Tony Kelly on top form as Clare hold off Waterford fightback to set up Munster semi-final with Tipperary

The above feels a misprint almost, Clare accumulating an astonishing 22 wides in Semple Stadium before easing through to a Munster semi-final tilt at Tipperary next weekend.

or much of this game, they made light of last year’s All-Ireland finalists only for their profligacy in front of goal to allow Waterford threaten an act of grand larceny in the closing minutes, a late burst of scores bringing the margin down to a goal before Tony Kelly settled Banner nerves with the closing point of the day.

Anything other than a Clare victory would have been difficult to explain, given their complete dominance of the middle third against a team that never truly gained believable momentum.

Both sides came into this game depleted, Waterford diminished especially by the absence of Tadhg de Burca, Stephen O’Keeffe, Conor Prunty and Jamie Barron, with Clare missing concussion-victim and 2013 All-Ireland final hero, Shane O’Donnell.

It showed in the early flurries too, Waterford struggling for purchase with Calum Lyons given the short straw of shadowing Kelly.

With a strong wind gusting in their favour from the town-end goal, Clare were completely on top, their Ballyea talisman already having three points on the board (0-2 from play) inside five minutes.

One of those was a trademark, over-the-shoulder effort from under the Kinane Stand, Waterford struggling instantly to get a grip with the Banner.

Clare deployed Kelly alongside Aaron Shanagher in a two-man full-forward line, meaning the normally dynamic Lyons was confined to a restricted role he seemed ill-suited to.

It was a virtual no contest around the middle third, Liam Cahill’s men unable to get any access to beyond the Clare half-back line in which Diarmuid Ryan and John Conlon were outstanding.

Clare led 0-7 to 0-3 by the first water-break but a worry for their manager, Brian Lohan, had to be the accumulation of nine wides in that opening quarter. They should, in other words, have been out of sight. But Waterford were hanging in, broadly through the frees of Stephen Bennett.

By the mid-point, Clare’s wide count – remarkably – had stretched to fourteen, but they also led 1-13 to 0-7, the goal a 29th minute penalty expertly despatched by Kelly after Shanagher had been fouled by Shane Fives en route towards the Killinan-end goal.

Fives was duly sin-binned for reckless use of the hurley, Waterford down to fourteen for ten minutes with the game already slipping out of their reach.

In Prunty’s absence, they’d given Fives the role of policing the giant Shanagher, a thankless enough task though the big Shannon man still arrived at the half-time break scoreless.

Approaching half-time, Cahill replaced the veteran Kevin Moran with Kieran Bennett in an effort to stop the rot, his team already faced with a mountain to climb.

But there was little let-up through the third quarter, Clare nine points clear by the second water-break only to then live dangerously coming down the home-straight as Waterford came with a late surge.

Stephen Bennett, Mike Kearney, Calum Lyons and Austin Gleeson all scored Killinan-end points before the irrepressible Kelly killed their momentum with that 72nd minute score, bringing his tally for the day to an impressive 1-12.

SCORERS: Clare – T Kelly 1-12 (1-0 pen, 0-7 frees), A McCarthy 0-3, D Reidy and R Taylor 0-2 each, D Ryan, C Malone and I Galvin 0-1 each.

Waterford – Stephen Bennett 0-11 (0-9 frees), A Gleeson 0-5 (0-1 free), K Bennett 0-2, C Lyons, P Curran and M Kearney 0-1 each.

CLARE: E Quilligan, R Hayes, C Cleary, P Flanagan, D Ryan, J Conlon, P Fitzpatrick, C Galvin, T Kelly, C Malone, D Reidy, R Taylor, I Galvin, A Shanagher, A McCarthy. Subs – D McInerney for Fitzpatrick (50 mins), D Fitzgerald for I Galvin (57 mins), M Rodgers for Reidy (61 mins), D McMahon for C Glavin (66 mins), S Golden for McCarthy (70 mins)

WATERFORD: B Nolan, S Fives, C Gleeson, S McNulty, C Lyons, I Daly, K Moran, A Gleeson, D Lyons, P Hogan, J Fagan, Stephen Bennett, D Hutchinson, Shane Bennett, J Prendergast. Subs – K Bennett for Moran (33 mins), P Curran for Fagan (44 mins), N Montgomery for Prendergast (47 mins), B Power for D Lyons (52 mins), M Kearney for Hogan (63 mins),

Referee – C Lyons (Cork).

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