Senior Hurling Challenge: Galway 4-16 Clare 0-21
The Brian Lohan era might not have gotten off to a winning start, but on a cold December day the first encouraging shoots of optimism were certainly there to be seen.
Indeed in the opening five minutes, the die-hards who turned out were already commenting on the direct approach being taken by Clare. Puck-outs were sent long down the wings, defensive clearances hit the danger zones as soon as possible, while the first and only short Banner puck-out of the day did not materialise until the 55th minute.
New faces in the form of Paidí Fitzpatrick, Keith Whyte, Domhnall McMahon, Stiofán McMahon and Oisín Donnellan were given their first chance to impress the new management, while the likes of David Reidy, Colin Guilfoyle and Eoin Quirke made welcome returns to the senior panel.
It was as of much interest to those watching on from a Clare perspective to keep an eye on positional line-ups as it was to track the scoreboard, with the shape of the team in the second period arguably the more encouraging. Paidí Fitzpatrick was marshalling the edge of his own square in the first half and took some time to grow into the contest. He was switched to wing-back in the second period with Eoin Quirke moved into the full back berth with both players looking comfortable in those roles. Oisín Donnellan began his inter-county journey at midfield and was influential in the opening half before being moved to wing-forward after the restart where he did not have the same impact. Colin Guilfoyle moved between the half and full forward lines and was arguably more of a handful further out as his psychical presence proved a handful for the Galway defence at times. Jason McCarthy was solid throughout at corner-back while midfielder Ryan Taylor and roving corner-forward Mikey O’Neill also got through plenty work. Of those who featured from the bench, it was David Reidy who caught the eye most with his pace and precision standing out while Diarmuid Ryan added plenty presence under the high ball.
The tactics did not take much figuring out as the route one approach was clearly the favoured one, but at times in the opening period, the Clare defence were exposed for pace. The home side in Ballindereen found the net three times before the break, with each of them coming when strong running created an overlap which was punished to the extreme. On the other side, Clare only had one real chance of note as Colin Guilfoyle’s effort came cannoning back off the post.
Galway led 3-9 to 0-10 at the break with wing-forward Tadhg Haran raiding for the opening goal after 14 minutes. Two more followed from full-forward Sean Bleahene who would finish with a personal tally of 2-4 from play in an impressive showing. The sides were level twice in the opening ten minutes, with Galway hitting the first two scores of the game before Domhnall McMahon landed the first point of Brian Lohan’s tenure while Oisín Donnellan tied the game up. Ronan O’Meara and Niall Deasy swapped points but three in a row from Galway, including two from Haran, moved them 0-6 to 0-3 ahead. Deasy and Ryan Taylor got Clare back to within one, but Haran’s goal opened a gap that proved to be a constant throughout the remainder of the contest. Bleahane’s first came on the 20th minute and the last score of the half was another green flag from the big full-forward to see his side well in command.
Clare made an encouraging start to the second period with three Colin Guilfoyle frees, and almost got in for a goal when Domhnall McMahon saw his effort from close range bravely closed down by Fergal Flannery in the Galway goal. A fourth Galway goal arrived soon after from Brian Concannon and with 50 minutes on the clock the Tribesmen led 4-10 to 0-13. Clare were reliant on Colin Guilfoyle frees for the lion’s share of their second-half scoring with only Ian Galvin getting on the board from play outside of the Newmarket man. Clare finished well as they hit five of the last six scores of the game but the result was never in doubt as Galway ran out convincing winners.
Clare: Eibhear Quilligan (Feakle); Eoin Quirke (Whitegate), Paidí Fitzpatrick (Sixmilebridge), Jason McCarthy (Inagh-Kilnamona); Eoin Tuohy (Feakle), Kevin Hehir (Inagh-Kilnamona), Keith Whyte (Inagh-Kilnamona); Ryan Taylor (Clooney-Quin), Oisín Donnellan (Feakle); Aaron Shanagher (Wolfe Tones), Niall Deasy (Ballyea), Domhnall McMahon (Tubber); Gary Cooney (O’Callaghan’s Mills), Colin Guilfoyle (Newmarket on Fergus), Mikey O’Neill (Kilmaley).
Subs: David Reidy (Eire Óg) for Deasy, Cathal Malone (Sixmilebridge) for Tuohy, Ian Galvin (Clonlara) for O’Neill, Cathal McInerney (Cratloe) for Cooney, Stiofán McMahon (Broadford) for McMahon, Aidan McCarthy (Inagh-Kilnamona) for Fitzpatrick, Keith Hogan (Clooney-Quin) for Quilligan, Diarmuid Ryan (Cratloe) for Donnellan.
Scorers: Colin Guilfoyle (0-10, 10f), Niall Deasy (0-4, 3f), Mikey O’Neill (0-2), Ryan Taylor, Oisín Donnellan, Domhnall McMahon, Ian Galvin and Aron Shanagher (0-1 each).