Clare 2-17; Waterford 2-12
Two second half goals from Darach Honan helped Clare to their first Munster Under-21 title, breaking Waterford hearts at a packed Fraher Field on Wednesday night.Clare’s greater physical power proved critical during an end-to-end affair, with Waterford left to rue a litany of early missed goalscoring opportunities.Shane Ahearne’s men sprung out of the traps and ought to have left the Banner with a mountain to climb inside the first quarter.
After four minutes, Shane Casey powered through on goal after a superb Karl Duggan pass, but his well-struck shot whizzed over Donal Touhy’s crossbar.
Sixty seconds later, Casey was in again following a jinking run by the lively Thomas Ryan but Clare full-back Eamon Glynn, who produced a barnstorming display, blocked the Dunhill man’s effort.
By the seventh minute, Waterford could well have had a third goal, as the pacy Ryan bore in on the target, only to pull his shot inches wide of Tuohy’s left hand post.
Indeed, by the time Clare’s Colin Ryan levelled matters in the 10th minute, a more accurate Waterford team could have nine points clear.
But Clare, who’d lost every one of their previous provincial final appearances at this grade, grew into the tussle and began to win a greater share of the ball.
Waterford finally goaled after 13 minutes thanks to blistering shot by Thomas Ryan after a Karl Duggan pass but Clare immediately replied via a Nicky O’Connell free.
And as the half wore on, with O’Connell switched from midfield to centre-back to stem the flow of ball that had been zipping into the Deise attack, the game became a dogged contest.
The visitors ended the half with four unanswered points to leave them 0-11 to 1-5 up at the break and just two minutes after the break, Honan scooped the ball into the net to increase Clare’s lead.
But Waterford demonstrated great fighting qualities and rattled off four unanswered points of their own; with goalkeeper Adrian Power’s 120-yard free proving the pick of the bunch.
All to play for
In the 46th minute, the Deisemen had a second goal, rifled home by Shane Casey after superb link-up play by Thomas Connors and Thomas Ryan. Waterford now trailed by only a point. Moments later, substitute John Gorman tied the game. It was all to play for.
Clare edged back ahead through Cormac O’Donovan and Colin Ryan before Thomas Ryan turned a superb sideline ball over the bar.
But that was to prove as close as Waterford would get, with the towering Honan’s second goal (a stunning strike) sealing Clare’s victory in the 57th minute.
Disappointed Waterford manager Shane Ahearne congratulated Clare on their victory and salted his own team’s refusal to lie down, even when the tide turned against them.
“There are some great lads on this team and I’ve no doubt we’ll be seeing a good few of them on a bigger stage for Waterford in the years ahead,” said a proud Ahearne.