attacking triangle as time and again, Collins foraged from deep and helped to exploit the space the Banner men used so efficiently.
O'Donnell's foraging and persistence was admirable as he harassed defenders to win ball that was 60-40 against him and that was how he opened the way for three of those first-half goals.
McInerney was also lively and inventive up front.
Tigerish in the possession battles all over the pitch, Clare were dominant in the key areas from half-backs through to the full-forward line, and the visitors were left reeling.
Red-faced Waterford could only manage a measly four points – two from frees by Pauric Mahony and two from play by Brian O'Sullivan.
Wind-assistance helped Clare, as it did Waterford in the second half, but the Deise were playing only for pride in that period.
To their credit, they 'won' the second half by 1-3 – O'Donnell struck his second goal in the 45th minute – to 0-16.
Both managers posed the same question: Did Clare drop their level, while Waterford upped their performance in the second half?
Davy Fitzgerald wasn't sure. What he did know was that he expects more and better from his All-Ireland champions.
"The win was great, but I'm very disappointed with the second-half performance. We did some great things in the first half, moved well, just totally lost our way in the second half.
"I want us to be consistent for 70 minutes, but we got the result. That's all that matters. We've things we can work on after today.
"I think Waterford just got cold early on. We made the faster start and if you make a faster start then you have a bit of momentum and we got that and we kept it going.
"Did we ease off or did Waterford just up the ante a small bit? I'm not sure which one it was.
"I'll put to you this way – I would not like to meet Waterford going ahead in the championship. I think they're a lot better than what they showed today.
"If we meet them later on, they're going to be motivated like anything to set that right," said Fitzgerald.
The Clare management had given O'Donnell some time off after the hectic calls on his – and other players – time following the All-Ireland win. It paid off yesterday.
"Shane played well. He's a good forward, like Conor McGrath did well the last day," said Fitzgerald. "We need different fellas coming for different days. He (O'Donnell) was a bit off for a few weeks. We gave him a break and he seems to be coming back to himself there again."
Waterford manager Derek McGrath did some serious talking with his players after the game, calling for a unity of purpose and a positive response following this proverbial 'game of two halves'.
"You could look at that two ways – did Clare drop the momentum or did we come good?" he asked.
"We're hopeful it's the latter. We spoke to the boys at half-time, asked them to keep going, tried to explain what was happening, but I think everyone got a bit of an education there.
"It was a chastening experience for players and management. But yes, we're very happy with the second half, we got the scoreboard ticking.
"This is the reality of where we are though. This is a lonely place today but I've been preaching pragmatism from the start, and explained there would be ups and downs. Hopefully, we can learn from this."
Waterford had improved their tally by five points to 0-9 as they made a good start to the second half, only for O'Donnell to leave defender Noel Connors in his wake and smash home his own second goal, and Clare's fifth in the 45th minute.
Jamie Nagle, Kevin Moran, Pauric Mahony and sub Maurice Shanahan were to the forefront of the Deise rally over the next 25 minutes.
It was still too little, too late. They now face a daunting challenge against Kilkenny at Nowlan Park for what Derek McGrath called a 'Super Sunday' in the highly competitive Division 1A with crucial points at stake.
Davy Fitz, meanwhile, expects Galway to come to Cusack Park with all guns blazing.
"We got a performance today and thank God for it, because I expect Galway to have the Portumna lads and to come down here next week absolutely buzzing.
"We'll find it hard next week, but I think as the year goes on, hopefully, we'll start to find the buzz and momentum.
"What we did for 35 minutes there was very decent and we need to be doing that consistently," he said.
Scorers – Clare: S O'Donnell 2-2; Colin Ryan 0-6 (5fs); P Collins 1-2; P Duggan 1-1; P Donnellan 1-0; C McInerney 0-2; C McGrath, B Bugler, Conor Ryan, T Kelly, P O'Connor 0-1 each. Waterford: P Mahony 0-8 (6fs); B O'Sullivan 0-4; M Shanahan 0-3 (2f); S Molumphy 0-2; K Moran, R Donnelly, S Roche 0-1 each.
Clare – D Tuohy 7; D O'Donovan 7, C Dillon 7, D McInerney 7; B Bugler 7, Conor Ryan 7, P O'Connor 7; P Donnellan 7, Colin Ryan 8; P Duggan 7, P Collins 8; J Conlon 7; C McInerney 8, S O'Donnell 9, C McGrath 7. Subs: T Kelly 7 for J Conlon (30); P Flanagan 6 for C Dillon (60); S Golden for Colin Ryan (63); D Reidy for C McGrath (67); C O'Connell for C McInerney (70)
Waterford – S O'Keeffe 6; N Connors 6, S Fives 5; T De Burca 6; J Nagle 6, K Moran 6, P Mahony 6; J Dillon 6, S O'Sullivan 6; B O'Sullivan 6, P Mahony 7, S Molumphy 6; R Barry 5, S Prendergast 6, R Donnelly 6. Subs: M Shanahan 6 for R Barry (25); B Coughlan 6 for S Fives (26); S Roche 6 for R Donnelly (45); K Fitzgerald for P Mahony (61); S McNulty for J Nagle (64).
Ref – J McGrath (Westmeath)