Banner 'toughed it out' says Lohan as Clare secure semi-final clash with Kilkenny after overcoming dogged Wexford challenge

Clare manager Brian Lohan celebrates with his players after Saturday's All-Ireland SHC quarter-final win over Wexford at Semple Stadium Picture: Seamus Loughran.
Páraic McMahon at Semple Stadium

All-Ireland SHC quarter-final: Clare 1-24 Wexford 3-14

TRAILING by six points with 59 minutes on the clock and having failed to reproduce their form from the Munster championship, Clare's senior hurlers were on the brink of elimination.

However, they demonstrated remarkable resilience and self belief to pull this victory from underneath Wexford, firing 10 of the last 12 scores to ensure they are still in the race for the Liam MacCarthy and set up a date with Brian Cody's Kilkenny on July 2.

A relieved Brian Lohan remarked of their attitude, “we toughed it out,” and applauded the impact from the bench and the maturity shown across the board.

“Some of our marquee guys didn't play well. But they are our marquee guys because they are marquee guys. And they keep going. There's good stuff in them. You probably have some of the most exceptional talents that has ever been produced in Clare and they're really hard workers as well. So it was great to see them respond like that."

Such a reply was needed with Jack O'Connor setting down an early marker to goal for Wexford inside the first minute, capitalising on a disorganised opposing defence. With nine minutes played, they led 1-4 0-3 while Lohan made the decision to substitute Rory Hayes, he along with Peter Duggan had been cleared of a one-match suspension to line out this weekend.

Three missed frees from Tony Kelly swelled Wexford's confidence but by the nineteenth minute the sides were level and they remained tied (1-7 0-10) at the sounding of the half-time whistle. Losing star forward Rory O'Connor to injury in the first quarter halted the momentum of the Model county.

Clare nudged in front on the restart, keeping Wexford scoreless from play until the forty first minute, Lee Chin added two frees and at the other end, David Reidy, Kelly and Diarmuid Ryan hit the target.

Two goals in the space of three minutes put Wexford firmly in the driving seat. Goalkeeper Mark Fanning saw his long-range free bounce past his opposite number Eibhear Quilligan on 47 minutes with Chin raiding for their third goal after shaking off the challenge of Cian Nolan as another long delivery caused problems.

Darragh Egan's charges led by six points with 59 minutes played after substitute Mikie Dwyer pointed but Banner replacement Aron Shanagher was very clinical to raid for 1-2 as they hit Wexford with all their mettle, they didn't just turn the game on its head but rather thumped it like a piñata.

Packing the greatest punch for Clare in this spell was the tireless Shane O'Donnell, indeed it was him that forced the dispossession resulting in a foul on Ryan Taylor, leading to a long-range Tony Kelly free that Shanagher would flick the ensuing scramble to the back of the net. When the need was greatest, Brian Lohan's men showed immense leadership with O'Donnell, Diarmuid Ryan, David McInerney and John Conlon to the fore while the impact from their bench yielded a return of 1-4.

Although they have been eliminated by the same opposition for the last three championship campaigns, this exit will hurt the most for Wexford. Losing Rory O'Connor and the Reck brothers curtailed their ability to withstand the comeback but their return of 0-2, both frees, in the final 10 minutes of normal time and six of additional time proved fatal.

“We were six up and people say, ‘oh, we left the left the lead behind us'; that is not the way hurling works. There was 25 minutes left at that stage, we always knew we were going to be under pressure coming down the home straight. Ultimately, that is how it was. We lost a few bodies, a few lads in pivotal positions. But our lads gave it absolutely everything. They left blood sweat and tears out on that pitch, we couldn't have asked anymore from them,” a gutted but proud Darragh Egan reflected.

Clare: E Quilligan; P Flanagan, C Cleary, R Hayes; D Ryan (0-3), J Conlon, D McInerney; C Malone (0-1), R Taylor (0-1), D Fitzgerald (0-01), P Duggan (0-5 frees), S O'Donnell (0-2), D Reidy (0-2), T Kelly (0-4), I Galvin (0-2).

Subs: C Nolan for Hayes (7); M Rodgers for D Reidy (54); A Shanagher (1-2) for Fitzgerald (59); S Meehan (0-2) for I Galvin (62).

Wexford: M Fanning (1-0 free); L Ryan, S Reck, S Donohoe; D Reck (0-1), M O'Hanlon, P Foley; C Devitt, L Óg McGovern; R O'Connor (0-1), J O'Connor (1-0), O Foley (0-02); L Chin (1-08, 6f), C McDonald, D O'Keeffe (0-1).

Subs: M Dwyer (0-1) for R O'Connor (14 ); K Foley for O'Keeffe (62); C Flood for McGovern (63); C McGuckian for S Reck (68); P Morris for D Reck (69).

Referee: C Lyons (Cork).

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