Clare vs Wexford Round Two Qualifier Preview
By Ben Bernie
On 13th July 2013 these two sides met in Thurles in phase three of the qualifiers, Clare came out on top after extra time. The previous few years had not been hugely productive for either side, and neither side were expected to do much in the championship thereafter. But a Davy Fitzgerald managed Clare side went from strength to strength and went all the way to lifting Liam McCarthy. Tony Kelly was Hurler of the Year, Shane O’Donnell scored 3-3 in the final, John Conlon was wing forward, while David McInerney and Colm Galvin were all stars. They were in the middle of three in a row All-Ireland under 21 wins and the future looked very bright.
Wexford also appeared to be on the brink of something, they had just won the Leinster under 21 title for the first time since 2002, and did their own three in a row of Leinster titles. Players like Liam Ryan, Conor Macdonald and Kevin Foley were about to come to the fore.
A year later in 2014 the sides met in round one of the qualifiers, and again the game went to extra time, not once but twice. A fine Harry Kehoe goal after an amazing pass from Jack Guiney proved a vital score in extra time of the replay in Wexford Park. Who could forget the scenes in Wexford Park that night as the men in purple and gold had dethroned the All-Ireland champions. It was Wexford’s first significant win in the championship since 2007 and things were on the up. Fast Forward four years later and Wexford met Clare in the championship once again, this time in the quarter final. The big difference being that Fitzgerald was now in the Wexford dugout. It was a disappointing affair in Páirc Uí Chaoimh where Clare ran out seven point winners and it was never really in doubt.
Two years later and both sides had particularly poor displays in the opening fixtures, they met in qualifier round two. There was the added spice to this one, Davy Fitzgerald’s former teammate and friend turned arch nemesis Brian Lohan had taken the reins in Clare. Rumours surfaced of a lack of support from the Clare county board, which has Davy’s Dad as secretary. It was a Tony Kelly masterclass, he got 1-6 from play and Wexford never got going, as they didn’t in either championship game in 2020.
Following the league game between the two in May this year, we of course had the Covid debacle, Clare wondered how two of their players were deemed close contacts of Wexford players. There seemed to be outrage in Clare, Lohan expressed his discontent, the county boards got involved and the situation never got clarified properly.
In a preview to the game in the national league in May Donál Óg Cusack wrote for RTÉ that there were “more subplots than an Agatha Christie novel”. That was before the Covid issues, and before Brian Lohan publicly questioned the integrity of a Wexford referee after the contentious penalty and sin binning against Tipperary. Eddie Brennan said this week on ourgame.ie that “I don’t think you’d get it in one of Shakespeare’s plays.” There is so much going on it will be an intriguing watch, almost regardless of the game itself. In hurling terms, the two sides look to be in a far greater place than they did last year. Both were unluckily defeated in their respective semi finals, and but for a refereeing decision, or the intervention of hawkeye, they could both be in provincial finals.