Dublin 2-22 Clare 0-15
FAILURE to match Dublin’s all-round sharpness and big match experience proved costly for Clare in the senior hurling championship qualifier at Croke Park on Saturday. In the end, Dublin won comfortably to secure a date with Antrim this weekend, while it’s back to the drawing board for Clare after this disappointing result.
For a while in Saturday’s game, Clare looked like they might progress but, for the majority of the tie, Dublin were the better side. They won the tactical battle, were the stronger side physically and showed superior fitness.
The Clare defence struggled throughout and this was particularly true of the full-back line. Since his elevation to the senior team, Cian Dillon has been superb at full-back but on Saturday he struggled against the outstanding David O’Callaghan.
The quality of the ball delivered to O’Callaghan was key to his dominance, particularly in the opening half, when he shot six points from play. It was a day when the Clare management team might have considered operating with a sweeper in front of their full-back line. Indeed, it looked like they were going down that route when Alan Markham was introduced 10 minutes before the break but he went to wing-forward in place of Sean Collins.
Clare went into the game with one change in personnel from the side that started against Waterford. Domhnaill O’Donovan was at midfield in place of his clubmate Nicky O’Connell, who hadn’t trained in the past three weeks due to a leg injury.
The game was just 17 minutes old when O’Connell was called in as Pat Vaughan was forced out of the game with an ankle injury. O’Donovan, who had started impressively at midfield, switched to corner back and O’Connell came into the action at midfield.
The teams were evenly matched in the early stages and points were exchanged four times up to the 20th minute. With their half-backs well on top, Dublin took control at this stage and hit nine points in eight minutes as they tore through Clare.
In an effort to curb the rampant O’Callaghan, the Clare mentors switched Conor Cooney to full-back with Cian Dillon going to the corner. Clare gave their small following some hope when they finished the half with points from John Conlon, Nicky O’Connell and Jonathon Clancy to trail by seven, when the score was 0-14 to 0-7.
On the resumption, Clare had Alan Markham at full-forward with Fergal Lynch leading the attack. The Clooney man caused problems for the influential Joey Boland and this helped in Clare’s fightback.
Six points in eight minutes saw Dublin’s lead reduced to the minimum and they looked to be in all sorts of trouble as Clare enjoyed their best spell of the game.
Then disaster struck when Pewter Kelly’s delivery from all of 80m went all the way to the net as Donal Tuohy raced from his goal to challenge for possession with Conor Cooney and Liam Rushe.
A minute earlier he was fortunate not to concede a goal in a similar situation when he also came off his line to challenge for possession.
The goal clearly rocked Clare, who were further shaken a couple of minutes later when defender Pat Donnellan was injured.
The visitors never recovered and when play resumed after a five-minute delay, Dublin took control and a point from a 40m sideline cut by their leading scorer Alan McCrabbe sparked off the beginning of the end for the Clare men.
From here to the finish, the winners dictated matters and substitute Simon Lambert finished off a good move involving David O’Callaghan with his team’s second goal, five minutes from the end of normal time.
Few Clare players will look back on this tie with any satisfaction. Clooney-Quin’s Fergal Lynch was one of the team’s better players in this outing and he played a big part in their period of dominance when he won some good possession at centre-forward. Domhnaill O’Donovan worked hard throughout but, overall, Clare struggled in too many positions against a physically stronger and much sharper Dublin side for whom Joey Boland, Stephen Hiney, Tomas Brady, Peter Kelly, Alan McCrabbe and the outstanding David O’Callaghan were always prominent.
Dublin: Gary Maguire; Niall Corcoran, Tomás Brady, Óisín Gough; Stephen Hiney (capt), Joey Boland, Peter Kelly; John McCaffrey, Maurice O’Brien; Declan O’Dwyer, Liam Rushe, Shane Durkin; Peadar Carton, David O’Callaghan, Alan McCrabbe.
Subs: Liam Ryan for O’Dwyer (40 minutes); Simon Lambert for Durkin (45 minutes); Michael Carton for Peadar Carton (58 minutes); Kevin Flynn for Rushe (66 minutes) and Shane Ryan for O’Callaghan (67 minutes).
Scorers: Alan McCrabbe (0-8, 3f, 2lb); David O’Callaghan (0-6); Peter Kelly, Simon Lambert (1-1) each;
Stephen Hiney (0-2); Maurice O’Brien, Shane Durkin, Liam Rushe, Declan O’Dwyer (0-1) each.
Frees: 9 Wides: 4.
Bookings: Liam Rushe (58 minutes); Stephen Hiney (67 minutes)
Clare: Donal Tuohy; Pat Vaughan, Cian Dillon, Conor Cooney; Brendan Bugler, Diarmuid McMahon, Pat Donnellan; Brian O’Connell (capt), Domhnaill O’Donovan; Sean Collins, John Conlon, Jonathon Clancy; Darach Honan, Fergal Lynch, Colin Ryan.
Subs: Nicky O’Connell for Vaughan (inj 17 minutes); Alan Markham for Collins (26 minutes); Gerry Quinn for Donnellan (inj 49 minutes); David Barrett for Ryan (57 minutes) and Cormac O’Donovan for Conlon (69 minutes).
Scorers: Colin Ryan (2f), John Conlon (0-3 each); Fergal Lynch, Nicky O’Connell, Jonathon Clancy (0-2 each); Sean Collins, Darach Honan, Brendan Bugler (0-1 each).
Frees: 11; Wides: 12; 65s: 1
Bookings: Domhnail O’Donovan (53 minutes); Darach Honan (72 minutes) and David Barrett (72 minutes)
Referee: John Sexton, Cork
Daly feared over lack of experience
For Dublin manager Anthony Daly, visiting the Clare dressing room after Saturday’s victory over his native county at Croke Park was very difficult. “It was difficult to go down to the dressing room and see Alan Markham and Diarmuid (McMahon), the guys that I played with, and Gerry Quinn,” the Dublin boss said.
“We should have driven on and killed off the game when we opened a nine-point lead. The last thing we said before we went out after half-time was that they would come at us. Knowing Sparrow, Doyler and Danny Chaplin, I knew they were going bananas and would have laid it on the line for the lads. We tried to warn our fellas,” Daly added.
“Clare had a few crucial scores before half-time and we should have driven on and killed it off. It’s inexperience. We haven’t learned the ruthless streak that you see in Cork or Kilkenny yet. We let three scores in before half-time and then we conceded six in a row.”
The Clarecastle man admitted to being worried going back out after half-time. “Our lads have a lot to learn. Clare beat Dublin 4-21 to 1-16 four seasons ago. You saw the Clare U-21s today; it’s not all that simple. Transition takes time. It’s a learning curve and it’s the same for Clare.”
“The goal was fortunate and gave us a bit of breathing space. I hope Pat Donnellan is okay but that injury delay didn’t do us any harm either. That delay killed Clare’s momentum and we got a point then to go five ahead and that was a turning point. You could sense that our lads realised the storm was over and they drove on,” Daly added.
“We were in serious trouble early in the second half. We needed changes and it was good to have the likes of Liam Ryan, who was going to go in and hold the ball, and Michael Carton to bring in. It was unusual for Dublin to have a bit of experience on the line but we had.”
Dublin’s victory was their first in the qualifiers since the format was introduced. “These are all little milestones,” said Daly, who agreed that David O’Callaghan’s performance on Saturday was one of the highlights of his side’s win. “We felt he would do a job at full-forward if we got the ball in early. He is a very good player. He has committed to hurling and takes the down days badly.
“He played well and had three weeks training without injury, which helped. Our half-back line was dominant in the first half but went out of it after half time when Fergal Lynch came into the game big time,” Daly concluded.
Manager looks for some positives
Clearly disappointed with the outcome, Clare manager Ger O’Loughlin accepted that his charges had played second fiddle to Dublin in the first half. “We were all over the place, very poor and flat. I can’t put my finger on it,” he said.
He was pleased with the manner in which Clare fought back in the second half. “In fairness to the guys, they came back strongly and got the first six scores of the second half. It looked like we were going to win the game but an error resulted in a goal for Dublin. We lost the momentum and they pushed on and we paid the price,” he said.
The Clarecastle man agreed that his team were too much in and out of the game. “We weren’t ruthless and we weren’t physical enough at times. It’s a learning curve for Clare but how long we will have to keep learning I am not sure. It’s very disappointing overall because I was hoping the spirit shown against Waterford would be there but it was only there for a while. Dublin were very sharp and smart about the place and were full value for the win,” he said.
He acknowledged that Clare had a period of dominance. “We didn’t work hard enough at all at times in the first half and they capitalised on that. When we were on top in the second half Dublin went out of the game. Both teams need to learn that when playing better teams you will get punished severely in such situations.”
O’Loughlin was full of praise for his friend and fellow Clarecastle man Anthony Daly, the Dublin manager. “He is doing a great job with Dublin and their hurling has improved considerably over the last four or five years. We have seen that with the minors and U-21s. They have a nice squad now. They are not a million miles away but are probably looking for four or five to complete their squad. Anthony has worked hard and he is reaping the benefit now. He has good lads with him in Richard Stakelum and Vincent Teehan and it’s paying off,” he said.
Where to now for Clare and Ger O’Loughlin? “We will all reflect on it for the next couple of weeks. The lads will go back to their clubs and I will go back home and we will see the lie of the land. If I didn’t think I had something to offer I wouldn’t be involved. “
County still on a learning curve, says Chaplin
Experience is crucial at senior inter-county level, that’s the view of Clare selector Danny Chaplin.
“It’s a learning curve and hopefully this will stand to our lads. It’s not all doom and gloom. We have a good U-21 team again this year and hopefully that will produce a few more to add to this squad for next year,” he said.
“Look at Dublin. They are five years on the road and today was the first time they got a team performance. We were much better against Waterford. It is a learning curve and hopefully this experience will stand to us,” said Chaplin.
“We had the momentum early in the second half and were back to within a point. Their goal came against the run of play; a speculative ball into the goalmouth ended up in the net. It seemed to take the wind out of our sails and we couldn’t lift it after that,” the former Sixmilebridge player said.
Chaplin also felt that injuries to two defenders hadn’t helped Clare’s cause.
“Pat Donnellan’s injury just after their first goal didn’t help. In fact, both injuries came at bad times for us.
“We were doing well at the start. We were at four points each when Pat Vaughan got injured and we went until maybe the last five minutes without scoring again. Pat Donnellan’s was a serious injury and a big blow to us.”