Waterford will face Galway in next weekend’s National League quarter-finals after sucker-punching hosts Clare with a late Tom Devine goal this afternoon to snatch the final round spoils.
Trailing by four points entering the final quarter, Waterford would finish strongly, with the substitute’s 64th-minute strike proving decisive as they outscored their hosts by 1-05 to 0-02 in the last 15 minutes to send the defending champions into a relegation play-off against Dublin.
In what was a repeat of last year’s final, when two outings were required to separate the sides, this winner-takes-all tie ensured a high intensity throughout.
But despite leading for over 50 minutes and having the aid of a strong wind for the second half, Clare would lose their seven-game unbeaten home record as Waterford bookended the game with goals.
A Shane Bennett flicked goal in the fifth minute helped his side to a 1-03 to 0-00 advantage as the Deise hit the ground running.
Clare inevitably responded, with a brilliant Podge Collins goal capping off a 1-06 unanswered tally in a six-minute purple patch to lead by 1-07 to 1-04 by the end of the opening quarter.
The returning Tony Kelly would add five points before the break but, crucially, Waterford managed to stay in touch, mainly from Pauric Mahony’s accuracy from frees as he lessened the damage to just two by half-time at 1-13 to 1-11.
Despite facing into the conditions, a further brace of frees on the restart saw Mahony gain parity by the 39th minute.
However, the home side would up the ante once more as Kelly, Collins, John Conlon and Cathal McInerney all pointed from play to give their side a four point cushion which they would hold into the final 15 minutes.
However, the impact of substitute Devine would prove the difference as he scored 1-1 to put Waterford ahead at just the right time, a blow that Clare failed to recover from, resulting in their first National League defeat on home soil in two years thanks to a late Tommy Ryan insurance point.
Waterford: Stephen O’Keeffe; Shane McNulty, Barry Coughlan, Shane Fives; Stephen Daniels, Tadhg de Burca, Conor Gleeson; Austin Gleeson (0-02), Kevin Moran; Shane Bennett (1-01); Michael Walsh, Pauric Mahony (0-10, 0-08f); Brian O’Halloran (0-02), Stephen Bennett (0-03), Patrick Curran (0-01)
Subs: Tom Devine (1-01) for Curran (42), Mikey Kearney for A. Gleeson (57), Tommy Ryan (0-01) for O’Halloran (58), Colin Dunford for Shane Bennett (69), Stephen Roche for Coughlan (77, inj)
Clare: Andrew Fahey; David McInerney (0-01), Cian Dillon, Seadna Morey; Jason McCarthy (0-01), Conor Cleary, David Fitzgerald (0-01); Jamie Shanahan (0-01), Tony Kelly (0-07, 0-05f); Cathal Malone, Podge Collins (1-03), John Conlon (0-02); Aron Shanagher (0-02), Cathal McInerney (0-02), Ian Galvin (0-01)
Subs: Aaron Cunningham for I. Galvin (25), Patrick Donnellan for McCarthy (65), Colm Galvin for Malone (65), Bobby Duggan (0-01) for C. McInerney (69), Paul Flanagan for D. McInerney (75, inj)
Referee: John Keenan (Wicklow)