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Classy Kelly turns on style to ease Clare over the line

CLARE held off a late fightback from Waterford yesterday to set up a provincial decider with Cork or Tipperary on July 18.

The Banner County, reigning Munster and All-Ireland champions, were 12 points clear and cruising with 10 minutes of normal time remaining before Waterford roused themselves. Goals from Gavin Crotty in the 53rd minute and captain Martin O'Neill in the final minute brought some degree of respectability to the scoreboard from a Deise perspective, but holders Clare were never unduly troubled as they showed their class to keep their opponents at arm's length.

It was that way right from the start as the winners surged into a 0-8 to 0-0 lead, before Fionan Murray popped over Waterford's opening score in the 18th minute from a free.

At half-time, Clare were 0-10 to 1-3 in front and scored nine of those first-half points from play.

Waterford struggled and were reliant on a 27th-minute goal from Jake Dillon to remain on Clare's coat-tails at the midway point.

It was impressive stuff from an entirely new Clare team to the one that landed provincial and All-Ireland honours last year.

Joint-managers Donal Maloney and Gerry O'Connor included two of Clare's 2011 minor side in their starting line-up and one of them, full-forward Tony Kelly, really turned on the style in the second half.

The former minor team captain, a precocious young talent, whipped home a 20-metre free 15 minutes from time to hand Clare a 1-15 to 1-4 lead.

And when Cathal O'Connell followed up with a point, Clare were 12 clear and looking home and hosed.

The sides exchanged scores before Waterford came on strong in the closing stages, battling back to within three points in stoppage-time before Davy O'Halloran -- who banged over five points from play -- landed the insurance score.

Scorers -- Clare: T Kelly 1-3 (1-1f), D O'Halloran 0-6 (1f), C O'Connell 0-4 (2f), C O'Doherty 0-2 (1f, 1 '65'), C Malone, C Ryan, F Kennedy, M O'Neill 0-1 each. Waterford: G Crotty 1-1, F Murray 0-4 (3f), J Dillon, E Murphy 1-0 each, J Prendergast, S Lawlor, B O'Halloran, R Barry 0-1 each.

CLARE -- R Taaffe; P Flanagan, D McInerney, K Ryan; E Boyce, C Duggan, C O'Doherty; P Sheahan, C Ryan; F Kennedy, C O'Connell, C Chaplin; C Malone, T Kelly, D O'Halloran. Subs: P Duggan for Chaplin (45), B Donnellan for Sheahan (48), M O'Neill for O'Connell (49), H Vaughan for O'Doherty (55), A Lynch for Kennedy (58).

WATERFORD -- R Roche; M Kearney, S O'Keeffe, M Wyse; S Hannon, E Madigan, W Henley; J Prendergast, S Lawlor; J Dillon, B O'Halloran, P Nevin; F Murray, G Crotty, E Murphy. Subs: R Barry for Henley (20), S Roche for Lawlor (h-t), S Power for Prendergast (44), P Power for Dillon (44), I Galgey for Nevin (53).

Ref -- D Copps (Cork)

Irish Independent