Waterford avenge league final defeat with victory over Clare
WATERFORD 1-21 CLARE 0-17
Revenge, they say, is a dish best served cold. Well, it was steaming hot in Thurles this afternoon and it's just four weeks since Waterford were unluckily beaten in the League final replay by Clare.
But Derek McGrath's charges executed sweet revenge over the Banner County to extend Clare's miserable run in the Munster championship.
Since their last provincial win in 1998, Clare have won just five championship games in the Munster series and one in the last eight years - when Davy Fitzgerald was in charge in 2013 – in 23 attempts.
They never looked liked winning this one from the moment Maurice Shanahan found the net in the fourth minute.
The Banner malfunctioned in nearly all sectors. They had 15 wides with Conor McGrath contributing seven while Tony Kelly – who was Man of the Match in the League final replay – only scored one point.
Between them their starting forwards only scored five points from play but credit the Waterford defence for shutting them down and not coughing up a single goal chance.
So Waterford are on the march again but don't rule out the possibility of these two sides meeting again at the business end of the All-Ireland series.
Pauric Mahony returned to the Waterford side for the first time since the 2015 League final – he subsequently broke his leg in a club game which ruled him out since while Clare's John Conlon – who missed the two League finals – was recalled. This latter decision backfired as Conlon failed to make an impact on his return whereas Mahony will be happy with his return – he was the game's top scorer with a 0-6 return.
As in the replayed league final Waterford made an explosive start and were 1-1 to 0-1 ahead after just four minutes with the goal coming from the recalled Maurice Shanahan after the Clare rearguard failed to deal with what looked like an unthreatening cross from Tadhg De Burca.
But they responded well, hitting the next three scores to draw level by the 14th minute. However, a combination of the heat and the tactical approach by both teams which featured constant movement by the players meant that the contest never opened up.
Forced to shoot long range, the finishing of both sides was suspect with Clare hitting 11 wides - Conor McGrath contributed five in the first half - three from placed balls. Waterford hit nine with Kevin Moran responsible for three of them.
There was little between the sides through the mid-point of the half but Waterford eased into a four-point lead at half time (1-9 to 0-8).
Significantly, Philip Mahony was keeping tabs on Tony Kelly on this occasion while Austin Gleeson got three points from three strikes though their most influential player in the first half was Darragh Fives.
Waterford simply resumed where they left off at the start of the second half with three answered points to extend their advantage to six points and really they never looked like losing the contest afterwards.
Faced with the ferocity of the Waterford challenge Clare simply wilted – they made absolutely no headway against the rock solid Déise defence and once the magnificent Gleeson – who was the game's top point scorer from play with a 0-5 contribution – went to centre back Clare ran out of idea up front.
They briefly rallied with four unanswered points midway through the half to cut the deficit to four points but once Gleeson drove a 56th minute sideline straight over the bar it effectively ended the game as a contest.
The recalled Maurice Shanahan became more influential the longer the contest lasted and although he was pipped for the Man of the Match award by Gleeson, Waterford are a different proposition when he is on the edge of the square and significantly he was the game's joint top scorer from play with a 1-2 contribution.
Team captain Kevin Moran played a key role as well scoring 0-3 and getting through a huge amount of work.
So Waterford are through to their second consecutive Munster final as they seek their first provincial title since 2010. They will meet either Tipperary or Limerick in the decider.
But despite this setback it would be premature to write off Clare in terms of their All-Ireland campaign just yet.
The official attendance was 19,715.
Clare: P Kelly; C Dillon, P O'Connor, C Cleary (0-1); O O'Brien, B Bugler (0-1), D Fitzgerald (0-1); D Reidy (0-1), C Galvin (0-1), P Collins (0-2), T Kelly (0-1), C McGrath (0-3, 2f); D Honan, S O'Donnell, J Conlon (0-1), Subs: C Ryan (0-2, 65) for Honan 43m; C O'Connell (0-3, 2f) for McGrath 51m; S Golden for Fitzgerald 53m, A Shanagher for Collins 58m; A Cunningham for Galvin 66m;
Waterford: S O'Keeffe; N Connors, B Coughlan, S Fives; D Fives (0-1), T De Burca, Philip Mahony (0-1); J Barron, K Moran (0-3); Pauric Mahony (0-6, 5f ), S Bennett (0-1), M Walsh; M Shanahan (1-2), A Gleeson (0-6, I sideline, P Curran. Subs: T Devine for Benett 54m; J Dillon (0-1) for Curran 57m; B O'Halloran for Pauric Mahony, C Dunford for Shanahan 70m; Stephen Bennett for Walsh 74m.
Referee: J Owens (Wexford)