Banner fly past Decies - but pay a high price
CLARE 2-16 WATERFORD 0-10 VICTORY for Clare in yesterday's Guinness Munster hurling championship final at Semple Stadium but at an enormous price.Brian Lohan, Allstar full-back for the last three years, was sent off after just four minutes. In the absence of a previous booking, he is set to get a one-month suspension to keep him out of the All-Ireland semi-final in three weeks' time.
Lohan walked the plank along with Waterford's Michael White and, while half a dozen others were queueing up for the honour, the pair fingered cannot have any complaints. They participated in a flare-up that was threatening even before the game commenced.
``To say the least, there was lots of stuff happening off the ball from the very word go,'' said Jamesie O'Connor afterwards.
O'Connor himself felt Brian Greene at his shoulder. ``He was niggling me, and I turned around and I just shoved the hurley in, and the hurley unfortunately broke,'' added O'Connor.
On the other side of the halfway line, Anthony Daly and Dan Shanahan dug into each other. When referee Willie Barrett got the game underway, there was no respite.
Tony Browne and Colin Lynch were mouthing at each other. After one brief outbreak of fighting, Stephen Frampton's helmet fell to the ground and there it remained while the game continued for a few minutes.
It would not be long, however, before the inevitable happened. The poisonous atmosphere ensured the eruption of a quite fierce battle in front of the Clare goal. About 12 players came thundering in.
When it was over, Barrett singled out Lohan and White and sent them off. Colin Lynch, who had delivered some telling blows to Browne in a separate spat 25 yards further out the field, was booked but somehow escaped a sending-off.
The Munster Council have established a precedent in the past of using video evidence and when they meet next Friday night, they are certain to be busy. White automatically misses next Sunday's All-Ireland quarter-final, and he, too, is in line for a month at least.
The gradual breakdown of law and order in hurling has not been checked in recent times. Managers and selectors roamed the sideline and the pitch yesterday with fear of censure one Waterford selector, Shane Aherne, was spoken to twice by the referee.
On the second occasion, Barrett pointed towards the dug-out. But Aherne merely moved around to behind the Clare goal.
Yesterday week, there were clear breaches of the rules guarding sideline interventions. Yet the Munster Council chose not to take any action between the draw and the replay. In the world of the e-mail, the GAA persists with the carrier pigeons.
Managers can now have a cut at an umpire, referee or linesman when the mood takes them. Players frequently mill around the referee and shout complaints into his face.
A blow-out like yesterday's has been coming for quite a while and either hurling's ruling bodies reclaim control of the pitches and the sidelines or throw their hat at it.
Of course, we will first of all have to endure the sanitisation of the incident, the 'handbags at ten paces' veneer that all involved will be happy to administer.
One look at the scoreline tells you all you need to know about Clare's superiority. The team selected was another `dummy' outfit and Danny Scanlon and Eamonn Taaffe made way for Fergus Tuohy and David Forde.
They had the foundation well-laid when they retired 0-7 to 0-5 ahead at half-time, and a Niall Gilligan goal six minutes into the second-half put them firmly on the road.
The final half-hour saw Waterford shrivel up. If you include Gilligan's goal, Clare outscored Waterford by 2-9 to 0-4.
It is for bursts like these that Clare are so feared in hurling. Whatever inroads Waterford made upon Clare's reputation as an impenetrable fortress were undone yesterday: Waterford suffered badly and it will take some inspired healing work to rebuild them over the next few days.
The story of Clare's victory can be told through a few man-to-man duels. Last week, Dan Shanahan was a right nuisance for Anthony Daly. Yesterday, Daly triumphed and Shanahan was among those flattered to remain on the field when the energetic Dave Bennett was unluckily substituted in the second-half.
Last week, Tony Browne was the star midfielder. Yesterday, he did reasonably well without much support, but Ollie Baker and a rejuvenated Lynch stalked the region in a mean mood.
Frankie Lohan took a few minutes to get his bearing but he soon put the clampers on Paul Flynn. And Seanie McMahon gave a commanding display at centre half-back.
Thus, Clare were able to destroy Waterford - even without Brian Lohan, who also had a point to prove after last Sunday's roasting by Anthony Kirwan.
The early interpersonal thunder cleared the air between the players. The wet and stormy weather was not for taming, however, and it bequeathed a legacy of fumbling, slipping, falling and sliding.
Waterford made early running and they led by 0-3 to 0-1 after 13 minutes. The wheel turned slowly but surely and it took a brave dive on the ball by Brian Flannery to prevent Fergie Tuohy from scoring a 30th minute goal.
The sure-striking McMahon whistled the resultant 65 over the bar to draw Clare level at four points apiece. At half-time, seven long-striding Gardai in psychadelic green jackets emerged to walk Willie Barrett into the tunnel, but there wasn't a hint of trouble.
The badness had gone out of it by then the fight never deserted Waterford, but they were pedalling uphill for virtually all of the second-half.
Gilligan's goal was a product of the day. McMahon's 65 dropped in the goalmouth and Gilligan got a touch to it. First-time control was a non-event in the wet and it hit the net to jettison Waterford's chances.
Some astute reshuffling served Clare well. Fergal Hegarty showed a return to form when introduced on the left wing. Within minutes, Waterford were on trouble on all borders.
The scores flowed. David Forde, McMahon (65), Hegarty, Forde, Alan Markham and Baker all pointed.
The point of no return was reached when Jamesie O'Connor's shot was half-blocked but fell to Gilligan, who availed of the wide thoroughfares in the Waterford defence to shoot his second goal.
O'Connor (free), Lynch and O'Loughlin brought it to 2-16. Browne resorted to loitering around the Clare defence in the hope of picking up a long ball.
Flynn had a free but there was to be no repeat of his heroics a week earlier; Davy Fitzgerald saved it and spent the next 30 seconds orbiting the goalmouth while violently punching the defenceless air.
SCORERS Clare: S McMahon 0-4 (3 `65', 1f), N Gilligan 2-1, J O'Connor 0-4 (4f), D Forde 0-2, A Markham 0-1, F Hegarty 0-1, C Lynch 0-1, O Baker 0-1, G O'Loughlin 0-1. Waterford: P Flynn 0-4 (3f), D Bennett 0-2, K McGrath 0-1, P Queally 0-1, A Kirwan 0-1, S Daly 0-1.
CLARE D Fitzgerald (8); F Lohan (8), B Lohan (not on long enough to be rated), B Quinn (8); L Doyle (8), S McMahon (9), A Daly (8); C Lynch (8), O Baker (8); A Markham (7), F Tuohy (6), J O'Connor (8); N Gilligan (8), C Clancy (6), D Forde (7.) Subs: F Hegarty (8) for F Tuohy, 48. G O'Loughlin (8) for C Clancy, 54.
WATERFORD B Landers (8); B Flannery (8), T Feeney (8), M O'Sullivan (7); B Greene (8), F Hartley (7), S Frampton (8); T Browne (8), P Queally (6); D Shanahan (6), K McGrath (6), D Bennett (7); M White (not on long enough to be rated), A Kirwan (7), P Flynn (7). Subs: S Daly (7) for P Queally, 54. B O'Sullivan (not on long enough to be rated) for D Bennett, 60.
REF W Barrett (Tipperary.)