NHL: Clare 0-17 Laois 0-9
Clare continued their unbeaten start to the National League with a battling win over Laois through the wind and rain in Cusack Park.
Whatever about the arrival of Storm Dennis to Cusack Park, it was the return of Aaron Cunningham that provided arguably the highlight of the half inside the opening two minutes. The Wolfe Tones man marked his first start in almost two years by angling over a brilliant point from the sideline after a excellent first touch saw him lose his marker.
The sheeting wind and rain meant that it was never going to be a classic, and it was no surprise that the opening half saw just five points scored from play. Ross King landed 0-3 from frees for Laois while Willie Dunphy finished a nice move for the Laois men for their only score from play.
At the break, it was Clare 0-9 to 0-4 ahead having played with the wind, but with 0-4 of that coming from frees by Tony Kelly it was indicative of the type of game that was unfolding. Jack Browne and Aidan McCarthy landed good scores from distance while Kelly sparkled with two classy scores, but the home side were struggling to create any clear cut scoring chances.
Laois were battling valiantly and were finding joy when running directly at the Banner defence but saw some promising moves break down in the final third.
Clare lost David Fitzgerald to injury before the break with Domhnall McMahon replacing him in the Clare forward line.
McMahon answered Ross King’s free in the opening minutes of the second period but it took a brilliant save from Eibhear Quilligan to deny James Keyes a goal, and Liam Corry followed up to clear Willie Dunphy’s whipped rebound.
Clare almost got in for a goal soon after as Ryan Taylor broke through but brave defending from Enda Rowland and Diarmuid Conway combined to smother the chance.
The introduction of Aron Shanagher and Ian Galvin put new life into the Clare forward line with Shanagher getting three crucial points to curb a strong spell for Laois which had seen them cut the gap to three with 20 minutes to play. Galvin set up Reidy for a tidy effort and Shanagher landed his third, from his third touch, and with 60 minutes on the clock, Clare led 0-14 to 0-8.
Willie Dunphy and Tony Kelly swapped points before Kelly turned provider for Ian Galvin to send Clare seven points clear with less than five minutes to play.
Shanagher’s presence continued to be effective as he sent Podge Collins through with the Cratloe man being fouled and Kelly converted the free.
The wind and rain returned with a vengence as the darkness descended for the five minutes of injury time, but the result didn’t change as Clare continued their unbeaten run.
Clare: Eibhear Quilligan; Liam Corry, Shane Golden, Jack Browne; Stephen O’Halloran, Cathal Malone, Aidan McCarthy; David McInerney (c), Tony Kelly; David Reidy, David Fitzgerald, Seadna Morey; Ryan Taylor, Shane O’Donnell. Aaron Cunningham.
Subs: Domhnall McMahon for Fitzgerald, Aron Shanagher for Cunningham, Ian Galvin for Morey, Podge Collins for O’Donnell, Niall Deasy for Taylor.
Scorers: Tony Kelly (0-8, 5f), Aron Shanagher (0-3), Jack Browne, Aidan McCarthy, Aaron Cunningham, David Reidy, Ian Galvin and Domhnall McMahon (0-1 each).