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Clare fail to escape from Division 2

Clare are facing a second year in Division 2 of the National Hurling League after their disappointing loss to Wexford played before a small attendance at Semple Stadium on Sunday.
With just over a month to go to a championship date with Waterford at the same venue, the prospects for Clare, based on Sunday’s poor performance, appear very slim.
The result may have been in doubt right to the final whistle but, in reality, the winners created the better chances and should have won by more. Yet when two minutes of injury time were signalled at the end, there was just a point between the sides.
Disaster struck, however, as Clare goalkeeper Philip Brennan fumbled and Rory Jacob pounced to score his side’s goal, which killed any lingering hopes of a Clare win.
Experience played a key role in the final with Darren Stamp, Diarmuid Lyng, Eoin Quigley, particularly in the final quarter, and Rory Jacob all playing key roles for the Slaneysiders.
In contrast, Philip Brennan, Gerry Quinn, Diarmuid McMahon and Brian O’Connell, the longer serving members of the Clare squad, all struggled to make an impression. Brennan’s distribution from puck-outs was poor, team captain O’Connell has struggled throughout this campaign, Quinn, who missed most of the league campaign due to injury, hobbled off in the ninth minute, while McMahon was always struggling up front.
There has been much talk about the chances missed by Wexford, with their tally of 17 wides but Clare also did poorly, finishing with 15 wides, some of which were from good scoring positions. There will be some debate as to whether or not Clare would have won had Colin Ryan not missed two frees in the second half, the first at the midpoint of the half when the sides were level, and the second five minutes from the end when Clare were a point behind.
While there is no denying that Clare had chances, the reality is that Wexford were sharper on the day and displayed a greater hunger throughout the field.
Adding to Clare’s disappointment is the fact that, right at the death, Darach Honan picked up a second yellow card, resulting in his dismissal. It was a frustrating afternoon for the Clonlara teenager who was tightly marked throughout by Ciaran Kenny. No doubt Wexford were mindful of Honan’s display when the sides met earlier in the league, as he tore holes in their defence on that occasion.
The first half of the tie was particularly poor with almost as many yellow cards dished out as there were scores. Colin Ryan gave Clare the lead in the second minute but three from play for Wexford clearly set out their determination to go one better this year.
The standard all round in the opening half was poor and one of the biggest talking points was Clare’s claim that an effort from Cormac O’Donovan, 10 minutes before the break, which was waved wide, was in fact a point. Wexford led by a point as the game entered injury time at the end of the half. Then Colin Ryan ran onto a Jonathon Clancy delivery and first-timed a powerful shot to the net, which gave Clare a 1-4 to 0-6 interval lead.
When Darach Honan, now at centre-forward, fired over an excellent point inside the first minute of the second half, the small Clare attendance began to think about a return to Division 1 but Wexford quickly dampened their spirits when they hit back with four unanswered points before the tenth minute of the half.
Clare’s best forward John Conlon gave his side renewed hope when he struck for a somewhat fortunate goal after 14 minutes. The Clonlara teenager’s first effort rebounded off the upright but he persisted and his second attempt ended up in the net after taking a deflection off the boot of full-back Keith Rossiter.
Again Wexford came storming back with four more unanswered points, indicating their determination to get back to the top division for next season. Clare fought back to level with four minutes to go before Diarmuid Lyng, playing a real captain’s part for his side, converted a line ball only to see Jonathan Clancy quickly cancel this out and level matters with two minutes to play.
Eoin Quigley, who had become more influential as the game wore on, gave Wexford back the lead before Brennan’s mistake presented Jacob with the opportunity to seal victory.
On a day when Clare struggled in many positions, the full-back trio of Pat Vaughan, Cian Dillon and Domhnaill O’Donovan battled hard throughout. The Clare half-backs and midfielders were always under pressure while up front, only John Conlon caused problems for the winners’ defence but he lacked support.
Noel Carton, Keith Rossiter, Darren Stamp, Colm Farrell, Eoin Quigley, Rory Jacob and Diarmuid Lyng stood out for the Slaneysidsers.

Clare: Philip Brennan; Pat Vaughan, Cian Dillon, Domhnaill O’Donovan; Gerry Quinn, Brian O’Connell (capt), Pat Donnellan; Nicky O’Connell, Martin Ogie Murphy; John Conlon, Jonathon Clancy, Cormac O’Donovan; Darach Honan, Diarmuid McMahon, Colin Ryan.
Subs: Seán Collins for Quinn (inj, 9 minutes), Fergal Lynch for C O’Donovan (44 minutes), Brendan Bugler for Murphy (45 minutes), Alan Markham for McMahon (62 minutes).
Scorers: Colin Ryan (1-3, 3f), John Conlon (1-2), Diarmuid McMahon (0-2), Darach Honan and Jonathon Clancy (0-1) each.
Bookings: Pat Vaughan (13 minutes), Brian O’Connell (18 minutes), Darach Honan (27 minutes and 73 minutes), Pat Donnellan (67 minutes) and John Conlon (69 minutes).
Sent off: Darach Honan (73 minutes).
Wides: 15; Frees for: 10

Wexford: Noel Carton; Paul Roche, Keith Rossiter, Ciaran Kenny; Ritchie Kehoe, Darren Stamp, Malachy Travers; Harry Kehoe, Colm Farrell; Andrew Short, Eoin Quigley, Diarmuid Lyng (captain); Rory Jacob, Stephen Banville, Peter Atkinson.
Subs: PJ Nolan for Short (half-time), Michael Jacob for Atkinson (53 minutes), Lar Prendergast for Roche (62 minutes), Tomás Mahon for Banville (68 minutes).
Scorers: Diarmuid Lyng (0-7, 3f, 1 line ball), Rory Jacob (1-2), Colm Farrell (0-3), Peter Atkinson, Stephen Banville, Eoin Quigley and PJ Nolan (0-1) each.
Bookings: Peter Atkinson (13 minutes), Diarmuid Lyng (20 minutes), Ciaran Kenny (27 minutes) and Stephen Banville (34 minutes).
Wides: 17; Frees for: 10

Referee: Johnnie Ryan, Tipperary.


Missed chances leave team ‘down and wounded’

CLARE had lots of chances and their failure to avail of these proved costly in a game between two evenly matched sides.
That’s according to Clare manager Ger O’Loughlin after Sunday’s Division 2 league final at Thurles.
“We are bitterly disappointed as we were hoping that we would come down here and bounce back to Division 1. It’s fierce disappointing. I thought we fought hard and I was proud of the lads. We had lots of chances and on another day maybe we would have put over seven or eight of those but not today and at the end of the day that is what probably cost us.
“I have to say that they were two very evenly matched sides. Unfortunately, we came out the wrong side of it today. We have to take into account that we need to mature quickly with regard to chances and taking them. When you are playing the likes of Wexford, who will hold their own against most counties and when you don’t take your chances, it will come back to haunt you. We conceded a soft goal. Really there was only a point or two between the teams,” the Clarecastle man said.
On the prospect of returning to training for the upcoming championship, O’Loughlin said, “It will be difficult to go back on Tuesday evening but that is what we have to do. I hope that we will show great pride on June 7 [when Clare play Waterford in the Munster semi-final]. I can’t guarantee anything. They showed pride today but we missed a lot of chances. It’s not for the want of trying. We are doing a lot of practising. They are young and I hope that in three or four years time, Clare will be contenders in Munster.”
Both O’Loughlin and Wexford boss Colm Bonnar again called for a change in the system so that Clare will be in Division 1 next season.
“I’d love if somebody came up with a solution and brought us back to Division 1 as I think we would hold our own. From my point of view, trying to rebuild, we would rebuild it a lot faster and have better quality players if we were playing the likes of Tipperary, Wexford and Galway. There is a case there and I’d love if someone sat down and said we would be up in Division 1 and have a division of 10. For now, we are in Division 2 and have to contend with that. We are fierce disappointed about it,” the Clare boss said.
“We are back in Division 2 and we are not looking forward to next year. It will be hard but we have to think now about June 7 and see can we come down and give Waterford a game. It was a low scoring game and it mightn’t have been the most skilful but you saw two battling teams. We are building again and it’s going to take us a couple of years. We will bounce back but, right now, we are down and wounded for a while,” O’Loughlin concluded.

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