It was with a huge sigh of relief that Clare progressed to a Munster SFC semi-final meeting with Kerry for the fourth year in succession after holding on for a one-point victory over Waterford at Cusack Park in Ennis.
The Banner, who played two divisions above their opponents in this year's Allianz League, looked to be on course for their expected comfortable win when they led by 0-8 to 0-2 at half-time. But they only troubled the scoreboard operator once more in the second half as Benji Whelan's underdogs reeled off six unanswered points to leave the minimum in it. When JJ Hutchinson pointed in injury-time, it looked like Waterford would salvage something, but the hosts just about held on.
Ultimately, Eoin Cleary's six-point haul proved decisive for a Clare team who clearly have a lot of improving to do if they are to trouble the Kingdom. Cleary registered his first two points from frees after the Banner had initially struggled to break down the packed Deise defence.
He kicked two more from play to make it 0-4 to 0-0 before Shane Ahearne finally opened the visitors' account from a free. Colm Collins' charges replied with a fifth point from Cleary and another from Jamie Malone in the 23rd minute.
Conor Murray grabbed a second Waterford point before Dean Ryan soloed through to give the hosts a six-point cushion at the interval.
After the sides had traded points at the start of the second half, the Deise threw caution to the wind and five unanswered points per Murray, Tadhg Ó hUallacháin and Hutchinson reduced the gap to two, 0-7 to 0-9, with 12 minutes remaining.
The home side, who were without key forwards David Tubridy and Keelan Sexton, managed to keep their Division 4 opponents at bay until deep into injury-time when Hutchison scored his second point. But it wasn't enough to save Waterford.
Clare - S Ryan; G Kelly, C Brennan, K Harnett; S Collins, A Fitzgerald, D Ryan (0-1); G Brennan, D Bohannon; K Malone, E Cleary (0-6, 3f), J Malone (0-2); C O’Dea, C Murray, G Cooney. Subs: G O’Brien for K Malone, C O’hAinifein for G Cooney, C O’Connor for D Bohannon (BC), D Masterson for C Murray, D O’Halloran for S Collins.
Waterford - D Mulhearne; S O’Donovan, R O’Ceallaigh, J McGrath; B Looby, S Ryan, T O hUallachain (0-1); S Ahearne (0-1), T Prendergast; S Whelan Barrett, D Guiry, C Murray (0-2); J Mullaney, F O Cuirrin, M Curry. Subs: D Hutchinson (0-2, 1f) for S Whelan Barrett, JJ Hutchinson (0-2) for J Mullaney, D Fitzgerald for F O Cuirrin, J Curry for D Guiry, B O’Keefe for T O hUllachain, B Lynch for C Murray.
Referee - B Cawley.Tweet