Galway pip Clare in nail-biting All-Ireland SHC semi-final
All-Ireland SHC semi-final replay
GALWAY 1-17 CLARE 2-13
By John Harrington at Semple Stadium
Galway’s bid for back to back All-Ireland hurling titles is still alive, but only just.
Having led by nine points at one stage in the first half they can count themselves fortunate to have won this match by the bare minimum.
Clare came agonisingly close to completing a rousing second-half comeback when substitute Aron Shanagher was put clean through on goal by Shane O’Donnell with 68 minutes on the clock.
Shanager’s first effort was saved by James Skehill and when the sliotar rebounded into his path he seemed certain to score but his scooped effort from close-range hit the post and rebounded to safety.
Had the ball hit the back of the net Clare would have taken a two-point lead, but instead Galway went straight down the field and moved two points ahead themselves when Joe Canning landed a brilliant side-line cut.
In a match that came down to very fine margins in the end, that passage of play was the most decisive of all, which is hard lines on Shanagher because once again he made a hugely positive impression as an impact-sub.
You wouldn’t have thought that Clare would come so close for much of the first half when they were very much second-best to a dominant Galway team.
The Tribesmen had to do without centre-back Gearoid McInerney who was ruled out by the ankle injury he sustained in the drawn match, but his absence certainly didn’t seem to weaken them in the first half at least.
Padraig Mannion moved into centre-back and hurled a power of ball, while Joseph Cooney was switched from wing-forward to wing-back and looked right at home in defence.
He picked up the Peter Duggan, and made good use of his size and skill to do a better job on the Clare danger-man than any other wing-back previously this summer.
Clare started with Colm Galvin in the same sweeping position he took up to such good effect in the drawn match, but this time Galway seemed much more prepared for that tactical ploy.
They made good use of their own free-man at the other end of the field – Adrian Tuohey – to ensure they were now moving the ball more effectively out of defence than they had in the drawn semi-final.
So instead of simply driving the ball as far downfield as they could which had happened quite a lot last weekend, now Galway defenders were getting their heads up, creating overlaps, and picking out a free-man who then had the time to send more considered deliveries down the field that more often than not by-passed Galvin.
Clare, on the other hand, were struggling to put together moves of that precision when they tried to clear their lines.
This was largely due to the pressure being put on them by the workaholic Galway forwards, but quite often the Clare backs were guilty of poor handling and misplaced passes too.
The sight of a Clare man fumbling the ball or directing a pass half a yard behind a team-mate became very common as the first-half wore on, whereas Galway’s hurling was crisper.
Time and again Clare were forced to resort to hitting in high, aimless ball to John Conlon, who was out-numbered by the formidable tag-team of Daithi Burke and Tuohey, who kept him securely under lock and key.
And when Clare did manage to create clear-cut scoring opportunities, their shooting let them down, as they racked up 11 wides in the first half alone.
Galway were 0-4 to no-score ahead by the eight-minute, and already Clare were being out-fought and out-thought in most areas of the field.
David Burke was the most influential player on the pitch with his ball-winning ability, driving runs, and accurate passing putting Galway on the front-foot time and again.
He also scored two points from play in the first 19 minutes, by which time Galway led by 0-9 to 0-2 ahead and were in in complete control.
Things then went from bad to worse for Clare when they conceded the first goal of the match, all too easily.
James Skehill picked out Joseph Cooney with a quick puck-out, and the wing-back drove it down the field to Jonathan Glynn on the edge of the small square.
The big Ardrahan man did brilliantly to hold off David McInerney, bring the ball down, and then fire home from close range past Donal Tuohy.
That would prove to be Galway’s last score of the half as the quality of the match deteriorated, but they were still in a strong position at half-time leading by 1-9 to 0-6.
Joe Canning increased Galway’s lead to seven points early in the second-half, but the balance of power then took a seismic shift when Shane O’Donnell struck for Clare’s first goal.
It was a seriously good score too, as the corner-forward wriggled his way past both Daithi Burke and John Hanbury before driving the ball to the back of the net.
When Peter Duggan then landed a brace of frees in quick succession to reduce the gap to just two points, it was now Clare who were suddenly the team with all the momentum.
Galway briefly steadied themselves with points from Niall Burke and Joe Canning (free), but then Clare rocked them back on their heels again when Peter Duggan smashed a brilliant shot to the roof of the net.
There was just a point between the teams now with 54 minutes on the clock, but even though Clare were slightly dominant in general play for the rest of the match, they could never manage to draw level with Galway.
The Tribesmen were living on their wits at time, but a combination of some tenacious defending and continued poor shooting from Clare meant they just about kept the Banner at bay.
Shortly after Shanagher’s shot came off the post Peter Duggan could have levelled the game with a free from around 45 yards, but he didn’t strike the ball cleanly and another chance went abegging.
That pretty much summed up Clare’s fatal flaw, they just weren’t clinical enough on a day that saw them hit 19 wides.
As for Galway, they once again showed no little character in the face of adversity even if they stumbled rather than raced over the line.
Scorers for Galway: Joe Canning 0-8 (4f, 1 sideline), Jonathan Glynn 1-0, Conor Whelan 0-3, David Burke 0-2, Niall Burke 0-2, Cathal Mannion 0-1, Conor Cooney 0-1
Scorers for Clare: Peter Duggan 1-6 (6f), Shane O’Donnell 1-1, Ian Galvin 0-2, Podge Collins 0-1, Tony Kelly 0-1, John Conlon 0-1, Aron Shanagher 0-1
GALWAY: James Skehill; Adrian Tuohey, Daithi Burke, John Hanbury; Aidan Harte, Padraig Mannion, Joseph Cooney; Johnny Coen, David Burke; Niall Burke, Joe Canning, Jonathan Glynn, Conor Whelan, Conor Cooney, Cathal Mannion. Subs: Sean Loftus for John Hanbury (55), Jason Flynn for Conor Cooney (59), Davey Glennon for Jonathan Glynn (72)
CLARE: Donal Tuohy; Patrick O’Connor, David McInerney, Jack Browne; Seadna Morey, Conor Cleary, Jamie Shanahan; Colm Galvin, David Fitzgerald; Peter Duggan, Tony Kelly, David Reidy; Padraic Collins, John Conlon, Shane O’Donnell. Subs: Ian Galvin for David Reidy (35), Cathal Malone for David Fitzgerald (44), Rory Hayes for Patrick O’Connor (58), Michael O’Malley for Jamie Shanahan (60), Aron Shanagher for Podge Collins (64)
Ref: Fergal Horgan (Tipperary)