Late Gary Cooney goal sees Clare survive Wexford comeback in All-Ireland qualifiers

Clare 2-25 Wexford 2-22
17 July 2021; Liam Ryan of Wexford in action against Aron Shanagher of Clare during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 1 match between Clare and Wexford at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Tipperary. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

17 July 2021; Liam Ryan of Wexford in action against Aron Shanagher of Clare during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 1 match between Clare and Wexford at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Tipperary. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Dermot Crowe

Clare survived a furious challenge from Wexford to book their place in the next round of the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championsghip qualifiers, the draw to take place on Monday morning.

An injury-time goal from sub Gary Cooney, his first touch, sealed the win after an absorbing battle, enabling them to be able to survive one final Wexford onslaught which produced a goal from Lee Chin after Conor McDonald’s effort was saved.

There was not enough time left for an heroic Wexford escape, after they came from 11 points down in the first half to move within two of Clare early in the second half.

Clare started explosively but they lost their way and some of their play at times was ragged and edgy. But they still had plenty good spells with Aidan McCarthy, Ryan Taylor and David Reidy each scoring three points from play and Cathal Malone hitting 1-1.

Lee Chin of Wexford is chased by Tony Kelly of Clare during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 1 match at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Tipperary. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Lee Chin of Wexford is chased by Tony Kelly of Clare during the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship Round 1 match at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Tipperary. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Lee Chin was top scorer for Wexford with 1-12, missing just one placed ball, and Cathal Dunbar had an excellent match scoring five points from play.

They go out of the championship to Clare for the second year in a row but with a much more spirited performance than last November’s tame qualifier exit.

Clare went racing out of the blocks and led 1-9 to 0-3 by the first water break, the last score indicative of a team bristling with confidence: Rory Hayes, who was exceptional in the first quarter, bursting through from his position to snatch a loose ball, before soloing up the field and striking smartly over the bar.

With Shane Reck picking up Tony Kelly and Kevin Foley dropping back as sweeper, Wexford still couldn’t contain the Clare movement and the Bannerman hit a series of brilliant scores from Diarmuid Ryan, Aron Shanagher, Taylor and McCarthy.

Rory O’Connor had a few early point attempts from long distance that trailed wide which were symptomatic of a Wexford looking nervy in the burning heat, with temperatures ranging in the late twenties.

But Clare had some good fortune, a goal attempt by O’Connor flashing low to the side netting in the ninth minute when Clare led 0-4 to 0-1.

From the puck out Cathal Malone, who had a jittery opening, forged an opening and Fergal Horgan played a good advantage when Malone was being fouled.

The Ennistymon man made the most of the allowance by rifling the ball to the roof of the net and followed up with an exceptional point. Clare were flying.

Immediately after the water break they extended their lead to 11 points with scores from Shanagher and McCarthy, after a turnover, but Wexford were given a lifeline when both captain John Conlon and wing back Paidi Fitzpatrick failed to control a ball and Diarmuid O’Keeffe snapped it up and raced through a hole in the cover to crash home an inspirational goal.

Clare hit three poor wides on the run but they were still ten points clear when Kelly pointed a free after a foul on Reidy on the half hour mark, 1-15 to 1-5.

But from there to the break the Wexford fans in the crowd found their voice and began to sound like they believed the match was retrievable.

Wexford hit the next 0-5 without reply, a third from play by the impressive Dunbar who was a late replacement for Mikie Dwyer and a brace from Chin who was pinpoint on frees.

Going in at half time just five points down, 1-10 to 1-15, gave Wexford plenty of hope and left a worry for Clare who blew an eight point lead against Wexford in this year’s league and also lost a six-point lead in the recent Munster semi final loss to Tipperary.

For the second half David McInerney went into the Clare defence, with Fitpatrick taken off, as Clare tried to steady themselves and wrestle back control of the match.

But they had to withstand more Wexford pressure, Davy Fitzgerald’s side rattling off the next three scores, two terrific points from Rory O’Connor and Conor McDonald and a third from Liam Og McGovern, a streak of eight points without reply to get within two points of Clare.

Imagine the relief for Clare then when Snaahgher won a free off Matthew O’Hanlon, Horgan judging him to have held the forward off the ball.

The Wexford defender picked up a yellow card in the process and Kelly’s converted free was a much needed score for Clare. That sparked a four point run for Clare with McCarthy and Kelly on the mark to lead by six with 44 minutes played.

At the water break Clare led 1-21 to 1-17 and on the resumption Taylor pointed from near the sideline, before Shanagher won a free as he was bearing down on goal, with the Wexford goal under threat.

Kelly put the free between the posts and Clare were back six ahead with 55 minutes played, 1-23 to 1-17.

But Wexford kept pressing and McInerney pulled off a vital interception at one stage with Chin marauding, before three Wexford scores in a row left only a goal between them with four minutes left.

On came Mark Rodgers to score two crucial points for Clare and a long range Kelly free was answered by Dunbar’s fifth, a goal between them again in injury time.

Then a high ball in from Kelly saw Cooney get a touch ahead of O’Hanlon and keeper Mark Fanning for the critical goal. Clare were still breathing, Wexford’s summer expiring in the intense heat.

Scorers: Clare - T Kelly 0-9 (7 f); C Malone 1-1; G Cooney 1-0; A McCarthy, D Reidy, R Taylor 0-3 each; A Shanagher, R Rodgers 0-2 each; D Ryan, R Hayes 0-1 each. Wexford - L Chin 1-12 (9 fs, 1 65); C Dunbar 0-5; D O’Keeffe 1-0; R O’Connor, C McDonald 0-2 each; L McGovern 0-1.

Clare: E Quilligan: R Hayes, C Cleary, P Flanagan; D Ryan, J Conlon, P Fitzpatrick; C Galvin, T Kelly; C Malone, D Reidy, R Taylor; A Shanagher, A McCarthy, I Galvin. Subs: D McInerney for Fitzpatrick (ht); M Rodgers for I Galvin (inj 48); J Browne for C Galvin (55); A Fitzgerald for Conlon (66); G Cooney for Shanagher (70).

Wexford: M Fanning; G Bailey, M O’Hanlon, L Ryan; J O’Connor, S Donohoe, L McGovern; S Reck, D O’Keeffe; C McDonald, L Chin, R O’Connor; P Morris, C Dunbar, K Foley. Subs: D Reck for Joe O’Connor (47); Jack O’Connor for McGovern (48); A Nolan for Morris (56); C Flood for Bailey (59); M Dwyer for O’Keeffe (66).

Referee: F Horgan (Tipperary).


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