Classy Clare sealed an All-Ireland semi-final date with holders Galway by recording an impressive 0-27 to 1-17 victory over Wexford in the sapping heat of Pairc Ui Chaoimh.
With a meagre 10,255 looking on, the winners had heroes all over the pitch, including on-form forwards Tony Kelly, John Conlon, Podge Collins, Shane O'Donnell and Peter Duggan, full back David McInerney and midfield duo Cathal Malone and Colm Galvin. A total of ten different Clare men got on the scoresheet today and the beaten Munster finalists will fancy their chances of dethroning their neighbours when they make their long-awaited championship return to Croke Park in a fortnight.
Breeze at their backs, Clare roared into a commanding 0-16 to 0-9 interval advantage, Kelly in particular catching the eye with four lovely first-half strikes from play.
Scavenger supreme O'Donnell reacted quickest to a Duggan free that came back into play off an upright and gathered possession to pop over the point that fired the Banner into a double-scores lead at the midway stage in the first half - 0-4 to 0-2.
When Rory O'Connor replied with his second pointed free, David Reidy got on the end of an excellent team move and 2013 Hurler of the Year Kelly duly made it double scores again, 0-6 to 0-3. Conor McDonald brilliantly slotted the Model County's fourth point in the 20th minute but Malone quickly restored the three-point margin.
Corner back Damien Rack had opened the scoring before Kelly replied for the winners and it was Kelly who was on hand with his third point of the game from the right wing as the Banner led by double scores for the third time with twelve minutes left in the first half, 0-8 to 0-4. Duggan's simple free - his second of the game - stretched the gap to five 90 seconds later and Reidy in turn followed up with his second as the wind-assisted Munster county led by 0-10 to 0-4 after 25 minutes.
Rory O'Connor's third pointed free was cancelled out by rampant Clare centre forward Kelly. O'Connor's first had arrived in the eleventh minute as Wexford led for the second time, 0-2 to 0-1, but back came Clare with a run of points from Seadna Morey, Duggan and O'Donnell.
Seven minutes from the break, O'Connor's fourth converted free reduced the Slaneysiders' arrears to five but a sensational scoop-up and finish from the right wing by Conlon represented the perfect riposte. When McDonald clipped one over for Davy Fitzgerald's charges, O'Donnell swept over his second as the Banner boys simply refused to be reeled in.
Clare centre-forward Tony Kelly struck 0-5 from play at Pairc Ui Chaoimh
O'Connor and Duggan traded frees and Man of the Match Collins arrowed over Clare's 15th point on the stroke of 35 minutes following steely determination from Kelly and Conlon. McDonald - with his third - and Duggan (free) nailed the last two scores of a fairly one-sided opening period.
Wexford had two excellent points in as many minutes via Diarmuid O'Keeffe and Lee Chin at the start of the second half but O'Donnell and Duggan replied as the seven-point gap was restored. O'Connor (free) and Duggan each chipped in with their sixth points of the day but the margin came down to five with 47 minutes elapsed as Shaun Murphy and O'Connor (free) lofted over quickfire Wexford scores. Cue a fifth Kelly point to steady the Shannonsiders, followed by another from Conlon to leave seven between the teams once more, 0-21 to 0-14…
A series of poor wides scuppered any chance of a Wexford revival, while a seventh Duggan point (free) in the 57th minute pushed the Banner into an unassailable lead.
With twelve minutes left, Conor McDonald seized the sliothar and drilled an unstoppable shot to the corner of the Clare net, briefly reigniting Wexford hopes; Collins replied before Donal Tuohy made a sensational save to deny substitute Jack O'Connor a second Model major as the losers started to pour forward in a desperate bid to salvage their season.
Hot on the heels of a pointed free, a magical Rory O'Connor strike from play - his ninth - brought the margin suddenly down to a manageable four points with eight minutes remaining. O'Donnell mustered a much-needed Clare score in response to O'Connor's tenth and substitute Ian Galvin hammered over a crucial Banner point a minute from the end of normal time before the outstanding Conlon sealed the deal with a stupendous point on the run in the first of four added minutes.
Wexford had thrown the gauntlet down to Clare by creeping within three points but Conor McGrath banged over the winners' fourth unanswered point as they pulled away impressively at the end. Wexford's season was over and it ended on a low note as Rory O'Connor received a straight red card in the dying moments of added time.
Clare - D Tuohy; P O'Connor, D McInerney, J Browne; J Shanahan, C Cleary, S Morey (0-1); C Gavin, C Malone (0-1); P Duggan (0-7, 5f), T Kelly (0-5), D Reidy (0-2); P Collins (0-2), J Conlon (0-3), S O'Donnell (0-4). Subs: D Fitzgerald for C Galvin, I Galvin (0-1) for D Reidy, C McGrath (0-1) for P Duggan, M O'Malley for C Malone, R Hayes for J Browne.
Wexford - M Fanning; D Reck (0-1), L Ryan, C Firman; P Foley, M O'Hanlon, D O'Keeffe (0-1); K Foley, S Murphy (0-1); R O'Connor (0-10, 9f), A Nolan, L Og McGovern; D Dunne, L Chin (0-1), C McDonald (1-3). Subs: Jack O'Connor for A Nolan, H Kehoe for K Foley, S Donohoe for P Foley, W Devereux for D O'Keeffe.
Referee - F Horgan.