Clare have beaten Galway by 12 points, 1-16 to 0-07, in this evening’s Bord Gáis Energy All-Ireland U21 Hurling Championship semi-final.
But the sight of forward Aaron Cunningham limping off with an injury in first-half stoppage time cast a shadow over an impressive win.
Cunningham appeared to sustain a hamstring tear and must now be rated as a serious doubt for Clare’s two forthcoming All-Ireland finals – the senior clash with Cork on 8 September, followed by the U21 decider with Antrim six days later.
Cunningham’s injury was confirmed by Clare’s joint-manager Donal Moloney when he spoke to reporters shortly after the final whistle.
Moloney and sidekick Gerry O’Connor used their bench well in the second half, with other senior players Shane O’Donnell, Podge Collins, Colm Galvin and Tony Kelly withdrawn with the game in the bag.
Clare had little trouble overcoming a disappointing Galway side, playing in the U21 championship for the first time this summer.
Their lack of cohesion was obvious as Clare, with 12 senior panellists in their ranks, took full advantage.
David McInerney, Galvin, Kelly and Collins all started against Limerick in last Sunday’s semi-final at Croke Park.
And there was a real slickness about this evening’s display, in front of 6,238 spectators at Semple Stadium.
The scene is now set for potentially the greatest week in the history of Clare hurling, if their senior and U21 teams can bring home two pots to the Banner County.
At half-time, Clare led by 0-05 to 0-03 before leading scorer Cathal O’Connell scored the 34th minute goal that ended this fixture as a contest.
In that first half, Clare registered eight first half wides, with Galway racking up seven of their own.
A goal was always going to be crucial and once Clare got it, they pulled away to record a big win.
Galway can consider themselves fortunate, too, to have finished the game with 14 players.
Full-forward Cathal Mannion flicked the side of David McInerney’s head in the 14th minute but referee Diarmuid Kirwan opted for just a yellow card.
Galway Jason Flynn booted a shot wide early in the second half and that miss proved costly as Collins made no mistake at the other end.
And the winners received another boost a couple of minutes later when Shane O’Donnell’s ‘point’, which was clearly wide, was allowed to stand.
Clare: R Taafe; P Flanagan, D McInerney, J Browne; S Morey (0-01), A O’Neill, S O’Halloran; C Galvin, T Kelly; P Duggan (0-01), P Collins (0-02), S O’Donnell (0-01); C O’Connell (1-06, 0-05f), A Cunningham, D O’Halloran (0-03).
Subs: C Malone (0-02) for Cunningham (30+2), D Keane for O’Donnell (47), M O’Neill for Collins (51), J Shanahan for Galvin (55), E Boyce for Kelly (55).
Galway: S Mannion; P Killeen, J Hanbury, B Keane; P Huban, D Burke, M Keating; A Tuohy, P Claffey; T Flynn, C Cooney (0-03, 1f), J Glynn; P Brehony, C Mannion (0-03), J Flynn.
Subs: C Keane for Flynn (38), S Maloney (0-01) for Flynn (48), S Sweeney for Claffey (54), J Carr for C Mannion (57).
Referee: D Kirwan (Cork).