Clare 1-23 Waterford 2-19

Tony Kelly banged over two injury-time points to seal Clare’s first Allianz Hurling League Division 1 title since 1978.

The Banner County came from three points down in the closing minutes to snatch an incredible victory and dethrone last year’s champions Waterford.

Sub Brian O’Halloran put over a 66th minute-point to put Waterford 2-19 to 1-19 in front but Clare came roaring back with four unanswered scores. 

Colin Ryan reduced the deficit to two points before Darach Honan brought Clare to within the bare minimum in the second minute of stoppage time.

A hotly-disputed free won by Kelly allowed the 2013 Hurler of the Year to slam over the equaliser, wind-assisted, from inside his own half, in the third minute of additional time. 

And there was still time for Kelly to pop up on the opposite touchline to convert the winning score with what was essentially the last puck of the game.

Kelly collected 1-6 for Clare on an historic day, all but one point of that tally from play, but Waterford claimed that they should have been awarded that late free themselves for an infringement on Jamie Barron.

Referee Diarmuid Kirwan pointed towards the Killinan End and Kelly obliged, before converting the winner within a minute.

It was a stunning end to a game that was so much better than its predecessor.

The scene was set within 17 seconds when Patrick Curran scored Waterford’s opening goal – with Clare’s spare man marked absent.

Curran, who bagged 1-9 in total, cut in from the right touchline inside Pat O’Connor before beating Patrick Kelly from close range.

But Clare settled and were level by the quarter-hour mark, with Conor McGrath lofting over a free before adding another to put Davy Fitzgerald’s charges in front.

Curran responded with a free of his own to level matters and Waterford struck for a second goal in the 20th minute, O’Connor giving the ball away with a crossfield pass and allowing the Déise to pounce.

Curran found Jake Dillon who made no mistake and Waterford went on to build six-point leads twice approaching half-time.

McGrath was keeping Clare in it though and at the break, having played against the breeze, they were three points behind, 0-12 to 2-9.

It was set up for an intriguing second half and that’s how it panned out but Waterford looked the more likely as they led by 2-15 to 0-15 with 22 minutes of normal time remaining.

Kelly’s goal from Aaron Cunningham’s pass gave Clare hope, however, and it was very much game on from there.

Waterford still managed to keep some daylight between the sides, moving three points clear after Clare had got to within one down the home straight.

Remarkably, there was that late purple patch from Clare as they stepped on the gas to claim the silverware and strike a notable psychological blow four weeks out from the Munster SHC semi-final between the counties.

Waterford: S O’Keeffe; B Coughlan, N Connors, S Fives; D Fives (0-01), K Moran (0-01), P Mahony; T de Búrca, J Barron (0-02); M Walsh, A Gleeson (0-03), S Bennett (0-02); J Dillon (1-00), P Curran (1-09, 0-6f 0-1 65), T Devine.

Subs: C Dunford for Devine (46), B O’Halloran (0-01) for Dillon (57), M Shanahan for Bennett (68), T Ryan for Walsh (70+1).

Clare: P Kelly; P O’Connor (0-01), C Dillon, D Fitzgerald (0-01); J Browne, C Cleary, B Bugler; D Reidy (0-01), C Galvin; T Kelly (1-06, 0-1f), C McGrath (0-08, 5f), P Collins (0-01); D Honan (0-02), A Cunningham (0-01), S O’Donnell.

Subs: C Ryan (0-02, 1f) for Galvin (43), C O’Connell for Collins (55), A Shanagher for O’Donnell (65).

Referee: D Kirwan (Cork).