(originally posted by Giveitfong on boards.ie)
Prior to this game I reckoned that even though the Clare/Cork first round game was a close and high-scoring affair, this did not mean that the teams were any good. While minor teams can blow hot and cold, Clare certainly looked a poor team last night, or at least were made to look poor by a Waterford team which played with a lot of confidence.
Waterford also had a lot of big men playing well in key positions. Clare, like Wexford, don’t seem to be producing any big players these days. They found it difficult to penetrate the strong Waterford half back line and, while it looked early on that their full forward (their one really big-sized player) might cause some problems, the threat never materialised.
After the sides swapped a couple of early points, Waterford established a hold on the game in the 10th minute when a long ball in from midfield broke behind the Clare defence and full forward Conor Gleeson was on to it in a flash, driving past his marker to finish strongly to the net.
With Cormac Curran winning ball after ball and Austin Gleeson lording it at centre back, Waterford were the dominant team but missed some good chances and, with the aid of the stiff breeze, Clare were just able to stay in touch, going in at half time 1-10 to 0-8 down.
Waterford got the perfect start to the second half when Adam Farrell flighted an excellent sideline across the face of the Clare goalmouth where corner forward Michael Kearney, standing on the end line, did really well to bat the ball down for Cormac Curran to drill first-time to the net.
Waterford followed up with two points but Clare then upped their game and began to win a lot of ball around midfield. They did tack on two points and if they had managed to get a goal at this stage who knows how the game would have developed.
Waterford introduced Stephen Bennett (looking somewhat overweight) in the 40th minute and three minutes later he blasted a penalty to the net after Patrick Curran was taken down going through. This put Waterford into a 3-13 to 0-10 lead.
Patrick Curran was unlucky not to raise a green flag himself when his shot after a great solo run was well saved by the Clare goalkeeper. Waterford added three more points and then produced the coup de grace in the 55th minute when Curran’s super pass allowed the inrushing Bennett to leave the defence in his wake and slip the ball expertly to the net.
The Waterford goalkeeper got little enough to do in general play, but his puckouts lacked length and were very unpredictable in terms of trajectory and where they landed. Given Waterford’s ability to win ball in the air around midfield, they really need reliable and predictable puckouts for maximum effectiveness.
The Waterford fullback Sam O’Neill (who also looks overweight) looked a bit vulnerable to low incoming ball early on but made a couple of great high catches late in the game as Clare resorted to route one in search of goals. In the right corner William Hahessy did fine but in the other corner Barry Whelan seemed to lack confidence and focus.
Austin Gleeson gave a powerful performance, especially in the second half while Tom Devine to his right, back in his favourite wing back position, was also excellent. On the other flank, Shane Bennett made some great runs out of defence in the second half, but he still allowed the man he was marking, Bobby Duggan, to notch 1-2 from play.
Playing at left half forward, Cormac Curran gave an exhibition of ball winning and good control (especially for such a big man). It beggars belief that he did not start in the game against Tipperary, especially given his performances for Dungarvan Colleges and Dungarvan CBS. His point in the first half, when he grabbed a Waterford puckout and drove the ball over the bar against the wind from midfield, was a highlight of the game.
On the other wing Adam Farrell had a very good first half, scoring three points, but seemed to fade out after the change of ends. In the inside line, Patrick Curran gave another sublime exhibition of skill, pace and score-taking, finish with five points from play, while in the other corner Michael Kearney also played superbly, with three points to his credit.
A further encouraging feature of this game was the impression made by the substitutes. Stephen Bennett bagged two goals, Christy Breathnach landed a great long-range point with his first touch, and Kevin Daly made an instant impact when brought in at corner back. DJ Foran (surprisingly a non-starter) won the ball repeatedly following his introduction, and better shooting would have given him a better return than the one point which he did manage.
Ten different players contributed to the Waterford score. Interestingly, Waterford got no points from frees, due simply to the fact that Clare committed no fouls within scoring distance (apart from the penalty concession). By contrast, Bobby Duggan converted five frees for Clare (and missed a couple more). The media made a thing of the fact that Duggan was the only scorer for Clare from the third minute on, but most of his scores came from frees which were mostly earned by other Clare players.