Bobby Duggan fired over thirteen points as holders Clare defeated Waterford by 0-23 to 1-18 at Ennis.
Even though they are bidding for their fourth successive provincial and All-Ireland crowns at this level, the Banner County went into this match as underdogs. Waterford had powered past Cork at the quarter-final stage and started tonight's matches with seven players who had featured in last weekend's Munster senior hurling final.
But Donal Moloney's men (only two of whom were on the Clare senior squad this year) had other ideas as they stormed through to a July 30th Munster final appearance against either Tipperary or Limerick, who will contest their semi-final tomorrow night. As well as Duggan, Ian Galvin was also superb for the winners, helping himself to 0-6, all from play (five of those in the second half).
The visitors led by the odd point from 21 at the end of a tightly-contested and highly-enjoyable opening period. Patrick Curran (0-5) and Austin Gleeson (0-3) were the main scoring outlets for Waterford in the opening period, while Duggan supplied 0-7 of his side's first-half tally.
When the brilliant Duggan turned to clip over a lovely Clare point - his fifth of the match - in the 17th minute, that score reduced the gap to two, 0-7 to 0-5. At the other end, full forward Curran's third score (free) was followed by a superb finish from the right wing by midfielder Gleeson in the 20th minute as Na Deise moved four clear, but a wonderful fetch and finish from Galvin kept the holders very much in touch.
Ryan Taylor and Duggan (free) made it a one-point match but Waterford No.15 Michael Kearney struck back on 25 minutes before Curran became the third man on Derek Lyons' side to fire a shot off the left upright. Duggan (free) again reduced the gap to the minimum.
A minute from the break, Curran lofted over a lovely point from the left wing but straight away Clare No.11 Shane Gleeson responded to leave one point between the sides at the short whistle.
Clare were in no hurry to return to the field for the second half but Duggan had them back on level terms within three minutes of the restart. The hosts then went back in front in the 36th minute when Galvin fired over his second of the night … Aidan McGuane doubled the gap after Curran had surprisingly pulled a Waterford free to the left and wide.
Gleeson (free) and Duggan - with his ninth! - swapped scores and a magnificent Clare move culminated in a stupendous point from distance from Eoin Quirke before Galvin's third point from play made it 0-16 to 0-12 with 20 minutes left.
Within three minutes, Waterford turned a four-point deficit into a one-point lead: Gleeson ('65') and Dunford pointed before Curran ran through the heart of the Clare defence to plant the sliothar in the back of the net. But Galvin pointed to ensure parity at the three-quarters stage: 0-17 to 1-14.
Galvin's fifth and Duggan's tenth had the Banner two points ahead again with less than twelve minutes left; Curran and Duggan exchanged frees twice to ensure that it was still a two-point game with 54 minutes on the clock. Duggan smashed over another free following a foul on Shane O'Donnell - again the reply came from a Curran free.
In the first of two added minutes, Duggan picked out Galvin, who whacked over his sixth point to put three between them. There was high drama at the end as seven Clare men lined the goal and faced up to a close-range Gleeson free, which was blocked on the line. After Shane Bennett's '65' sailed over the bar, the final whistle sounded and the Banner celebrations began.
On the evidence of what was witnessed in Cusack Park tonight, rumours of the demise of Clare hurling are greatly exaggerated!
Clare - K Hogan; E Quirke (0-1), D Fitzgerald, S O'Brien; A McGuane (0-1), C Cleary, B O'Gorman; D Conroy, K Hehir; B Duggan (0-13, 7f), S Gleeson (0-1), I Galvin (0-6); S O'Donnell, S Ward, R Taylor (0-1). Subs: S Taylor for S Gleeson.
Waterford - J Henley; S McNulty, K Bennett, C Gleeson; M Harney, T De Burca, Shane Bennett (0-2, 1'65); A Gleeson (0-5, 1f, 1'65), T Devine; C Dunford (0-1), Stephen Bennett, DJ Foran (0-1); R Donnelly, P Curran (1-7, 0-5f), M Kearney (0-1). Subs: D Lyons for M Harney, C Curran (0-1) for R Donnelly, S Keating for DJ Foran.
Referee - J Murphy.