Clare 0-22 Waterford 0-22 (after extra-time)
Maurice Shanahan’s 92nd-minute free salvaged a replay for holders Waterford in this afternoon’s Allianz Hurling League Division 1 final at Semple Stadium.
Shanahan, who came off the bench with 13 minutes remaining in normal time, held his nerve to square matters when it seemed as if Colin Ryan’s 90th-minute score had secured a first top-flight title for Clare since 1978.
Both teams will contest the replay next weekend – just four weeks before they’re due to meet again in the Munster SHC semi-final on June 5.
Clare went into battle without a number of injured key stars – John Conlon, Conor Ryan and David McInerney chief among them.
By full-time, manager Davy Fitzgerald was desperate for another shot at the county he used to manage – and he’ll get that opportunity twice in a month now.
With both teams adopting their usual sweeper systems, and Fitzgerald warning beforehand that it mightn’t be the “prettiest” of games, that’s exactly how it transpired – before extra-time provided more entertainment.
Both sides were extremely wasteful in normal time, registering a total of 35 wides between them (Waterford 19, Clare 16). When the dust settled, they had collected 39 in total (Waterford 20, Clare 19).
They were deadlocked at 0-15 apiece when Clare’s leading marksman Conor McGrath, with 73 minutes and 33 seconds on the watch, fired over the equalising score from the 20m line, tight on the left touchline.
In the first minute of stoppage time, Waterford’s rising young star Shane Bennett popped over his seventh point of the game, and third from play, to hand the Déise a lead that looked like a winning one.
But throughout this fixture, there was very little to separate the sides – even though Clare were three points clear in the second half.
In front of 19,498 spectators, it was predictably tight and tense, with both sides putting over just four points from play between them – three of those for Clare – in the first half.
Waterford also racked up a massive tally of 12 wides in that opening half, five of them from Austin Gleeson.
Waterford were struggling badly on placed balls, Patrick Curran missing three and Gleeson two, before Shane Bennett assumed free-taking responsibilities before half-time and landed two successful efforts.
A cagey atmosphere pervaded throughout the first half and there was just the merest whiff of a goal chance when Curran caught a Gleeson delivery close to goal but was bottled up the massed Clare ranks.
There were goal chances in the second half but Tom Devine, goal hero in last year’s final against Cork, missed the best of them.
Right from the start, Waterford operated with just one forward inside the 45m line and it quickly became apparent that this would be an afternoon for long-range shooters to strut their stuff.
Unfortunately, Waterford were wayward with those 12 wides, with another two efforts dropping short.
Clare were a little more economical in their shooting, registering six wides, but Waterford picked up more than enough breaking ball around a congested middle third to make more of an impact on the scoreboard before the break.
Instead, it was Clare who went in a point up, 0-7 to 0-6, with Conor McGrath’s fifth point of the half, and fourth free, handing the Banner County a slim advantage.
There was barely a whiff of cordite in the air until Tony Kelly careered into Colin Dunford with a head-high challenge in the 29th minute, referee Brian Gavin opting for a yellow card.
There was also a touchline flare-up involving both benches shortly afterwards as the temperature gauge went up a notch but linesman Cathal McAllister intervened to help ensure that there was no physical contact between the respective backroom teams as the verbals flew.
After half-time, Bennett missed a few early frees as the second half picked up where the first had left off.
Clare led by three points, 0-11 to 0-8, but Waterford reeled them in with a trio of Bennett points, two from play.
Gleeson’s free then handed Waterford the lead for the first time in the game but the sides were level on three further occasions in a dramatic final ten minutes, plus stoppage time, before extra-time ensued.
Waterford moved three clear in the first period before they were reeled in – 0-18 apiece at the midway point.
They were level again four times in the second period before Gavin blew for full-time.
CLARE: P Kelly; O’Brien, C Dillon, P O’Connor; B Bugler, C Cleary, D Fitzgerald; D Reidy (0-01), C Galvin (0-02); P Duggan (0-01), T Kelly (0-03), A Cunningham; P Collins (0-01), D Honan, C McGrath (0-13, 10f).
Subs: S O’Donnell for Duggan (45), C O’Connell (Clonlara) for Honan (49), C Ryan (0-01) for Cunningham (54), A Shanagher for Galvin (62), J Browne for Cleary (77), C Galvin for Collins (80+2), S Morey for Bugler (85).
WATERFORD: S O’Keeffe; N Connors, B Coughlan, D Fives; T de Búrca, S Fives, Philip Mahony (0-01); A Gleeson (0-02f), J Barron (0-01); M Walsh, S Bennett (0-09, 6f), K Moran; P Curran (0-04, 2f), C Dunford (0-01), J Dillon.
Subs: T Devine for Dunford (45), M Shanahan (0-01f) for Dillon (57), B O’Halloran (0-01) for A Gleeson (63), C Gleeson for S Fives (66), T Ryan (0-02) for Curran (67), C Dunford for Bennett (87), Pauric Mahony for Walsh (88).
Referee: B Gavin (Offaly).