Sunday 16 June 2019

John Conlon goal the difference as Clare hang on to deny Waterford on their Championship return to Walsh Park

Waterford 0-22 Clare 1-20

12 May 2019; Shane ODonnell of Clare, supported by John Conlon, in action against Noel Connors and Conor Prunt, 3, of Waterford during the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 1 match between Waterford and Clare at Walsh Park in Waterford. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
12 May 2019; Shane ODonnell of Clare, supported by John Conlon, in action against Noel Connors and Conor Prunt, 3, of Waterford during the Munster GAA Hurling Senior Championship Round 1 match between Waterford and Clare at Walsh Park in Waterford. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Vincent Hogan

Vincent Hogan

Clare survived a storming late finish from Waterford to get their bid for a first Munster senior hurling title in 21 years off to a flier in Walsh Park.

A rampant Tony Kelly was key to their win, the Ballyea man with a personal return of 0-5 from play in the first big championship game to be played at the city venue since Tipperary's visit in '96.

Clare always looked in control of the game until a dramatic finish, Waterford out-scoring the Banner 0-5 to 0-1 in the closing flurries before a 74th minute point by Clare substitute, Ryan Taylor, eventually broke the home resistance.

Clare were quick to take the sting out of the atmosphere of Walsh Park, packed for Munster senior championship hurling for the first time since '96 (they did play Kerry here in '03), John Conlon firing home a third minute goal after great work by Shane O'Donnell.

It was precisely the star Paraic Fanning would have been hoping to avoid for his debutant full-back, Conor Prunty, albeit the entire Waterford defensive structure seemed to come undone for the goal rather than it being down to an individual lapse.

O'Donnell looked incredibly sharp in a two-man inside line, Clare happy to crowd the middle third out of which the sniping runs of Tony Kelly always looked problematic for Waterford.

That early goal gave Waterford a lead they slowly built upon, Donal Tuohy surprisingly having the freedom to pick short puck-out targets at will as that middle third came to resemble Picadilly Circus at rush-hour.

Waterford also had the misfortune to lose their captain, Noellie Connors, with apparent concussion not long after a ninth minute collision with Conlon in the build-up to a disallowed ninth minute goal for O'Donnell.

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Whenever Tuohy chose to go long, the big hand of Peter Duggan was a dependable outlet and the Clooney-Quin Allstar had the eye in for his free-taking too, getting to the break with an impressive 0-6 to his name.

By then, Clare led 1-13 to 0-10, the locals left frustrated by Waterford's tendency to hit long into an attack where the Bennett brothers, Shane and Stephen, were being well man-marked by David McInerney and Pat O'Connor respectively.

Stephen Bennett did have a fifth minute goal chance, his flicked effort spinning wide of a post and, minutes later, Tuohy tipped his pile-driver over the bar as Waterford chased early momentum.

It just wouldn't come however, Clare well on top in the half-back line and, generally, having the edge in terms of touch and focus in that congested middle third.

For long stretches, that remained the pattern, Waterford depending almost exclusively on Stephen Bennett's free-taking to keep them in touch with what looked a superior Clare team.

But Maurice Shanahan's 65th minute introduction seemed to bring fresh energy to Waterford and had they found the net with two late 20-mtres frees, they might well have rescued an improbable win.

But that late, late Taylor point secured the win for Clare, now off to the flier they had hoped for with two more games coming quickly on successive weekends.

SCORERS:

Clare - P Duggan 0-8 (0-7 frees), T Kelly 0-5, J Conlon 1-1, C Galvin, S Golden, A McCarthy, P Collins, S O'Donnell and R Taylor 0-1 each.

Waterford - Stephen Bennett 0-11 (0-9 frees), A Gleeson 0-4, J Barron 0-2, C Gleeson, M Kearney, Shane Bennett, T Ryan and M Shanahan 0-1 each.

CLARE: D Tuohy, P O'Connor, D McInerney, J Browne, S Morey, C Galvin, D Fitzgerald, S Golden, C Malone, P Duggan, T Kelly, D Ryan, S O'Donnell, J Conlon, P Collins. Subs - A Shanagher for Collins (53 mins), A McCarthy for Golden (57 mins), R Taylor for Ryan (65 mins).

WATERFORD: S O'Keeffe, S McNulty, C Prunty, N Connors, Philip Mahony, T de Burca, K Moran, J Barron, C Gleeson, A Gleeson, M Kearney, Pauric Mahony, Shane Bennett, Stephen Bennett, P Hogan. Subs - S Fives for Connors (18 mins), T Ryan for Hogan (half-time), J Prendergast for Barron (56 mins), P Curran for Shane Bennett (56 mins), M Shanahan for Pauric Mahony (65 mins).

Referee - J Owens (Wexford).

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