Clare held off a spirited Waterford fightback at Fraher Field this afternoon to book their place in the Co-Op Stores Munster Senior Hurling League final against Tipperary.
he result looked like a formality when Gerry O’Connor and Donal Moloney’s side raced into a nine-point lead at the break, but Stephen Bennett – who finished with 2-12 – kept the Déise in it with a brilliant performance in attack.
The Banner started like a house on fire, hitting the opening five points and setting the template for what was to follow in the opening half as they dominated Waterford in nearly every position. Waterford were forced to rely on Bennett’s expert free-taking and the Ballysaggart forward got them off the mark in the seventh minute before Clare kicked on again, 0-5 to 0-1.
With Diarmuid Ryan firing six points in total, Clare notched six of the next seven points to stretch into a commanding lead before Tony Kelly capitalised on hesitancy in the Waterford defence to fire to the net and send them 11 clear after 26 minutes, 1-12 to 0-4.
Bennett gave the home side some hope when responding with a goal at the other end minutes later but his side still trailed 1-14 to 1-5 at half-time. Former Hurler of the Year Austin Gleeson was substituted at half-time and it looked like Páraic Fanning’s men would struggle upon the resumption, but Kevin Moran gave a superb display at wing back having replaced Gleeson.
Moran’s point, along with the free-taking of Bennett, had them back within five points by the 54th minute (1-17 to 1-12) but when Colin Guilfoyle fired past Billy Nolan minutes later, it looked like Waterford’s goose was cooked.
They refused to wilt, however, with Tommy Ryan grabbing a goal in injury time before Bennett hit a bullet-like free to the Clare net in the 75th minute to leave just one it. That would be the last play though as Clare just held on.
SCORERS – Clare: D Ryan 0-6, N Deasy 0-5 (3f), T Kelly 1-2, C Guilfoyle 1-1, S Golden 0-3, D Conroy 0-2, R Taylor, A McCarthy 0-1 each.
Waterford: Stephen Bennett 2-12 (1-10f), T Ryan 1-1, DJ Foran, K Moran, M Kearney 0-1 each.
CLARE – D Tuohy; J McCarthy, D McInerney, R Hayes; A McCarthy, C Cleary, C Malone; R Taylor, S Golden; N Deasy, T Kelly, D Ryan; C Guilfoyle, A Shanagher, M O’Neill.
Subs: J Browne for Hayes (13), G Cooney for Shanagher (52), P Collins for O’Neill (56), D Conroy for Guilfoyle and M O’Malley for Taylor (both 60).
WATERFORD – B Nolan; D Lyons, C Prunty, N Connors; M Harney, A Gleeson, K Bennett; J Barron, S Roche; C Dunford, Shane Bennett, DJ Foran; T Ryan, Stephen Bennett, J Prendergast.
Subs: K Moran for Gleeson and C Lyons for Harney (both half-time), M Kearney for Shane Bennett (45), M Walsh for Pendergast (52), J Henley for D Lyons inj (70).
REF – K Jordan (Tipperary)