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davy dumped Clare see off Wexford as Lohan beats old foe Fitzgerald in the battle of the Banner men

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Wexford and Clare players contest the loose ball during the All-Ireland Senior Championship Qualifier Round 2 match

Wexford and Clare players contest the loose ball during the All-Ireland Senior Championship Qualifier Round 2 match

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Wexford and Clare players contest the loose ball during the All-Ireland Senior Championship Qualifier Round 2 match

Clare 1-21 Wexford 0-17

Clare hurlers advanced to the last six in the All-Ireland series after knocking last year’s beaten All-Ireland semi-finalist Wexford out of the race in Portlaoise.

The hero for the Banner men was team captain Tony Kelly, who scored 1-15. Three magnificent first-half points from play and a 55th-minute goal, which effectively decided the contest, were the high points of a tour-de-force performance.

After two indifferent showings in the championship, Brian Lohan's side reserved their best performance of the campaign against a side managed by their former boss and goalkeeper Davy Fitzgerald.

To add further spice to the fixture, Lohan and Fitzgerald, who were long-time team-mates on Clare’s All-Ireland winning team, no longer speak to each other. So, this was a particularly sweet success for Lohan, and it could conceivably end Fitzgerald’s four-year term as Wexford boss.

After a heavy loss to Limerick and an unconvincing win over Laois, this was the moment of truth for Clare, who were without their suspended team captain David McInerney. And they responded in style.

Wexford suffered a blow before the throw-in when Lee Chin was ruled out – he was replaced by Jack O’Connor. There were three late changes on the Clare side, with Patrick O’Connor, Jason McCarthy and David Fitzgerald replacing Paul Flanagan, Shane Golden and Aron Shanagher respectively. Clare won the toss and opted to take advantage of the strong wind.

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Clare manager Brian Lohan and Wexford boss Davy Fitzgerald

Clare manager Brian Lohan and Wexford boss Davy Fitzgerald

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Clare manager Brian Lohan and Wexford boss Davy Fitzgerald

Wexford’s Conor McDonald and Clare full-back Conor Cleary clashed before the ball was thrown in and the early exchanges were tight, tough and low scoring. Gradually, Wexford got on top, though Clare’s Colin Guilfoyle had a goal chance after four minutes. However, his weak kicked effort was comfortably saved by Mark Fanning.

Wexford’s finishing was sub-standard and they coughed up another goal chance to Guilfoyle, but his effort was saved by Fanning at the expense of a 65 which Tony Kelly converted. Kelly also converted two monster frees to give Clare a flattering 0-4 to 0-2 advantage at the first water break.

The scoring rate improved in the second quarter, with a magical point from the right-hand touchline from Kelly – who later had to receive attention for a hand injury. Clare’s Joe O’Connor was booked, as was Guilfoyle, following the incident after the referee consulted with both his umpires and linesman.

Kelly continue to be impervious, however, and he scored an even better point from the opposite flank in the 28th-minute as Clare built a decent lead. A third unbelievable point from Kelly – this time from near the end line on the left side - underlined the quality of both his play and his performance.

By half time, helped by Kelly’s 0-10 tally, Clare enjoyed a ten-point advantage after a half which featured five yellow cards and no score from Wexford in the second quarter.

The big issue facing Wexford in the second half was that their short passing game wasn’t suited to take full advantage of the elements. Half-time substitute Diarmuid Ryan increased Clare’s lead immediately after the break and Kelly made it a 12-point game soon afterwards.

The rest of the third quarter was stop-start in nature but this scarcely mattered to Clare, who were eight points clear (0-16; 0-18).

Lohan's side effectively wrapped up their place in the last six soon after the water-break, when their route-one tactics paid handsome dividends. It was the two survivors from the 2015 All-Ireland winning team, Shane O’Donnell and Tony Kelly, who delivered the coup be grace after a long puck-out from Eibhear Quilligan.

O’Donnell found Kelly in space and he powered through before driving a low shot past Mark Fanning.

Wexford brought their captain Lee Chin on, but it was too little too late. They did outscore Clare 0-6 to 0-2 in the last 15 minutes, but it scarcely mattered and appropriately it was Man of the Match Tony Kelly who had the final say with a brilliant point from play in the fifth minute of injury time.

The defeat could mark the end of David Fitzgerald’s tenure as Wexford boss.

Scorers: Clare: T Kelly 1-15, 8f, 1 65), J McCarthy 0-2, CGuilfoyle, C Malone, D Ryan, D Fitzgerald 0-1 each

Wexford: P Morris 0-6, 5f, S Murphy, P Foley 0-3 each, RO’Connor 0-2, 1f, C McDonald, D Dunne, K Foley 0-1 each

Clare: E Quilligan; R Hayes, C Cleary, P Flanagan; SO’Halloran, A McCarthy, S Morey; J McCarthy, T Kelly; C Malone, D Fitzgerald, DReidy; C Guilfoyle; S O’Donnell, R Taylor. Subs: D Ryan for Guilfoyle ht; PFitzpatrick for McCarthy 60, A Cunningham for Reidy 68, C McInerney for Taylor70 +4.

Wexford: M Fanning; S Donohoe, L Ryan, Joe O’Connor; PFoley, M O’Hanlon, S Murphy; D O’Keeffe, Jack O’Connor; L Og McGovern; CMcDonald, A Nolan; K Foley, R O’Connor, P Morris. Subs: D Reck for Donohoe 38, L Chin for Jack O’Connor 56, A Dwyer for McGovern 58, D Dunne for Nolan 61,S Reck for Joe O’Connor 66,

Referee: Liam Gordon (Galway)

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