The traffic problems at Killeagh, Castlemartyr and even Midleton meant I only got to Páirc Uí Chaoimh at the end of the first half. Walking into the ground I did a quick dart up the nearest passageway to be greeted by this:
Ouch. With barely a puff in the ground we were clearly going to have to hit the ground running in the second half. Instead it was Clare who nearly got off to a flier, Oisín Hickey striding past Darren Foley and bearing down on goal. His shot was diverted out for a 65 by Paddy Cooke but he gave back some of that credit by flapping at the 65 and diverting it out for another 65 which was converted at the second attempt by Cathal O’Connell. Not long after Hickey made amends for the earlier spurned opportunity by getting through again without too much hassle and flashing a low shot past Cooke to stretch their lead to ten points.
Dónal Breathnach opened Waterford’s second half account with an excellent effort from way out under the Covered Stand, only for Aaron Cunningham to respond immediately with a fine effort of his own. Breathnach gave Waterford a chance to get back quickly when he was fouled but Jake Dillon hit the free wide. Several people around me mentioned that Dillon was strugglnig from dead balls throughout the first half and sadly it would be a recurring feature of the second half. The other main theme was the excellence of Peter Duggan. Every Clare puckout went down their right and he mopped up everything in spite of any amount of attention from Waterford backs.
Waterford had the wit to keep the ball away from him when they had the chance and Adam O’Sullivan managed to get Waterford another score when he was fortunate that it ricocheted back to him when a Clare back nearly intercepted a bal taht he waited to come to him rather than advancing towards it. Next up, Shane Roche could only foul Duggan and O’Connell knocked over the free. Then Stephen Bennett badly overhit a pass to an unmarked Breathnach and he managed to scramble the ball off the corner back for 65 which Dillon converted. Dillon failed to convert another free chance and at the other end Shane O’Donnell should have finished the game but shot straight at Cooke and hit the follow-up into the side netting.
A harsh penalising of a Waterford back for chopping down on the hurley when it looked like he had dispossessed the Clare forward clean allowed O’Connell to stretch the lead to eleven points. Waterford tried to respond via Dillon who released the onrushing O’Sullivan whose shot across goal went out for a 65. It looked like a wide to me so it was possibly justice that Dillon’s 65 went wide, not that he was thinking along those lines. A silly foul on O’Connell by Damien Ahern allowed O’Connell to move Clare even further in front and we needed goals at this stage. Breathnach took a point when there might have been a sniff of a goal, but it wouldn’t be a source of worry for too long as soon afterwards Breathnach managed to get O’Sullivan into the clear. His weak effort was flubbed by Eibhear Quilligan in the Clare goal and O’Sullivan was able to get past him and boot the ball to the net. Game on.
No one showed Dillon the go-for-goals memo and he went for a point from free which, as far out and close to the sideline as it was, was begging to be dropped into the mix. It went wide and a great chance to ramp up the pressure was lost. Dillon was clearly trying to play his way back into form as another effort went wide from a difficult angle. Thank goodness then for Gavin O’Brien who took on a captain’s role as he gathered Dillon’s angled ball into the danger area, turned and smashed a brilliant shot into the roof of the net. Suddenly there was only five points in it with five minutes to go.
Clare were rattled as they hit another wide – they would hit quite a few from open play, not least in theat period when the game looked up – and Waterford nearly turned the screw as Dillon and Breathnach combined to try and get the ball through the heart of the defence. More by accident than design Clare managed to clear. Their counterattack ended in a foul by Roche and O’Connell managed to settle some nerves with a nerveless free. Waterford continued to battle for those two match-saving goals, a Clare back sensibly hauling down Breathnach well out from goal and leaving Dillon with a difficult long-range effort, his rasping shot eventually deflected over by Qulligan. Waterford kept plugging away but couldn’t carve out another goal chance. On the basis of the excellence of their forwards, the towering Duggan in particular who is definitely one to watch, Clare were well worth their five point win.
Waterford: Paddy Cooke, Jamie Barron, Damien Ahern, Colin Walsh, Stephen O’Neill (Ian Kenny), Darren Foley, Ray Barry, Shane McNulty, Gavin O’Brien (capt, 1-1), Colin Dunford (Dónal Breathnach, 0-2), Jake Dillon (0-5, 0-4f, 0-1 65), Darragh Flynn (Micheál Harney), Adam O’Sullivan (2-1), Stephen Bennett, Cein Chester (C Curran)
Clare: Eibhear Quilligan, Jack Browne, Niall O’Connor, Seadna Morey, Jarlath Colleran (0-1), Jamie Shanahan (0-1), Gearóid O’Connell, Colm Galvin (0-2), Tony Kelly (capt, 0-3, 0-1 65), Peter Duggan, Cathal O’Connell (0-10f), Eoin Enright (Alan Mulready), Shane O’Donnell, Oisín Hickey (1-0), Aaron Cunningham (0-2).
HT: Waterford 1-4 (7) Clare 0-14 (14)
Referee: Jer O’Connell (Cork)