5 things we learned from Sunday's hurling final

Conor McGrath has become the most important player in the Clare squad
Conor McGrath has become the most important player in the Clare squad

1. Conor McGrath showed that he is the hurler Clare can least afford to be without, putting on a scoring exhibition.

The Cratloe forward finished with 13 points, three from play, and nailed the injury-time high-pressure free which earned his side an extra-time reprieve.

Of Clare’s 15 points in normal time he scored 12. While most of Clare’s forwards struggled against Waterford’s crowded defence, he showed outstanding leadership. 

2. Clare’s prospects of winning a first league title since 1978 almost foundered on their poor attacking return which gives them food for thought ahead of the replay and the Munster Championship meeting on June 5.

They had no clear-cut goal chance over the entire match, with Waterford posing a greater goal threat, Tom Devine going closest with a strong run before being denied by Patrick Kelly’s save in extra-time.

John Conlon’s presence was sorely missed and they need to find a more convincing way of breaching the Waterford system in the replay.   

3. Waterford’s free-taking was a source of concern, in spite of Maurice Shanahan’s monster effort with seconds left in extra-time.

Patrick Curran hit some impressive scores from play but his free-taking was ropey, before Shane Bennett took on the responsibility.

After scoring the first two Bennett missed three in succession but eventually regained his composure and range and had a fine match overall.

Waterford’s shooting in general was well below standard and they piled on the wides in the first half: 12 to Clare’s 6. Clare had similar issues in the second half, hitting 12 wides to Waterford’s five, but extra-time brought the best out of both sides, Waterford shooting no wide in the 20-minute period, Clare adding three more. 

4. Hawk-Eye’s immense value as a score detection service was underlined when a late attempt at an equaliser in normal time by Tony Kelly was ruled wide, though television replays appeared to suggest he might have been hard done by.

The technology is due in Thurles for the Championship and will provide valuable assistance to umpires and reduce the scope for further controversy. 

5. Substitutions again proved a telling influence and add to the selection headaches ahead of the replay.

Tom Devine had a major impact, while Brian O’Halloran and Tommy Ryan chipped with crucial scores before Shanahan had the free from his own half which levelled it at the end.

Clare’s Colm Galvin, star of their semi final win over Kilkenny with five points from play, failed to register before his substitution after 61 minutes, then went back on in extra-time with a point to prove and scored twice.