Munster SHC quarter-final
By Jackie Cahill at Semple Stadium
WATERFORD suffered a first round defeat in the Munster senior hurling championship for the first time since 2008 when they went down by eight points against Clare in last Sunday’s provincial quarter-final at Semple Stadium.
And Michael Ryan’s team now face a difficult task as they look to rebuild their championship season through the back door.
Waterford have contested All-Ireland semi-finals in six of the last seven seasons but the road back to the last four is now littered with potential hazards.
Waterford, without retired John Mullane and last year’s first choice midfield pairing of Philip Mahony and Stephen Molumphy, were blown away by Clare in the second half.
Waterford were full value for a 1-9 to 0-8 half-time lead but they registered nine of their 15 wides in the first half.
And after missing a string of chances to extend that lead early in the second half, Clare went on to dominate.
The Banner County won the second half by 2-12 to 0-6 and in the final twenty minutes, Waterford were outgunned by 0-5 to 2-9.
Clare’s dominance was total when the game was in the melting pot as Davy Fitzgerald’s hungry young team levelled the game in the 51st minute before turning the screw.
Waterford will feel that referee James McGrath was a little harsh on them in a six-minute spell from the 45th-51st minutes.
In that time, Colin Ryan lofted over four frees for Clare but at the other end, Darragh Fives was whistled back when an advantage could conceivably have led to a Waterford goal.
Ryan lamented the lack of a killer instinct and the failure to “nail” Clare when Waterford had the chance.
But Clare’s greater fitness levels told in the final quarter and Waterford badly lacked leadership in key areas.
Jamie Nagle enjoyed his finest game in a Waterford shirt while Michael ‘Brick’ Walsh, Seamus Prendergast and Maurice Shanahan hurled well too, in patches.
On his championship debut, Jake Dillon scored 1-2 but Mullane was badly missed and Eoin Kelly, who also stepped down last year, wouldn’t have been a bad option either.
For Clare, this was a first victory in the Munster SHC since the 2008 semi-final victory over Limerick. It was also the first time that they have beaten Waterford in the championship since 2008.
And it was Fitzgerald’s first taste of victory against his former employers in three outings. Waterford won last year’s championship tussle between the teams and they also won the opening round fixture in the 2013 National League, at Cusack Park in Ennis.
Ryan reflected: “It looks that you are physically fitter and stronger when you are going well and on a run. It didn’t look that way in the first-half. I don’t think our physical conditioning was the problem. It’s just that we didn’t nail them when we had the chance to. Having said that well done to Clare, they fully deserved their victory, no qualms about it.”
Ryan added: “After half-time we had four good chances, we needed to take one or two of those. But we missed those chances and gave Clare a lifeline. Then they got a bit of a run on us, they got a couple of points in a row and then they got a goal and there was no catching them then.”
Ryan acknowledge that Waterford should have been more than four points ahead at half-time.
He agreed: “We probably should, we had a few good chances that we would normally get and didn’t take them. That did haunt us last year against Cork as well but that’s the way life is, it’s something we have to go away and try correct.”
Ryan also refused to condemn referee McGrath, insisting: “I don’t think the referee was an issue today, maybe people might look at it that way but I don’t know I thought he was okay. I’d have no qualms with the ref.”
Clare had raced into an early 0-4 to 0-0 lead before Dillon took advantage of a defensive error to net in the eighth minute.
Waterford recovered to lead at half-time but second half goals from Shane O’Donnell, in the 55th minute, and Conor McGrath eight minutes from time proved their undoing. At the other end, Waterford struggled badly to create goal chances, having raised just three green flags in five National League outings.
Scorers for Clare: Colin Ryan 0-7 (6f, 1 65), Tony Kelly 0-4, Shane O’Donnell & Conor McGrath 1-0 each, John Conlon & Darach Honan 0-3 each, Colm Galvin 0-2, Fergal Lynch 0-1.
Scorers for Waterford: Maurice Shanahan 0-7 (6f), Jake Dillon 1-2, Seamus Prendergast 0-2, Kevin Moran, Jamie Barron, Pauric Mahony & Gavin O’Brien 0-1 each.
CLARE: Patrick Kelly (Inagh-Kilnamona); Domhnall O’Donovan (Clonlara), David McInerney (Tulla), Cian Dillon (Crusheen); Brendan Bugler (Whitegate), Patrick Donnellan (O’Callaghan Mills), Patrick O’Connor (Tubber); Colm Galvin (Clonlara), Seadna Morey (Sixmilebridge); John Conlon (Clonlara), Tony Kelly (Ballyea), Colin Ryan (Newmarket-on-Fergus); Shane O’Donnell (Eire Og), Darach Honan (Clonlara), Conor McGrath (Cratloe).
Subs: Peter Duggan (Clooney Quin) for Morey (29), Padraic Collins (Cratloe) for O’Donnell (55), Fergal Lynch (Clooney Quin) for Duggan (69).
WATERFORD: Ian O’Regan (Mount Sion); Noel Connors (Passage), Liam Lawlor (Fourmilewater), Paudie Prendergast (Lismore); Jamie Nagle (Dungarvan), Michael Walsh (Stradbally), Kevin Moran (De La Salle); Shane O’Sullivan (Ballygunner), Darragh Fives (Tourin); Brian O’Halloran (Clashmore/Kinsalebeg); Seamus Prendergast (Ardmore), Pauric Mahony (Ballygunner); Jamie Barron (Fourmilewater), Maurice Shanahan (Lismore), Jake Dillon (De La Salle).
Subs: Ray Barry (Lismore) for O’Halloran (17), Gavin O’Brien (Roanmore) for Barron (56), Martin O’Neill (Mount Sion) for Mahony (63).
Referee: James McGrath (Westmeath).