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Flawless O'Connell lays the foundation for Clare victory

DESPITE only scoring one point in the final 12 minutes, Clare still had five points to spare as they retained the title at Pairc Ui Chaoimh yesterday.

When Cathal O'Connell pointed his ninth free in the 48th minute, the Banner led by 1-19 to 0-7, but goals from Adam O'Sullivan and Gavin O'Brien gave Waterford hope.

Ultimately, Clare had too much of a lead and could afford some sloppy wides in the closing stages.

It was in the first half that the foundations were laid, at the end of which an outstanding Clare led by 0-14 to 1-4. The effective midfield of captain Tony Kelly and Colm Galvin accounted for four points of that total.

Behind them, the half-back line mopped up efficiently, rarely giving their opponents a sniff of possession as well as outscoring them by two points to nil in terms of scores from play.

By the time 14 minutes had elapsed, Clare led by 0-7 to 0-3, Jake Dillon's frees helping to keep Waterford in touch, but on the quarter-hour the Deise got a boost when Darragh Flynn and Stephen Bennett opened up the Clare defence, the latter handpassing across goal to O'Sullivan, who finished to the net with his foot.

The score did not prove to be a game-changer, however, as Clare continued to come at Waterford in waves and three points in as many minutes, two from Galvin and a huge effort from centre-back Jamie Shanahan, cancelled out the goal.

In addition, centre-forward O'Connell was flawless from frees, having scored six by the interval as Clare turned around to face the wind with a seven-point advantage.

Within two minutes of the restart, Oisin Hickey added a goal when a clearance broke for him, and despite sub Donal Breathnach offering more impetus in the Deise attack, Clare were coasting, Shane O'Donnell only denied a goal by a Paddy Cooke save.

A full 14 points separated the teams before Breathnach pointed and O'Sullivan pounced for his second goal, firing the loose ball home after Clare goalkeeper Eibhear Quilligan couldn't intercept Bennett's ball across.

O'Sullivan then turned creator as his pass found O'Brien, who produced a rasping 20-yard shot to leave just five in it, but an O'Connell free settled Clare as their defence stood firm to the end.

Scorers -- Clare: C O'Connell 0-10f, T Kelly 0-3 (1 '65'), O Hickey 1-0, A Cunningham, C Galvin 0-2 each, J Colleran, J Shanahan, P Duggan 0-1 each. Waterford: A O'Sullivan 2-1, J Dillon 0-5 (4f, 1 '65'), G O'Brien 1-1, D Breathnach 0-2.

CLARE -- E Quilligan; J Browne, N O'Connor, S Morey; J Colleran, J Shanahan, G O'Connell; C Galvin, T Kelly; P Duggan, C O'Connell, E Enright; S O'Donnell, O Hickey, A Cunningham. Subs: A Mulready for Enright (55).

WATERFORD -- P Cooke; J Barron, D Ahern, C Walsh; S O'Neill, D Foley, R Barry; S McNulty, G O'Brien; C Dunford, J Dillon, D Flynn; A O'Sullivan, S Bennett, C Chester. Subs: D Breathnach for Dunford (h-t), C Curran for Chester (39), I Kenny for O'Neill (46), M Harney for Flynn (50).

Ref -- J O'Connell (Cork).

Irish Independent