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Brian Lohan hails Banner resolve as subs soar in epic finale

Clare – 1-24 Wexford – 3-14


Wexford’s Conor McDonald is tackled by Clare trio Conor Cleary, Cian Nolan and Ryan Taylor. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Wexford’s Conor McDonald is tackled by Clare trio Conor Cleary, Cian Nolan and Ryan Taylor. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Wexford’s Conor McDonald is tackled by Clare trio Conor Cleary, Cian Nolan and Ryan Taylor. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

It was more than 20 minutes after the final whistle by the time Brian Lohan had eventually waded his way through an adoring Clare public and made his way off the pitch in Semple Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

The Banner were hailed for the manner in which they threw the gauntlet down to Limerick at the same venue two weeks previous in a classic Munster final, but there was real satisfaction in this display.

The odds were stacked against a misfiring Clare when they trailed 3-11 to 0-14 in the 55th minute, with star man Tony Kelly unable to catch fire and off target from placed balls, but they found a way to win the remainder 1-10 to 0-3 and make the last four.

Winning while playing champagne hurling is well and good, but there’s nothing like grinding out a victory.

“We didn’t play well for long periods,” Lohan said. “Some of our marquee guys didn’t play well as well. But they are our marquee guys because they are marquee guys and they keep going. There’s good stuff in them.

“After conceding the goal we were six points down and we were in trouble, there’s no getting away from it. It just meant the lads that were on the field had to respond and we’ve got fairly good guys who did respond.”

So many things went wrong for Clare, with eight frees spurned, Rory Hayes being called ashore after just eight minutes, as well as conceding two green flags within the space of three second-half minutes.

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To borrow Pat Gilroy’s phrase, Wexford had made Clare look like startled earwigs, but Shane O’Donnell, Kelly and the impact from the bench by Aron Shanagher and Shane Meehan ultimately proved the difference.

The game was barely 30 seconds old when Jack O’Connor fired to the Clare net and they could have had another a minute later with Conor McDonald unlucky to see his snapshot flash across the goal.

Clare looked rattled in the early going and had no answer for Diarmuid O’Keeffe’s significant influence as sweeper, but Rory O’Connor’s departure in the 14th minute when trailing by 1-4 to 0-4 signalled a change in fortunes for the Banner.

They gradually got to grips with the extra defender and Ian Galvin clocked two points before the break as they went in level, 1-7 to 0-10, and Lohan’s troops began to turn the screw upon the resumption.

Diarmuid Ryan strode forward to fire two points as they led by two, 0-13 to 1-8, but the writing was on the wall at the other end when Lee Chin blazed over from close range.

Five minutes later Chin was on the end of a long Mark Fanning free with his flick evading Eibhear Quilligan to the net, while another potentially game-changing moment occurred in the 50th minute.

Galvin blazed off the crossbar for Clare before the ball was worked down the other end and Chin made the most of indecisiveness from Quilligan to hit the net just 19 seconds later as the game swung their way.

Clare had gone 14 minutes without a score, but the introductions of Shanagher and Meehan really helped to turn the tide in their favour, along with the mercurial O’Donnell.

The screw was turning when Shanagher took advantage of a Fanning blunder to put Clare ahead with a goal in the 67th minute, 1-21 to 3-12, and they powered to the finish line with Kelly delivering a telling late salvo to book their semi-final date with Kilkenny in two weeks’ time.

SCORERS – Clare: A Shanagher 1-2, P Duggan 0-5 (5f), T Kelly 0-4, D Ryan 0-3, I Galvin, D Reidy, S O’Donnell, S Meehan 0-2 each, D Fitzgerald, C Malone 0-1 each. Wexford: L Chin 2-8 (6f), J O’Connor 1-0, O Foley 0-2, R O’Connor, D Reck, D O’Keeffe, M Dwyer 0-1 each.

CLARE – E Quilligan 6; P Flanagan 7, C Cleary 6, R Hayes 5; D Ryan 8, J Conlon 7, D McInerney 6; C Malone 6, R Taylor 7; D Fitzgerald 6, S O’Donnell 8, P Duggan 6; I Galvin 7, T Kelly 7, D Reidy 6. Subs: C Nolan 6 for Hayes (8), M Rodgers 6 for Reidy (54), A Shanagher 8 for Fitzgerald (59), S Meehan 8 for Galvin (62).

WEXFORD – M Fanning 6; S Donohoe 6, S Reck 8, L Ryan 7; M O’Hanlon 7, D Reck 7, P Foley 7; L Óg McGovern 6, C Devitt 7; R O’Connor 6, J O’Connor 7, O Foley 7; L Chin 8, C McDonald 7, D O’Keeffe 7. Subs: M Dwyer 6 for R O’Connor inj (14), K Foley 6 for O’Keeffe (62), C Flood 6 for McGovern (63), C McGuckian for S Reck inj (67), P Morris for D Reck inj (69).

REF – C Lyons (Cork).

At a Glance

Man of the Match
Shane O’Donnell (Clare)
When the going got tough and Clare’s championship survival was hanging by a thread, O’Donnell really got going, with the Éire Óg, Ennis attacker foraging hard and making some huge turnovers.

Talking Point
A glorious opportunity presented itself for Wexford to make the last four when they led by six points after 55 minutes, but they tired coming down the home stretch once again and with Rory O’Connor hobbling off injured early on, they had nothing left at the finish.

Magic Moment
Tony Kelly was falling onto his back in the 75th minute when the sliotar popped up into his hand and just five seconds later the Clare wizard had put it over the bar. Pure genius.

Match statistics
Wides – Clare 16 (9 in first half); Wexford 12 (6).
Yellow Cards – Clare 4 (D Fitzgerald 28, D Ryan 43, C Cleary 55, C Nolan 71); Wexford 2 (M O’Hanlon 35+2, L Chin 49).
Red/Back cards – 0.
Attendance 34,640.

What’s next?
Wexford’s season is over while Clare will play Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final on Saturday, July 2, in Croke Park.

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