Longford 2-12 Clare 1-12
THE Clare footballers exited the All-Ireland qualifiers following a very disappointing loss to Longford in Cusack Park on Saturday evening.
The kicking of 12 wides was a huge factor in Clare’s demise. However they also made poor decisions on the ball, conceded scoreable frees and generally did not look as sharp as Longford, who were slicker and much more economical in possession.
Following a season of progress in 2014, where they won promotion and played five championship games, 2015 will go down as a year in which Clare stood still, albeit they did retain their division 3 status. However championship wise, while they beat Limerick in Ennis, they have since lost heavily to Cork and now at home to Longford.
Jack Sheedy’s team were reduced to 14 men when Diarmuid Masterson was sent off on a second yellow card 12 minutes from time but the extra man seemed to make no discernible difference.
Dessie Reynold’s second half goal was the games pivotal score. He put it away just five minutes into the second half following intelligent play from Rory Connor, who gave the pass at the right time.
Following a frantic first half, Clare led 1-7 to 1-6 at half time. This was in despite the fact that they kicked nine first half wides, with Brian Kavanagh the only Longford man to do likewise in the opening 35 minutes.
It was Kavanagh who put away the Longford goal in that opening half, when he fired a penalty high into the right hand side of Joe Hayes’ net in the sixth minute.
Corner forward Liam Connerton, who looked very sharp, was fouled by Ciaran Russell, who conceded the penalty.
Prior to that points from a 43 yard Gary Brennan free and a superb David Tubridy score had put Clare into a 0-2 to 0-1 lead.
However the goal really buoyed Longford and by the 14th minute they led 1-4 to 0-3 after Michael Quinn got away from Cathal O’Connor and pointed for the visiting county.
Unfortunately Clare lost O’Connor to injury in the 18th minute when he was replaced by the returning Shane McGrath.
Following an inspirational Tubridy point, Dean Ryan struck for a great Clare goal. The Éire óg man nearly burst the net following a slick move involving Shane McGrath, Eoin Cleary, Jamie Malone, Keelan Sexton and Pat Burke. Ryan’s finish was what the move deserved.
Just after that goal, Martin McMahon executed a crucial block down on Longford’s Rory Connor when a goal looked on. Playing a two man full forward line, Longford looked dangerous when fed with direct ball which was something Michael Quinn in particular excelled at.
In the closing minutes of the opening half, Pat Burke, fed by Tubridy and Seán Collins helped Clare into a narrow interval lead.
Clare resumed with Jamie Malone at midfield alongside Gary Brennan but Longford got the first score of the new half, when Rory Connor pointed. That set the tone for much of the second half, although the teams were tied, 2-9 to 1-12, eleven minutes from time and Clare had a man advantage at that stage.
While Brian Kavanagh only put over one point from play, it was a superb effort and in fact Longford’s last score. Clare scrambled desperately for a goal in the closing minutes and were very lucky two minutes from time, when the Longford goalkeeper and a couple of defenders somehow managed to keep it out.
In the last few seconds David Tubridy lobbed a 21 yard free into the Longford square in the vain hope that Clare might pick up the break and score an equalising goal. It didn’t happen and Clare are now out of the 2015 championship, which is a definitely step back from their displays just 12 months ago.
Clare: Joe Hayes (Lissycasey); Ciarán Russell (Éire óg), Kevin Hartnett (Meelick), Martin McMahon (Kilmurry Ibrickane); Shane Hickey (Kilmurry Ibrickane), Gordon Kelly (Miltown), Dean Ryan (Éire óg); Gary Brennan (Clondegad-captain), Cathal O’Connor (Coolmeen); Seán Collins (Cratloe), Jamie Malone (Corofin), Keelan Sexton (Kilmurry Ibrickane); Eoin Cleary (Miltown), David Tubridy (Doonbeg), Pat Burke (Kilmacud Crokes).
Subs: Shane McGrath (Thomas Davis) for Cathal O’Connor (inj-18), Enda Coughlan (Kilmurry Ibrickane) for Eoin Cleary (53), Stephen Collins (Doora-Barefield) for Gordon Kelly (60-inj).
Scorers: David Tubridy (0-5, 0-3f), Dean Ryan 1-1, Gary Brennan (0-2, 0-1f), Eoin Cleary (0-2, 0-1f), Seán Collins, Pat Burke (0-1 each).
Yellow cards: Jamie Malone, Ciaran Russell, Shane McGrath.
Longford: Paddy Collum; Cian Farrelly, Barry O’Farrell, Fergal Battrim; Colm P Smyth, Barry Gilleran, Diarmuid Masterson; Kevin Diffley, Michael Quinn; Páuric Gill, Ronan McEntire, Rory Connor; Liam Connerton, Brian Kavanagh, Dessie Reynolds.
Subs: Shane Doyle for Páuric Gill (48), Ross McNerney for Ronan McEntire (61), Peter Foy for Rory Connor (66).
Scorers: Brian Kavanagh (1-5, 1-0 pen, 0-4f), Dessie Reynolds (1-1), Rory Connor, Liam Connerton (0-2 each), Michael Quinn, Diarmuid Masterson (0-1 each).
Yellow cards: Barry Gilleran, Colm P Smyth, Diarmuid Masterson, Shane Doyle, Liam Connerton.
Red card: Diarmuid Masterson.
Referee: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow).
By Peter O’Connell