The Waterford team that defeated Clare in the Munster U-20 Championship in Fraher Field. Photo: Sean Byrne.
Eirgrid Munster U-20 Football Championship
Just three weeks on from making his inter-county debut in Waterford’s All Ireland Qualifier defeat by Westmeath, Darragh Corcoran had his second outing in the county colours in Fraher Field on Tuesday last where he gave a man of the match display in driving the home side on to a surprise win over a fancied Clare side. It was the St. Saviours player’s 12th minute equalising goal that spurred his side on to what many had considered an unlikely victory given the difficulty encountered in preparations with so many dual players in the panel and given the proximity to each other of the hurling and football games.
The word from Clare was that they had prepared diligently for this game over a long period without a single dual player in the side and with Clare football on a high senior manager Colm Collins was in Fraher Field to run the rule over the talent coming down the line. In the event The Banner came up against a Waterford side in which every player was proud to wear the county jersey and prepared to give his all on the night.
For Waterford supporters in the 363 attendance, that did not include juveniles, it looked as though their worst fears were about to be realised when Clare broke forward from the throw in and Cillian Rouine was sent through to crash the ball to the net with just eighteen seconds gone on the clock. There was no sense of panic on Waterford’s part as they immediately worked the ball upfield to put pressure on the Clare defence. A cynical foul by Clare fullback Jayme O’Sullivan was punished with a black card and Corcoran opened Waterford’s account from the free.
It soon became clear that Waterford had the advantage, physically, over lighter opponents and were stronger on the ball driving forward. Sean Whelan-Barrett shot wide within range before the energetic Billy Power broke through for a second point in the 4th minute. Clare looked lively as Diarmuid O’Donnell and Seamus Casey opened up a three point lead but Waterford were continuing to find gaps in the Clare defence and it took a brilliant save by Ronan Callinan at the expense of a ‘45’ to deny Tom Barron after he had been put through by Stephen Curry.
Waterford continued to pile on the pressure with Darragh O’Keeffe shooting wide and in the 12th minute the breakthrough came with Darragh Corcoran wrong footing defenders to send a rasping shot high to the far corner of the net. A minute later the same player added another point from a free to give his side the lead for the first time. Waterford continued to hold the upper hand but were squandering hard won possession close to goal before O’Donnell levelled from a free in the 15th minute. Waterford regained the lead in the 20th minute with Corcoran sending over from play as Clare reacted to the situation by springing talented senior Dermot Coughlan, returning from a long injury, from the bench.
A foul on Larry Walsh, after Billy Power had put him through with a great goal chance, was punished from the free by Corcoran in the 23rd minute and a minute later the Saviours player continued to keep the Clare defence at full stretch as he pushed his side into a three point lead from play. Dermot Coughlan was starting to make his presence felt as he won the free for O’Donnell to send over in the 23rd minute and it looked as though Waterford might pay for some poor finishing earlier as a good spell of Clare pressure resulted in points from Casey and O’Donnell frees to send the teams in level at 1-6 each at halftime.
The visitors started the second half strongly with Dermot Coughlan putting his side back into the lead in the 34th minute before Jack Coffey was called up to save brilliantly after half time substitute Cian Shannon and Coughlan combined to break through on goal. Waterford continued to look dangerous going forward, failing to convert a clear goal chance before Darragh O’Keeffe levelled matters in the 36th minute. Clare regained the lead through O’Donnell following another foul on Coughlan but in the 45th minute Corcoran was again on target after Billy Power was fouled.
We then had a decision by the referee that left the Clare bench furious and bemused as The Banner were denied what was a clear penalty as Reece Stringer dragged Dermot Coughlan to the ground just yards from the Waterford goal and as Clare players stopped in anticipation of the penalty there was no whistle and Waterford broke upfield. It was a let off for the home side and they took advantage with Brian Lynch setting Larry Walsh up for a real goal scoring opportunity in front of the posts but the player failed to hold on to the ball and it was cleared.
Clare had chances to regain the lead as Cillian Rouine and substitute Talty shot wide but Waterford regained the initiative going into the last five minutes as Stephen Curry picked out Darragh Corcoran with a pinpoint pass and he finished expertly for the lead point. It was all to play for now in a dramatic finish as Clare drew level in the 58th minute with Dermot Coughlan sending over the free, off the near post, after O’Donnell had been fouled by Stringer.
It was now a case of who blinked first as the clock wound down towards added time. Waterford grabbed the lead in sensational style with county senior Sean Whelan-Barrett laying off to Tom Barron steaming forward at pace and the Nire dual star made no mistake in sending the ball straight between the posts on the run.
With five minutes of added time signalled the pressure mounted on both sides. Rouine went close to levelling for Clare and Corcoran had a great chance to open up a two-point lead from free just inside the Clare ‘45’ but his effort tailed just right of the posts, fell short, and was cleared. For Waterford it was all about not conceding a free close to goal as Clare played keep ball, bringing the play closer to the posts in hope of wining the free. With the clock going into the fifth minute it was the clever Dermot Coughlan who drew the error some twenty-five metres out and slightly to the left of the posts facing the kicker.
It might have been expected that the experienced Coughlan would be entrusted with the free by it still looked a bread and butter kick for O’Donnell. The pressure told however, and to Clare’s dismay the ball went just inches wide of the post with the referee blowing the final whistle as the kickout was taken sparking wild celebrations on the part of Deise players and mentors.
Clare will, no doubt point to the penalty decision as being decisive but it could not be denied that Waterford were the better side over the hour and full value for their victory. In goal Jack Coffey made a couple of brilliant saves while in defence Tom Barron stood out as he drove forward at every opportunity and the manner in which he took his winning point will be long remembered. His halfback colleague Sam Fitzgerald was always strong in the tackle and prepared to push forward. In midfield Dan Booth and Brian Lynch held their own and while the honours in attack rested with Darragh Corcoran the work rate of Billy Power was phenomenal with his clubmate Stephen Curry also prominent.
Waterford now go on to face Cork in Clonakilty. The game had been fixed for Thursday but with Waterford having as many as eight players involved with the U-20 hurlers this evening in Thurles Munster Council and Cork have been asked to accede to a request to put the game back to Friday (tonight, July 12).
Scorers:- Waterford – Darragh Corcoran 1-7 (0-4Fs), Billy Power, Darragh O’Keeffe and Tom Barron 0-1 each.
Clare – Diarmuid O’Donnell 0-5 (4Fs), Cillian Rouine 1-0, Dermot Coughlan and Seamus Casey 0-2 each.
WATERFORD – Jack Coffey (Affane), Reece Power (Kilmacthomas), Reece Stringer (Colligan), Liam Fennell (Stradbally), Mark Twomey (Ballinacourty), Tom Barron (Nire), Sam Fitzgerald (Clashmore), Dan Booth (Colligan), Brian Lynch (Clashmore), Sean Whelan-Barrett (Ballinacourty), Stephen Curry (Rathgormack), Billy Power (Rathgormack), Darragh O’Keeffe (Gaultier), Larry Walsh (Nire), Darragh Corcoran (St. Saviours). Subs – James Walsh (Kilgobinet) for L. Walsh (39), Dean Beresford for O’Keeffe (52.
CLARE – Ronan Callinan (Kilmihill), Dara Conneely (Ennistymon), Jamie O’Sullivan (Wolf Tones), Iken Uguaru (Eire Og), Tiernan Hogan (Ennistymon), Sean Rouine (Ennistymon), Colm McNeillis (Clondegad), Danny Griffin (Eire Og), Dan keating (KIlmihill), Cian McDonagh (St. Josephs), Cillian Rouine (Ennistymon), Sean O’Brien (St. Breckens), Colm O’Brien (St, breckens), Diarmuid O’Donnell (Kidysart), Seamus Casey (Kidysart). Subs – Conor De Loughrey (St. Senans) for O’Sullivan (BC 2mins), Dermot Coughlan for S. O’Brien (20), Cian Shannon (Ennistymon) for McDonagh (HT), Philip Talty (Eire Og) for Keating, Ciaran Downes for Casey (50), Morgan Garry (Clondegad) for Casey (50).
Referee – Sean Lonergan (Tipperary)