U-20 Development Football League Liam O’Connor Cup: Clare 1-13 Offaly 0-6
Clare’s bid for a spot in the O’Connor Cup final remains on course after Michael Neylon’s charges recorded their second win of the campaign.
It was an impressive and controlled performance for the most part from the Banner as they powered to a 1-11 to 0-4 half-time lead after playing with the aid of the wind.
Clare were fully deserving of that cushion after the opening 30 minutes as they dominated possession while stringing together some brilliant moves. The wastefulness in front of goals that was evident during the Limerick game last weekend was something Neylon and his management team had identified as an area to work on, and it was clear that they did. With 15 minutes played Clare led 1-8 to 0-2 and had a return on the board for each of their attempts on goal. Over the course of the hour, just three shots went astray with one of them being highly contentious as Shane Meehan’s free late in the second period looked to have been well inside the post before being waved wide.
Meehan was in top form once more with 0-5 to his name, including 0-3 from frees while his movement, pace and work-rate no end of problems for the Offaly defence. He had plenty support up front from Emmet McMahon, Thomas Clancy and Diarmuid O’Donnell in particular while Seamus Casey’s deep lying role added an extra layer to the home defence. Clare’s tactic of keeping the play wide before releasing the runners through the centre created oceans of space for the finishers to exploit while the tracking back of the half forward line when possession was lost kept the pressure on the Faithful men throughout. Clare also dominated from the kickouts at either end of the field with Offaly only winning two from nine in that opening quarter while Tom O’Brien was clinical with his from the Clare restarts. Michael Neylon’s Miltown clubmate Sean O’Brien is the man occupying the goalkeeping coach position, and his influence on the kickouts was to the fore.
There was a Miltown feel to the only goal of the game with Oisín Looney finding the net on his home sod of Hennessey Park following a sweeping move in the opening minutes. It began with Emmet McMahon gaining possession before neat interchange between Michéal Murray and Casey created the opportunity for Looney to palm home from close range. It came during a period that saw Clare rattle off 1-6 without reply, with their dominance on the Offaly kick-outs being the chief platform for much of that scoring burst. McMahon (3) Meehan (2) and John Murphy all found the range to leave Clare in clear control, with Offaly only having 0-4 from frees to show for their efforts in the first period.
Hennessey Park is no stranger to a strong wind and it caused plenty problems for both sides after the restart. Offaly opened the scoring early on, but as the game hit the 45 minute mark no other score had materialised. Clare were defending stoutly but found attacks breaking down as they hit the final third as handling errors and poor decisions coughed up possession. Offaly never really looked like taking full advantage of those lapses in concentration and never looked like being allowed to either as Clare’s work-rate made up for any of those little errors. Micheál Murray and Diarmuid King were solid in the central defensive positions while the partnership of Looney and Eoin Rouine in the middle of the park looks like having the potential to be a promising one.
Meehan and Thomas Clancy closed the scoring for the home side who did finish the game in a positive manner to put on foot into the O’Connor Cup final.
Next up is a trip to Aughrim this weekend to take on Wicklow and should Clare avoid defeat it will see them through to the decider. Scoring difference could still come into play should the home side prevail which could well be enough for Clare to advance depending on how other results play out. There will be a concern over the fitness of Miltown club man Oisín Looney who was forced off with an ankle injury in the closing stages.
Clare: Tom O’Brien (St Joseph’s Doora Barefield); Ciaran McMahon (Ennistymon), Diarmuid King (Kilmurry Ibrickane), Manus Doherty (Eire Óg); John Murphy (Ennistymon), Micheál Murray (Miltown, St Joseph’s), Stephen Sheehan (Kildysart); Oisín Looney (Miltown, St Joseph’s), Eoin Rouine (Ennistymon); Robin Mounsey (Corofin), Diarmuid O’Donnell (Kildysart), Thomas Clancy (O’Curry’s); Seamus Casey (Kildysart), Emmet McMahon (Kildysart), Shane Meehan (Banner).
Subs: Eoghan Thynne (St Joseph’s Doora Barefield) for Mounsey, Darren O’Brien (Eire Óg) for Looney (inj), Oisín O’Loughlin (St Breckan’s) for O’Brien, Tadgh Lillis (Doonbeg) for Sheehan, Gearoid Collins (Eire Óg) for Clancy, Cian Flanagan (Miltown, St Joseph’s) for Rouine, Cian Meaney (Lissycasey) for Doherty, Cian McDonagh (St Joseph’s Doora Barefield) for King, Jack Reidy (Shannon Gaels) for Murray, Sean O’Brien (Corofin) for O’Donnell.
Scorers: Shane Meehan (0-5, 3f), Emmet McMahon (0-3), Oisín Looney (1-0), Thomas Clancy and Diarmuid O’Donnell (0-2 each), John Murphy (0-1).
Ref: Donnacha O’Callaghan (Limerick).