Fitzgerald salutes Clare's rising stars
Banner show mettle to prevail despite glut of missed chancesClare 3-24 Wexford 1-20 (after extra time
DAVY Fitzgerald's Clare mixed the ridiculous with the sublime in Thurles but eventually did enough to make it through to the quarter-finals.
Clare 3-24 Wexford 1-20
They should have been out of sight before the end but Jack Guiney's injury-time goal ensured extra-time at a sweltering Semple Stadium, after Clare had registered 16 wides.
However, Fitzgerald rightly pointed out that, although his side finished with 20 wides, they also hit 3-24 and Wexford goalkeeper Mark Fanning pulled off a couple of outstanding saves. So all in all, that's the guts of 50 scoring chances.
Not bad over 90 minutes and if Clare can start converting the vast majority of opportunities, they will be a force to be reckoned with. As things stand, they're still very much alive in a fascinating 2013 championship.
And Fitzgerald believes that his young side will get even better as they continue to bank experience from big days like this. He also launched a robust defence of the team's style of play, hammered by some critics for being over-elaborate.
Fitzgerald reflected: "It's the same story all year. We are hitting the wides but the type of game we play, which is not a short-ball game, it's a varied, running game. We (go) long, we (go) short.
"That's what we have been doing all year. We will create a lot of chances. I think as we progress and mature, we will start to rectify that.
"But isn't it fantastic to have that opportunity? There are a lot of teams who would kill to be in that position, about having that many wides.
"If we have 20-something wides and we have 26 or 27 (scores), we're nearly making 45-50 scoring chances. That tells its own story. That isn't a bad thing – people have got to look at that."
Taking the facile victory over Laois into account, Clare have now hit 4-56 in two matches and that is fine shooting in anyone's language.
But they were almost the architects of their own downfall before Cathal McInerney came off the bench to score 2-1 in the first period of extra-time.
Clare also had a penalty miss from Tony Kelly in the first half, before the man of the match opted to hammer a second award over the crossbar at the death. That was seconds after Wexford lost corner-back Bobby Kenny to a second yellow card.
It was another championship game in which Wexford finished a man light and, like the Dublin replay at Parnell Park, there were a couple of unsavoury episodes that went unpunished.
Wexford don't want to end up being tarnished as an unnecessarily dirty team because a lot of good things are happening in the county.
They're competitive again as a senior championship force and while boss Liam Dunne admitted that he's unsure about his own future in charge, after two years at the helm, he's surely the right man to take the team forward.
Dunne said: "We beat the Kilkenny minors for the first time in 20 years in Nowlan Park this year. And the U-21s won the other night and were magnificent.
"We've had to build a new team, we have a young team and they'll learn from it. People talk about the Clare team being young but we have a young team ourselves. We're trying to get there, doing our best."
Wexford had outscored Clare in the final 15 minutes by 1-5 to 0-2 to force extra-time and the momentum appeared to be with them.
"But what did the young fellas do inside there?" Fitzgerald asked. "They said 'okay, we're in a battle now and we've got to go out and sort this out ourselves'. They sorted it out themselves. They know what to do and I think we showed our class in extra-time."
Now Fitzgerald has a few selection posers to contend with ahead of the quarter-finals. Darach Honan was ruled out through injury, allowing goalscorer Shane O'Donnell to slot in.
Fitzgerald insisted: "It's great. I've Darach to come back, Cathal's been waiting for a chance for a long time, he showed us what he can do. I'm delighted he did that. I certainly want those challenges.
"Aaron Cunningham didn't do bad when he came in. Different lads showed up there today and thanks be to God we've got that problem."
Wexford will regroup over the winter but may have to do so without inspirational full-back Tomas Waters, who limped off with suspected cruciate knee ligament damage.
Dunne reflected: "The referee had a very good game but we had our full-back down for a very long period of time, with his cruciate ligament damaged, that's what the doctors have told me.
"And the game continued on and Clare scored two points in that time, which I thought was a little harsh on Wexford. But maybe in time we'll get those decisions."
It's expected that Dunne will be there if the tide does change but he said: "I don't know what's going to happen. I was given a two-year term.
"Maybe JJ Doyle (U-21 manager) will take it," Dunne grinned. "But I don't know. It's not a day for ifs or whats."
Scorers – Clare: C Ryan 0-10 (6fs, 2 '65s'), C McInerney 2-1, S O'Donnell 1-1, T Kelly 0-5 (0-1 pen), J Conlon 0-3, B Bugler, P Collins, S Morey, A Cunningham 0-1 each. Wexford: J Guiney 1-8 (6fs), D Redmond, P Morris, P Doran, G Moore 0-2 each, C Kenny, G Sinnott, C McDonald, M O'Regan 0-1 each.
CLARE – P Kelly 7; D O'Donovan 7, D McInerney 7, C Dillon 7; B Bugler 7, P Donnellan 7, P O'Connor 7; C Galvin 6, C Ryan 8; J Conlon 7, T Kelly 8, P Duggan 6; P Collins 6, S O'Donnell 7, C McGrath 7. Subs: S Morey 6 for Galvin (54), A Cunningham 6 for Duggan (59), C McInerney 8 for O'Donnell (65), F Lynch 6 for Conlon (70), N O'Connell 6 for Ryan (70), Ryan for Morey (75), Conlon for McGrath (80), Morey for O'Connor (86).
WEXFORD – M Fanning 8; E Moore 6, T Waters 7, B Kenny 6; R Kehoe 5, K Rossiter 6, C Kenny 6; A Shore 6, D Redmond 7; P Morris 7, E Quigley 4, G Sinnott 5; R Jacob 6, J Guiney 7, P Doran 7. Subs: G Moore 7 for Quigley (34), H Kehoe 5 for R Kehoe (h-t.), E Doyle 6 for Waters (64), PJ Nolan 6 for H Kehoe (69), C McDonald 6 for Doran (69), M O'Regan for Sinnott (76), C O'Shaughnessy n/a for Rossiter (79).
REF – D Kirwan (Cork).
Game at a glance
Man of the match
Tony Kelly (Clare)
This was more of a solid overall team performance from Clare, without ever hitting the high notes. Cathal McInerney scored 2-1 after coming off the bench, but Tony Kelly was consistently good throughout as he roamed to good effect and picked off four points.
Clare opened the first period of extra-time in devastating fashion and had the game wrapped up within minutes. Conor McGrath was the provider for both goals as the Banner County blitzed their opponents and McInerney was the executioner.
Are Clare genuine All-Ireland contenders? Davy Fitzgerald continues to play down their chances, but if they improve on their finishing, they can still have a big say in this year's championship. It's one of those rare wide-open seasons and this is a fine opportunity for Clare.
Jack Guiney's equalising goal deep in stoppage time was a fabulous strike. The U-21 star brilliantly fetched Ciaran Kenny's delivery and although he was being fouled, Guiney had goal on his mind as he held off a couple of would-be tacklers before finding the net.
A quietly effective game from Diarmuid Kirwan. None of his decisions had a major bearing on the end result and he allowed some good advantages throughout, most notably when Guiney was allowed to continue before his equalising goal.
What they said
Davy Fitzgerald (Clare manager):
"Of the six teams left we'll be total outsiders. But you know what, we like that. We're fighters in Clare."
Liam Dunne (Wexford manager)
"I don't know what's going to happen. I was given a two-year term. Maybe JJ Doyle will take it. But I don't know. . . it's not a day for ifs or whats, like in fairness."
Clare 20 (7 first half),
Wexford 10 (2)
Clare 15 (10)
Wexford 17 (8)
Clare 5 (S O'Donnell 19, C Dillon 52, P Donnellan 67, T Kelly 70, P Collins 77)
Wexford 8 (M Fanning 17, T Waters 31, C Kenny 40, E Moore 47, G Sinnott 70, K Rossiter 76, B Kenny 86, 88)
Wexford 1 (B Kenny 88)
Clare progress to the All-Ireland SHC quarter-finals on Sunday, July 28. It's back to the drawing board for Wexford.