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Clare and Galway serve up another epic battle

Clare 1-30 Galway 1-30

On target: Jason McCarthy scores the equalising point
On target: Jason McCarthy scores the equalising point
Galway’s Jonathan Glynn wrestles with Conor Cleary

Declan Bogue at Croke Park

Down by nine points after 16 minutes of this All-Ireland semi-final, Clare fans might have been forgiven for checking the train timetables to get a quicker route back to Ennis.

Instead of All-Ireland champions Galway driving on and claiming their place in the final however, they took something of a break and Clare capitalised on it and turned this game into one of the bulging book of all-time classic hurling games.

Some sports have an odd fascination with talking down their product - step forward Mr Gaelic football - but when hurling is played like this there are few sporting spectacles to match it in the world. Let's just note that and bask in the splendour of a contest that ran into extra-time, featured a downpour in the middle of that, and yet the quality never dipped for a second.

And the best thing of all? They have to do it all again on Sunday in the replay, confirmed for Thurles.

"It was an epic encounter," agreed Galway manager Michaeal Donoghue as he finally took an outward breath.

He admitted that it was one of the most challenging games he had ever managed in, perhaps caught in the moment when the normally reserved Clarinbridge man had a few barks at referee James Owens.

"Look, I give huge credit to our lads, a few boys had to go off, a few knocks during the week, but nothing got them down and we showed the character that shone through for us in the last minutes.

"Today, we always talk about the collective in the squad and how it starts with the squad and the lads who came off the bench made a massive contribution and that will stand us in good stead."

Where do you even begin a match report on the likes of this? Perhaps we will with the raw data. It was felt by half-time that Clare's puck-out was being exploited by Galway and costing them the game.

By the end, Clare had won 39 of their 51 puck-outs, vastly superior to Galway's 25 from 49.

If we had a comprehensive record we could say for certain, but it's more than likely this was the first time both teams scored over 30 points in a game.

And for all of Clare's scrappiness, Galway doubled them in the tackle count, 38 to 19.

The spectacular it became was in short evidence by the time Galway's Conor Cooney profited from a long ball breaking off Jonathan Glynn, Conor Cleary and Patrick O'Connor failing to pick the ball and fastened on for the game's first goal.

Soon after, Clare management moved Colm Gavin into a sweeper role and his game intelligence, along with Peter Duggan's frees, helped them to seven of the next eight scores, eventually going in at the break 0-9 to 1-10 down.

Clare took an age to come back out for the second half, joint-manager Donal Moloney explaining: "When you go nine points down to Galway at half-time you have a lot of stuff to fix and the players wanted to discuss things and trash things out.

"You only get one shot at this and if we caused anyone any offence we are sorry but we've had it both ways, we have been waiting on the field and we have had other teams waiting for us as well.

"To be honest we lost track of time but we were trying to sort a lot of stuff."

And so they did. They gobbled up 10 of the next 15 scores after a Joe Canning free opened the second period to draw level for the first time by the 53rd minute. John Conlon had found his range and he and Daithi Burke served up a magnificent contest on the edge of the square.

A minute later, Galway's defensive bulwark Gearoid McInerney had limped off holding his leg, offering more opportunity for the Banner to drive through the middle of a tiring Galway rearguard.

The scores from there to the final whistle were of the finest quality. David Burke managed one under severe pressure to leave three between them with three minutes of normal time left. But back came Clare with a trio of points to send it into extra-time as the deluge came down.

Clare had no fewer than seven wides in the first period of extra-time. A mere 10 minutes.

But within 20 seconds of the final period, a Galvin delivery was fetched by Clare replacement Aron Shanagher who drove to the net to put Clare in front.

Joe Canning had to go off immediately afterwards but Galway found a way to edge themselves in front with two of the three minutes injury time of extra time played.

What Clare did to rescue themselves was remarkable, playing the ball through the lines from goalkeeper Donal Tuohy, Galvin, Seadna Morey, Conor Cleary and David Fitzgerald to leave Jason McCarthy to level it.

"The way the game went, how it unfolded - we got a foothold on it and Clare came right back again and unbelievable credit must go to both teams and how they went at it," said Donoghue afterwards.

"Throw in the shower, the conditions made it. Both sets of teams adapted to the conditions and it was a game of massive magnitude. I think both teams just went at it and it was full of incident."

Asked if his side would take huge heart heading to Thurles next week after not letting Galway away, Clare joint-manager Donal Maloney stated: "I'm sure Galway will have huge belief as well. They actually hung in there when momentum shifted against them.

"Our boys have taken a lot of criticism over the years which we have always deemed very unfair. Even in Davy's time they have taken huge criticism because they are the most professional group of young men I have ever seen it is a privilege to be associated with them."

A privilege to watch them too.

Belfast Telegraph


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