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Tony Kelly points the way for Clare to valuable League win over Wexford

Allianz NHL Division 1: Clare 0-18 Wexford 0-15

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Tony Kelly of Clare in action against Paul Morris and Aidan Rochford of Wexford, left, during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group B Round 2 match at Chadwicks Wexford Park in Wexford. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Tony Kelly of Clare in action against Paul Morris and Aidan Rochford of Wexford, left, during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group B Round 2 match at Chadwicks Wexford Park in Wexford. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Tony Kelly of Clare in action against Paul Morris and Aidan Rochford of Wexford, left, during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group B Round 2 match at Chadwicks Wexford Park in Wexford. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

A Tony Kelly masterclass helped Clare survive a second-half onslaught to take two valuable National Hurling League points home from Chadwicks Wexford Park.

The Ballyea man was in imperious form, snapping over two priceless points from play when they were most needed to complete a personal haul of 0-12 in a hard-fought and often bad-tempered battle in which the hurling was seldom better than workman-like.

The game ended, as expected, without a handshake between Brian Lohan and Davy Fitzgerald, two old Clare heroes now no longer on speaking terms.

It was a contest shaped, as ever, by the notorious Wexford Park wind, howling in from the Clonard-end. A wind that decreeing that Wexford, facing into it for the first-half, simply did not have the option of Mark Fanning going long with his puck-outs.

Accordingly, they deployed Rory O'Connor in a deep-lying role which, in tandem with Kevin Foley operating as sweeper, meant a congested middle third and little support for an isolated Conor McDonald on the edge of the Clare 'square'.

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Shane O'Donnell of Clare in action against Kevin Foley of Wexford during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group B Round 2 match  at Chadwicks Wexford Park

Shane O'Donnell of Clare in action against Kevin Foley of Wexford during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group B Round 2 match at Chadwicks Wexford Park

SPORTSFILE

Shane O'Donnell of Clare in action against Kevin Foley of Wexford during the Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Group B Round 2 match at Chadwicks Wexford Park

The Banner men were quick to take advantage of those conditions, surging into a 0-6 to 0-0 lead inside 12 minutes.

Their fourth score was symptomatic of Wexford's troubles, Rory O'Connor coming short for a Fanning puck-out only for his poor first touch to allow an interception by David Fitzgerald who promptly set up Ryan Taylor for the score.

It was Taylor's second point of the day supplementing Tony Kelly's impressive free-taking, but really should have been a goal from the Clooney-Quin man whose effort to find the net snapped over off Fanning's crossbar.

Wexford then slowly came to grips with the game and even looked to have weathered the storm as three Jack O'Connor frees had the margin halved by the 27th minute.

They then got the added boost of a red card for Clare full-forward, John Conlon, whose challenge on Kevin Foley did look high, but accidental. For Clare now, a three points lead looked decidedly threadbare.

But they found important momentum in the closing five minutes of the half, out-scoring their hosts by 0-6 to 0-1 to get to the mid-point leading 0-12 to 0-4.

Given the strength of the wind, that was maybe a misleading advantage and, sure enough, Wexford had reduced the deficit by two points within 80 seconds of the resumption.

It was all Wexford now, Clare struggling to find their targets with Donal Tuohy's long puck-outs and the home team happy to shoot now from distance.

It would be 16 minutes into the second-half, before Clare got back on the scoreboard, by which time the margin was down to a manageable three.

But there and then, Lohan's men dug really deep, none deeper than the magnificent Kelly who was on fire at a time others really struggled to come to terms with the conditions.

And Wexford just could not edge their way in front, getting the margin down to the minimum a couple of times before those crucial Kelly points and a fine effort from David Fitzgerald eased the Banner safely home.

SCORERS - Clare: T Kelly 0-12 (0-10 frees), D Fitzgerald 0-3, R Taylor 0-2, S O’Donnell 0-1. Wexford: J O’Connor 0-4 (0-3 frees), P Foley 0-3 (frees), R O’Connor and C McDonald 0-2 each, L Og McGovern 0-1, A Rochford and P Morris 0-1 each, M Fanning 0-1 (free).

Clare: D Tuohy, J Browne, C Cleary, E Quirke, A McCarthy, P O’Connor, S O’Halloran, D McInerney, T Kelly, I Galvin, D Fitzgerald, D Reidy, R Taylor, J Conlon, S O’Donnell. Subs – D McMahon for Galvin (46 mins), S Morey for Taylor (55 mins), C Malone for Reidy (65 mins), L Corry for Quirke (67 mins), A Shanagher for O’Donnell (72 mins).

Wexford: M Fanning, S Reck, L Ryan, Joe O’ Connor, D Reck, S Murphy, P Foley, K Foley, Jack O’Connor, L Og McGovern, R O’Connor, C Dunbar, A Rochford, C McDonald, P Morris. Subs – A Nolan for McGovern (60 mins), H Kehoe for D Reck (64 mins).

Referee: S Cleere (Kilkenny).

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