6 talking points after Clare and Waterford progress, while Wexford and Laois exit

The stage is set for Round 2 qualifiers next weekend.

Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

1. A statement win for Clare

If there was a surprise element to Clare’s opening day triumph over Waterford, this felt like something more substantial to back that up. There is a significance to beating Wexford for a second successive season, just as there is in nailing down a second major win in this year’s championship. All little milestones to fuel the belief Brian Lohan’s unit are motoring well.

The opening display rocketed them into the lead and it was a spell of power that ultimately won them the game. Clare’s defending when Wexford chased them with real energy, was also impressive. David McInerney expertly timed his flick to dispossess Lee Chin in the 59th minute, Paul Flanagan’s interception moments later was just as crucial. A Wexford goal at that stage would have blown the game open but Clare repelled them.

2. Wexford end another year in disappointment

A familiar feeling for Wexford as a season ends in the qualifier arena against Clare. Perhaps this one will hurt more, given they were so close to bagging a win in Leinster against Kilkenny and the hope must have been to rectify the issues that hindered them in 2020.

The first quarter was the root cause of their problems. Nine points in arrears by the water break and trailing by 11 after 21 minutes. They may have pegged Clare back in the league after being eight down but in the sweltering Semple Stadium furnace, this was a punishing day to be hunting down an opponent. They needed to move the goalscoring dial more frequently, instead that second green flag was raised far too late.

There is also the question of where their manager goes from here. Will Davy Fitzgerald return in 2022? The dust will need to settle on this defeat before making such a crucial decision. Fitzgerald was in an impassioned mood after but his focus was more on events in his native Clare this year, which deflects to some extent from the core issue surrounding Wexford’s future.

davy-fitzgerald Wexford boss Davy Fitzgerald. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

3. Banner balance in scoring serves them well

Naturally Tony Kelly will command the focus when Clare play. Brian Lohan never tries to conceal the exceptional talent levels the Ballyea man possesses. But there has been a sense he is trying to expand his options and that was illustrated vividly yesterday.

Ten different Clare players contributed scores, eight starters and two substitutes. Aidan McCarthy, David Reidy and Ryan Taylor all chipped in with 0-3 apiece, more than Kelly registered from play. Cathal Malone and Aron Shanagher took up the scoring baton at different junctures. Mark Rodgers and Gary Cooney jumped off the bench, to contribute 1-2 between them.

Kelly was not inconspicuous, he still struck 0-9, set up the game-breaking second goal and was back deep in his own defence to snatch one Lee Chin piledriver off the line from a free. But the key message is that Clare have other threats to watch out for.

mark-rodgers-with-liam-ryan Clare's Mark Rodgers in action against Wexford's Liam Ryan. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

4. Relief for Waterford with progress

The result Liam Cahill and Waterford desired but not the manner of victory that made for a comfortable afternoon on Noreside. They must try to square a commanding first-half that shoved them eight points clear with the second half, and third quarter in particular, that left them on shaky footing.

Avoiding the trap that brought down Dublin in 2019 in the qualifiers will make them grateful at least. Austin Gleeson’s fetch and transfer to Patrick Curran was a crucial intervention for Waterford’s second goal. The scoring returns of Curran, Stephen Bennett and Dessie Hutchinson at different stages will please Cahill yet their wastefulness in the second half was glaring. The challenge will get greater as they face scope for improvement.

patrick-curran-celebrates-scoring-a-goal Patrick Curran celebrates scoring a goal. Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

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5. Laois bow out with heads high

Waterford’s struggles cannot be just pinned on their own display, instead it must be attributed to a quite wonderful resurgence by Laois. After the boost of last week’s win over Antrim, they took the fight again here. Outscoring Waterford 2-6 to 0-3 in the third quarter was highly impressive.

PJ Scully potted his frees relentlessly and Paddy Purcell was again outstanding as he struck 1-4. They just could not quite replicate that famous win over Dublin two years ago, undone by the concession of a couple of late goals. It’s the second successive year they have left Nowlan Park with the pride at mounting a huge challenge being mixed with the regret at not finishing the job. Building on it next year must now be the aim.

seamus-plunkett Laois boss Seamus 'Cheddar' Plunkett. Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

6. Stage set for qualifier draw

Now the focus shifts to the Round 2 qualifier pairings which will be revealed on Monday morning. It is an open draw with one key proviso that repeat pairings will be avoided. That rules out Clare v Waterford and as a consequence Cork v Galway.

So the fixtures will be interesting. Cork and Galway have had an extra week off to prepare, while trying to figure out why their provincial campaigns were derailed. Waterford and Clare have momentum to harness having survived the heat of opening qualifiers. A pair of crackers in store.

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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