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Dublin: 6 °C Saturday 15 December, 2018

3 reasons why Clare can be cheerful and Waterford can be fearful

Here’s what we learned from yesterday’s clash at Semple Stadium

Clare's Conor McGrath celebrates after scoring a goal.
Clare's Conor McGrath celebrates after scoring a goal.


Scoring goals

Clare had scored just four goals in the entire National League campaign but just when they needed them most, they grabbed two yesterday. The conundrum for Davy Fitzgerald is how to balance a rigid tactical framework with a goalscoring threat. Clare operated with a two-man full-forward line for long spells but with forwards of the calibre of Shane O’Donnell, Darach Honan and Conor McGrath inside, they can also benefit from the more direct route. Clare’s second goal, scored by McGrath eight minutes from time, came from an old-fashioned long ball into the Waterford full-back line. They could have had one early in the second half too but John Conlon overcooked a handpass with options either side of him. To win provincial and All-Ireland titles in the coming seasons, Clare will need to find a goal touch on a consistent basis. Already, the Banner men are just one behind their entire 2012 championship goal haul.

Gaining championship experience

David McInerney and Shane O’Donnell made their championship debuts yesterday, with Peter Duggan coming off the bench to taste the white heat of summer fare for the first time also. McInerney was given a torrid time by Waterford’s Maurice Shanahan in the first half but the Tulla man steadied again in the second half and will learn from the experience.

O’Donnell showed enough in attack to suggest that he will get better too. Clare’s inside men were starved of good possession for long spells but O’Donnell showed good presence of mind to tuck home his side’s opening goal with 15 minutes remaining. The Éire Óg man reacted well when Kevin Moran was caught in possession as he attempted to clear by whipping the ball home from close range. It was O’Donnell’s final act of the game before he was substituted and replaced by Padraic Collins.

A first Munster championship victory since 2008

Clare have finally shaken a large monkey from their backs by scoring a first victory in the Munster senior hurling championship since 2008. The Banner county beat Limerick in the provincial semi-final five years ago but were slain by Waterford in 2010 and last year, with Tipp coming out on top in Clare’s championship openers of 2009 and 2011. The psychological boost of winning such a big game cannot be underestimated. And Clare will approach their provincial semi-final with Cork on June 23 high on confidence. Clare have already beaten the Rebels three times in competitive outings this year – twice in the National League and also in the Waterford Crystal Cup. Cork and Clare will return to the Gaelic Grounds for their championship shootout – the venue where Clare preserved their NHL Division 1A status in a relegation playoff in April.


No killer instinct
(Waterford’s Seamus Prendergast dejected after the game – INPHO/James Crombie)

Waterford were desperately wasteful in front of goal yesterday. They finished the game with a massive tally of 15 wides – nine of those in the first half alone. The Déise could and should have been more than four points ahead at half-time. And when they had the chance to turn the screw in the early second half exchanges, they shot four wides. Jake Dillon’s early goal came as a direct result of a defensive error but apart from that, there was just one other occasion when they threatened to score another. Darragh Fives burst through from midfield in the 52nd minute but was whistled back by James McGrath after being fouled. Waterford also struggled for goals in the National League, netting just three in five outings despite enjoying a productive campaign. They failed to raise a single green flag against Cork, Kilkenny and Galway but will need to find goals from somewhere to revive their championship campaign.

Lack of leadership in attack

To offset the loss of retired attacking talisman John Mullane, Waterford needed at least three of their six forwards to produce big displays. Seamus Prendergast and Maurice Shanahan impressed in the first half but they faded after half-time. Brian O’Halloran limped off injured, Jamie Barron and Pauric Mahony managed just two points between them and while Jake Dillon bagged 1-2 on his championship debut, his 1-1 haul in the first half came directly from Clare defensive mistakes. Mullane’s absence was keenly felt as the game wore on and Eoin Kelly is another forward that Michael Ryan could have done with. Waterford hit just three points from play in the second half – including one from sub Gavin O’Brien – and that was never going to be enough to trouble a rampant Clare. Waterford boss Michael Ryan has so much work to do with a misfiring attack if he wants his team to bounce back in the qualifiers.

Rare Munster championship setback

For a team that has contested the last four Munster senior hurling finals, this is a big setback. Not since 2008, when Clare lost to Waterford, have the Suirsiders lost a first round clash. Michael Ryan will sift through the wreckage to examine where it went wrong, and right, for his team before plotting a course ahead for the qualifiers. Waterford have also contested All-Ireland semi-finals in six of the last seven seasons but they face a more difficult route to the last four now. Instead, Clare look far more likely to emerge as hurling’s fourth big power – behind Kilkenny, Galway and Tipperary. All in all, it was a hugely disappointing Sunday for Waterford as their intermediates were also well beaten by a Clare team littered with promising U21 players. At this point in time, Waterford have definitely slipped behind Clare in the Munster and All-Ireland series. And looking at their senior subs bench, it does appear that Ryan is seriously lacking in depth at this point in time.

Davy Fitz: My Clare side are the real deal>

Clare storm back to topple Waterford>

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About the author:

Jackie Cahill

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