By Mike Keane
Clare are on their way back to Croke Park for the first time since winning the 2013 All-Ireland title after seeing off Wexford by 0-27 to 1-17 in front of a disappointing crowd of 10,255 at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Clare, who led by seven points at the interval, pushed on in the second-half and when Wexford rallied with a goal, the Banner men pulled away again in the closing stages to set up an All-Ireland semi-final meeting with Galway.
Tony Kelly was outstanding for Clare, who had ten scorers throughout the contest, which saw Wexford finish with 14 men when Rory O’Connor was sent off in the dying moments.
And with Podge Collins, Shane O’Donnell and John Conlon showing the sort of form which propelled them to the 2013 All-Ireland, Clare were in control for most of the match.
Clare led by 0-16 to 0-09 at the break after Wexford opted to play against the breeze in the opening half and their intelligent use of the ball paid dividends,
Shaun Murphy adopted his usual sweeper role, helping his full-back Liam Ryan try to keep tabs on Conlon, but Clare’s short-passing game was superb.
John Conlon hits the score of the half as Clare lead Wexford at the break in Páirc Ui Chaoimh - Watch the highlights at 9.30pm on RTÉ 2 on Sunday night pic.twitter.com/NRWgVolwDV— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) July 14, 2018
All six forwards scored for Clare in the opening half with Kelly particularly outstanding, shooting 0-04 before the break and adding another one in the second-half.
Conor McDonald was the only Wexford forward to score from play in the opening half with his three points keeping them in touch.
Rory O’Connor slotted over five frees, with corner-back Damien Reck giving them an ideal start inside a minute but it was Clare who took over and picked off some excellent scores.
In all, eight Clare players scored before the break with subs Ian Galvin and Conor McGrath also hitting the target after the restart in an accomplished display.
Wexford needed a good start to the second-half and quick points from Diarmuid O’Keeffe and Lee Chin provided that.
But Clare responded through O’Donnell and Duggan and from there they were able to match each Wexford point and another free by Duggan put them 0-22 to 0-14 in front after 58 minutes.
Conor McDonald lashes home a goal for Wexford to throw them a lifeline in the All-Ireland hurling quarter-final - Watch the highlights at 9.30pm on RTÉ 2 on Sunday night pic.twitter.com/XE5aqSQZaq— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) July 14, 2018
Wexford got some hope when McDonald found the net 12 minutes from time while Collins hit back with a point for Clare, three efforts from Rory O’Connor cut the gap to 0-23 to 1-17 with five minutes left.
However, Clare came with a storming finish to land five points in a row and book their return to Croke Park after a five-year absence and a clash against neighbours Galway.
Derek McGrath says forgetting about tactics, the team with the best hurlers won the match and noted that Clare love Croke Park pic.twitter.com/Nvubt1431f— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) July 14, 2018
Clare: Donal Tuohy; Patrick O'Connor, David McInerney, Jack Browne; Jamie Shanahan, Conor Cleary, Seadna Morey (0-01); Colm Gavin, Cathal Malone (0-01); Peter Duggan (0-07, 0-05f), Tony Kelly (0-05), David Reidy (0-02); Podge Collins (0-02), John Conlon (0-03), Shane O'Donnell (0-04).
Subs used: David Fitzgerald for C Galvin (58 mins), Ian Galvin (0-01) for Reidy (59 mins), Conor McGrath (0-01) for Duggan (68 mins), Michael O’Malley for Malone (72 mins), Rory Hayes for Browne (73 mins).
Wexford: Mark Fanning; Damien Reck (0-01), Liam Ryan, Conor Firman; Paudie Foley, Matthew O'Hanlon, Diarmuid O'Keeffe (0-01); Kevin Foley, Shaun Murphy (0-01); Rory O'Connor (0-10, 0-09f), Aidan Nolan, Liam Og McGovern; David Dunne, Lee Chin (0-01), Conor McDonald (1-03).
Subs used: Jack O’Connor for Nolan (49 mins), Harry Kehoe for K Foley (58 mins), Simon Donohue for P Foley (61 mins), Willie Deverux for O’Keeffe (65 mins).
Referee: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary).