CLARE booked a place in the semi-final of the Oscar Taynor, inter-league junior competition, when they overcame Sligo-Leitrim at Ray McSharry Park in Sligo on Sunday.
In the semi-final, scheduled for the end of March, Clare will play Cork or Tipperary
Sligo-Leitrim, backboned by nine players with League of Ireland experience, were fancied by many outside of Clare to advance.
The Banner County team has been impressive on the way to this stage of the competition and from the start, it was clear that they were well up for this match with David McCarthy having a shot just go over the crossbar and Trevor Maxwell having an effort well saved inside the first five minutes.
Sligo-Leitrim’s first effort at goal came on 10 minutes when Lee Marshall’s effort was deflected wide. Maxwell had another effort narrowly miss the target eight minutes later while two minutes after this, he made a great run down the right wing cut inside the last defender and was unlucky to see his effort go over the crossbar.
Throughout the first half, Trevor Maxwell continued to impress and caused the Sligo-Leitrim defence a lot of problems. On 28 minutes, Con Collins got some space in the middle of the park and played a ball over the top to Derek Fahy. He was denied by Tony Clarke in the Sligo-Leitrim goal when he came off his line well to make the save. John Gaffney had a long-range effort for Sligo Leitrim just miss the target on 32 minutes. On 38 minutes, Eoin O’Brien was denied a goal-scoring opportunity when a linesman’s flag for offside stopped him in his tracks when it looked like he had timed his run well. Before half-time, Mattie Nugent had to make a good interception after Sligo-Leitrim got into a good attacking position on the edge of the box.
Clare made a good start to the second half and had a great chance to take the lead when Collins put McCarthy through on goal but he was denied by a top-class save by the home side’s goalie, Clarke. Against the run of play, Sligo-Leitrim took the lead on 53 minutes when Gareth Kelly scored from the penalty spot after Richie Lillis committed a foul in the box when attempting to make a tackle. It took Clare a while to recover from this setback and John Healy kept the visitors in the contest on 62 minutes with a great save after a cross from Gareth Kelly found Gary Rooney free in the box.
Clare got back in the match on 65 minutes when Derek Fahy won a free outside the box and David McCarthy’s free kick into the box was missed by everyone and nestled in the bottom right corner of the net. This was no more than Clare deserved. Minutes later, another free kick from McCarthy for another foul on Fahy rebounded off the crossbar and Sligo-Leitrim survived with the help of the referee’s whistle for a free out.
Clare were denied a goal on 73 minutes when a Fahy header first rebounded off the crossbar and was then finished to the net by the same player, only for the goal to be ruled out by a linesman’s flag that went up very late.
Fahy was causing the Sligo-Leitrim defence a lot of problems at this stage and, on 76 minutes, he had an effort go over the crossbar. On 83 minutes, a good passing move by McCarthy and Fahy resulted in a Fahy shot from outside the box being deflected into the hands of Clarke in goals when his effort could just as easily have finished in the net.
In the last minute of normal time, Keith Nibbs had a chance to win it for Sligo-Leitrim but his effort missed the target
Clare brought on Ally McMillian for McCarthy and Eamon O’Reilly for Lillis for extra time while Sligo-Leitrim brought on another former League of Ireland player in Gino O’Boyle for Nibbs. In the first period, O’Boyle had an effort go wide of the right post. In the second period of extra time, Mattie Nugent made a great block in the box to deny Sligo-Leitrim a goal. In the last minute of extra time, Mike O’Malley was taken down right on the edge of the box and for a moment, everyone thought the referee was going to award a penalty. The free kick was cleared clearing the way for a penalty shoot-out.
Daryl Eade took the first penalty for Clare and his effort was saved. The pressure was now on Clare and John Healy dived well to his left to make a great save from O’Boyle’s penalty. David Russell, Eamon O’Reilly, Mattie Nugent and Con Collins all had well-struck efforts for Clare find the net to put the pressure on Sligo. Neal McKenna, Packie Callaghan, John Gaffney and Gareth Kelly replied each time for Sligo-Leitrim to leave the shootout at 4-4 entering sudden death. Eoin O’Brien scored for Clare and it was left to Sligo Leitrim’s Lee Marshall to keep them in the title race but his effort went high over the crossbar and Clare celebrated getting through to the last four.
Clare: John Healy (Avenue Utd), Liam Murphy (Newmarket Celtic), Richie Lillis (Bunratty), Mattie Nugent (Avenue Utd), David Russell (Avenue Utd), Con Collins (Bunratty), Trevor Maxwell (Bridge Utd), Mike O’Malley (Newmarket Celtic), Derek Fahy (Bridge Utd), David McCarthy (Avenue Utd), Eoin O’Brien (Newmarket Celtic).
Subs: Daryl Eade (Rock Rovers) for Maxwell, Ally McMillian (Bunratty) for McCarthy, Eamon O’Reilly (Avenue Utd) for Lillis.
Sligo-Leitrim: Tony Clarke, Neal McKenna, Andrew McLoughlin, John Gaffney, Packie Callaghan, Gary Rooney, Lee Marshall Damien Scanlon, Gareth Kelly, Keith Nibbs, Alan Flynn.
Subs: Gino O’Boyle for Nibbs, Ross McLoughlin for Flynn.