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Hurney goal fires Waterford to new heights

As Waterford manager John Owens would explain afterwards, the novelty of being clear favourites heading into a Munster championship match got old very quickly.

After an impressive outing in the Division Four final against Limerick and a comprehensive win over Clare in the league in April, the Deise were expected to progress with some comfort to a rematch with the Treaty men next month.

It was unfamiliar territory for the county's footballers and it clearly weighed heavily on them as the football failed to match the scenic settings in sunny Dungarvan. Waterford could only fall over the line against 14- man Clare as Gary Hurney's goal early in the second half proved crucial.

That strike came after a disputed line-ball was awarded to the Deise men. Liam O Lionain's delivery was excellently fielded by the Ballinacourty man who fired to the roof of the net past a helpless Joe Hayes. That gave Owens' side a two-point cushion and with the life squeezed out of a previously-industrious Clare forward unit by the O'Gorman twins, Waterford did just enough to get home over the course of the 70 minutes.

"Clare came down here and played very well in the first half; they deserved everything they got," Owens said afterwards.

"They were dominating us and we just couldn't get on top of them for a spell. Once we got a wee bit of dominance there before half-time, it brought us closer to parity and we were happy enough going into the dressing-room at the break. We had a bit of a wind coming out and the main thing was to hit long balls into Gary. One of them he caught it brilliantly and banged it in. It was just great to see him hitting the back of the net."

Hurney only returned from a stint with the county's hurlers earlier this year but it was his brother Patrick that kept Waterford in touch in the early exchanges with three first-half points from play. However, Clare were making good use of the breeze they had at their advantage and, by the 20-minute mark, they had opened up a four-point lead when David Tubridy, with the aid of the breeze, landed a huge free from around 50 metres out.

Afterwards, Banner boss Micheal McDermott fingered the remainder of the half as the game's crucial period as his side saw a comfortable lead cut to the minimum before the break with Brian Wall (two) and Patrick Hurney finding their range.

"We let it slip the last 10 minutes of the first half, and that was something we have talked and talked about," McDermott commented ruefully.

Goal chances were few and far between but Waterford might have raised a green flag in the opening half when Gary Hurney forced a shot goalwards. However, quick-thinking Clare defender Mark Tubridy had retreated to his goal-line and coolly chipped the ball to himself before clearing.

Clare's major goal chance fell to Michael O'Shea late in the proceedings. With just eight minutes to go and trailing by just two points, substitute Gearoid Lynch broke the ball into the path of the St Senan's man and he lashed his shot high and wide and with that went Clare's hopes.

"The game was within our grasp to win," McDermott said. "We played well enough to win it. We improved a lot from the last day we were down here but we just lacked that cutting edge.

"Our shot selection in the end wasn't what we would have liked it to be, because we had chances in that second half to win the game. Instead, the goal came up and knocked a bit of spirit out of the team as well."

Clare finished the game with 14 men after wing-back Declan Callinan picked up a second yellow card late in the game. It was a disappointing end to what was an impressive outing from the Kilmurry Ibrickane defender who made little of the sweltering conditions to launch attack after attack for the visitors. Referee Aidan Mangan had no option but to dismiss the Clare man but the Kerry official, who didn't blow for an illegal handpass until the 19th minute, failed to avoid the wrath of the Clare boss.

"I've no problem with the handpass or new rules like that, but I have to say the referee made some very bad calls on us today," said McDermott. "It's one thing playing advantage but when a guy is fouled, and there's no advantage accrued from it, you should get your free. That happened six or seven times in the second half."

Limerick are next up for Waterford as they look to reach their first Munster football final since 1960 and while they failed to perform to the levels they reached in the league final against the same opposition, that they won without star forward Liam O Lionain firing on all cylinders -- he was well marshalled by Mark Tubridy -- suggests Owens has imbued a new resolve in the side.

"We've got two weeks of pure work ahead of us now for Limerick," he said. "It's going to be a powerful day down here in two weeks' time. Hopefully we'll have as much support as possible because that's helping all the time. We're looking to the possibility of getting to a Munster final and we're going to give it our very best shot to nail that down.

"There was pressure on us coming here and to be honest; we were installed as favourites. That wasn't a tag we wanted but we got it. We'll have Limerick here in a couple of weeks and see how it goes. They'll be very difficult to beat."

SCORERS - Waterford: G Hurney 1-1, P Hurney, B Wall (0-2f) 0-3 each, T Prendergast W Hennessy, L O Lionain 0-1 each. Clare: D Tubridy 0-4 (0-3f), M O'Shea, G Brennan 0-2 each, A Clohessy 0-1.

Waterford - T Wall 7; M O'Gorman 9, T O'Gorman 8, K Connery 7; T Grey 6, S Briggs 7, E Walsh 6; M Ahearne 6, T Prendergast 8; B Wall 7, C McGrath 6, W Hennessy 6; G Hurney 7, P Hurney 7, L O Lionain 7. Subs: S Cunningham 6 for McGrath (55), R Ahearne 6 for P Hurney (56), B Phelan for M Ahearne (67).

Clare - J Hayes 6; M Tubridy 8, B Duggan 7, B Carrig 6; M McMahon 7, G Kelly 7, D Callinan 8; G Quinlan 7, G Brennan 8; M O'Shea 7, P O'Dwyer 6, A Clohessy 6; D Tubridy 6, D Russell 6, D Daly 6. Subs: E Coughlan 6 for Daly (h-t), G Lynch 6 for O'Dwyer (h-t), B Toner 6 for Russell (58).

Ref - A Mangan (Kerry)

Belfast Telegraph