In the week leading up to this game, the central figure for many people was former Clare manager, and now Wexford boss, Davy Fitzgerald.

His background, not to mention his castigation of his players after their defeat to Galway, set the tone for what was sure to be a fiery encounter in Portlaoise.

Once the starting teams were announced, the focus turned to Lee Chin, and how Wexford would survive in the absence of the injured Faythe Harriers man.

But as soon as the ball was thrown in, this game was all about one man, Clare's Tony Kelly, who produced a performance for the ages, driving Clare to a comfortable success in miserable and wintry conditions.

With a strong wind at their backs in the first half, Clare needed to build an early lead but got no traction close to goal and at the first water break, their 0-03 to 0-02 lead looked woefully inadequate.

The tense and fractious nature of the contest meant it was a very stop start affair, despite referee Liam Gordon doing his best to try and keep the play going, as Kevin Foley hoovered up any amount of loose ball in his role as sweeper.

Some wonderful points from Jason McCarthy and Colin Guilfoyle helped Clare gain a little bit of breathing room, but it was Kelly’s three points before half time that really lit up this otherwise dismal affair.

Twice Kelly shot over the bar from the two sidelines, first the right and then the left, each time running away from goal and shooting over his shoulder. As if that wasn’t enough, he then sliced a shot over the bar from just beside the corner flag coming up to half time, using the wind and the spin of the ball to create an angle where none existed.

Wexford’s hurling was disjointed and error prone, and they couldn’t find a way to bring their attackers into the game.

It was instructive that the two Wexford wing-backs (Shaun Murphy and Paudie Foley) along with the sweeper (Kevin Foley) amassed a greater total number of points from play than their forwards over the course of the game, as they were reduced to pot shots from distance more often than not.

Having trailed 0-13 to 0-03 at half time, the Model County did work their way back into the tie and cut the gap to eight points on a couple of occasions.

However they couldn’t stop the bleeding at the other end, in the main because of the brilliance of Kelly, who kept coming up with majestic points, before then running 40 metres with the ball and slamming it into the bottom corner of the net with a quarter of an hour of normal time remaining.  

Wexford sent for Lee Chin in a bid to salvage something and they tried to scramble their way in for a goal, but a handful of rucks and mauls in the large square always seemed to end with either Eibhear Quilligan or a Clare defender coming out with the ball, thus preserving the Banner County’s comfortable margin, and their place in the championship.

Clare: Eibhear Quilligan; Seadna Morey, Conor Cleary, Rory Hayes; Patrick O'Connor, Aidan McCarthy, Stephen O’Halloran; Tony Kelly (1-15, 0-08 frees, 0-01 65), Jason McCarthy (0-02); Cathal Malone (0-01), David Fitzgerald (0-01), David Reidy; Colin Guilfoyle (0-01), Shane O’Donnell, Ryan Taylor.

Subs: Diarmuid Ryan (0-01) for Guilfoyle (half-time), Páidí Fitzpatrick for McCarthy (60), Aaron Cunningham for Reidy (68), Cathal McInerney (Cratloe) for Taylor (70+4).

Wexford: Mark Fanning; Simon Donohoe, Liam Ryan, Joe O’Connor; Paudie Foley (0-03, 0-01 free), Diarmuid O’Keeffe, Shaun Murphy (0-03); Matthew O’Hanlon, Aidan Nolan; Liam Óg McGovern, Conor McDonald (0-01), Paul Morris (0-06, 0-05 frees); Rory O’Connor (0-02), Jack O’Connor, Kevin Foley (0-01).

Subs: Damien Reck for Donohoe (37), Lee Chin for Jack O’Connor (56), Mikie Dwyer for McGovern (57), David Dunne (0-01) for Nolan (61), Shane Reck for Joe O’Connor (65).

Referee: Liam Gordon (Galway)