By Paul Shaughnessy
Waterford produced a clinical performance in the final quarter against Clare in Pairc Ui Caoimh as the Deise progressed into the All-Ireland SHC Semi-Final for the first time since 2017.
The game got off to a frantic start. With Liam Cahill’s side hitting the ground running early on when Stephen Bennett raced through the Clare defence offloading the sliotar to Austin Glesson where his shot was saved by Clare goalkeeper Eibhear Quilligan. But the lively Dessie Hutchinson was alert drilling the sliotar into the back of the net.
Clare regrouped and hit the next three courtesy of Tony Kelly, Shane O’Donnell and David McInerney. Waterford were disappointed with their lack of goals last weekend against Limerick but once again the lively Dessie Hutchinson put Waterford 2-00 – 0-03 ahead after six minutes and Jamie Barron pushed the Munster finalists four points ahead.
The biggest talking point came in the game when Tony Kelly rolled over on his ankle but the Ballyea man made no mistake from the placed ball on ten minutes. The Bennett brothers Stephen and Kieran added three points between them leaving Waterford 2-04 – 0-04 after 13 minutes.
Water breaks are proving to be a talking point this year with some teams losing momentum and that proved to be right when Clare suddenly gathered momentum riffling two goals courtesy of Aaron Shanagher past Stephen O’Keefe to have Clare leading 2-06 – 2-05 after 20 minutes.
Waterford showed character and went back into the lead landing the next two points through Austin Glesson and Stephen Bennett. Clare stayed within touching distance with Shane O’Donnell, Aaron Shanagher and a Tony Kelly free on target for Brian Lohan’s side to put 2-09 – 2-07 ahead after 27 minutes.
Waterford finished first half strongly outscoring Clare 1-03 – 0-01 with Dessie Hutchinson placing a perfect pass to former Meath hurler Jack Fagan who drilled the sliotar into the Clare net to have the 2017 All-Ireland finalists leading 3-10 – 2-10 at the break.
Waterford started the second half like they finished the first half hitting a purple patch early on nailing three points in a row from Dessie Hutchinson, Kieran Bennett and Tadgh De Burca. Tony Kelly then swapped scores with Jack Fagan who hit an outrageous score on the sideline to put Waterford 3-16 – 2-14 ahead at the water break.
Neat points from former All-stars Jamie Barron and Austin Glesson extended Waterford’s lead to seven points which had them 3-18 – 2-14 in front. The 2013 All-Ireland champions got a glimmer of hope on 56 minutes when Aaron Shanagher played a superb cross-field ball in the direction of Aidan McCarthy who drilled the sliotar into the right bottom corner which left four points between the sides.
Waterford controlled the game from then on dictating every area of the field with their efficiency and work-rate off the ball where the victors outscored their opponents 0-09 – 0-04 from the 59th minute until full time.
This week will all be about recovery for Waterford who will meet Kilkenny next Saturday 28th November at 18:00 in Croke park in the All-Ireland SHC Semi-Final.
Clare were down a number of players this year with Colm Galvin, Peter Duggan, John Conlon and Ian Galvin all being unavailable so overall you would have to say it has been a positive year for the banner.
Scorers for Waterford: Stephen Bennett 0-10 (7fs); Dessie Hutchinson 2-2, Jack Fagan 1-1, Kieran Bennett 0-3, Austin Gleeson 0-2, Jamie Barron 0-2, Conor Gleeson 0-2, Calum Lyons 0-1, Tadhg De Burca 0-1, Patrick Curran 0-1, Darragh Lyons 0-1, Neil Montgomery 0-1.
Scorers for Clare: Tony Kelly 0-8 (6fs), Aron Shanagher 2-1, Cathal Malone 0-4, Shane O’Donnell 0-2, Aidan McCarthy 1-0, David McInerney 0-1 (sideline), Ryan Taylor 0-1, David Reidy 0-1.
WATERFORD: Stephen O’Keeffe; Ian Kenny, Conor Prunty, Shane McNulty; Calum Lyons, Tadhg De Burca, Kevin Moran; Jamie Barron, Jake Dillon; Jack Fagan, Kieran Bennett, Stephen Bennett; Dessie Hutchinson, Austin Gleeson, Jack Prendergast.
Subs: Neil Montgomery for Jack Prendergast (half-time), Darragh Lyons for Jake Dillon (45), Patrick Curran for Jack Fagan (60), Iarlaith Daly for Conor Prunty (Blood, 60-62), Conor Gleeson for Austin Gleeson and Ciaran Kirwan for Dessie Hutchinson (72).
CLARE: Eibhear Quilligan; Rory Hayes, Conor Cleary, Patrick O’Connor; Stephen O’Halloran, Aidan McCarthy, Seadna Morey; Jason McCarthy, Tony Kelly; Cathal Malone, Aron Shanagher, Jack Browne; Shane O’Donnell, Jack Browne, Ryan Taylor.
Subs: David Fitzgerald for Jack Browne (half-time), Diarmuid Ryan for Jason McCarthy (52), Aaron Cunningham for Jason McCarthy and David Reidy for David Fitzgerald (both 56), Cathal McInerney for Ryan Taylor (61).
Backdoor GAA Man of the match- Dessie Hutchinson