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Clare manager Colm Collins. Photograph by John Kelly.

Footballers off to a winning start in McGrath Cup

Clare 2-18 Waterford 1-9

ON Saturday in Meelick, 10 Clare footballers started their first game for the county and while Waterford deteriorated as the season opening McGrath Cup game wore on, several Clare players suggested that they will definitely be of help in adding depth to the league and championship panel.

When the game was a contest in the opening half, Eimhin Courtney was superb, kicking 0-4 from play and moving impressively. In the opposite corner of the full forward line, Conor Finnucane also demonstrated his ability and if both can keep that up, they will definitely be viable options as will full forward, Gearóid O’Brien. All three would definitely add something either from the start, against better opposition or in the last 20 minutes. That’s exactly what Clare are looking for.

Other who looked the part, albeit against limited opposition, included Alan Sweeney, Darragh Bohannan and Aaron Fitzgerald at centre-back, while Killian Roche was very solid in goals, under high balls and from kick outs. Waterford had 19 shots on goal in the first half, eight of which were wides, while six dropped into Roche’s lap.

Clare’s full forward line kicked a combined 1-14 in Meelick in a game played in decent conditions for December 30. Captained by Cathal O’Connor, who scored a 12th minute goal, Clare led 1-7 to 0-6 at half-time.

Finnucane kicked 0-7 of his tally in the second half, while O’Brien notched 1-1. His goal was created by a diagonal ball from O’Connor, which opened up a static Waterford defence. Wing back Seán Collins pointed in each half while Kilmihil’s David Egan, who came on at half-time, pointed from play.

While Waterford were understrength, Clare fielded just four of their championship team from their July 8 All-Ireland qualifier defeat to Mayo.

With just three counties taking part in the 2018 McGrath Cup, Waterford will host Cork next Sunday. In the event of a Cork win, the final will definitely be between them and Clare, who are due to meet in their round robin game in Mallow in January 14. However Clare manager Colm Collins has suggested that one Clare v Cork game would be sufficient if they happen to both qualify for the final.

Many of these players will have another opportunity to press a claim for a place in the league 26, when they play Cork but it was evident that they have plenty of pre-season work behind them.

Clare: Killian Roche (Cooraclare); Joe Blake (Doonbeg), Cillian Brennan (Clondegad), Gordon Kelly (Miltown); Seán Collins (Cratloe 0-2), Aaron Fitzgerald (Éire Óg), Jonah Culligan (Ballyvaughan); Darragh Bohannon (Shannon Gaels), Cathal O’Connor (Coolmeen – captain 1-0);

Pearse Lillis (Cooraclare), Alan Sweeney (St Breckan’s), Kieran Malone (Miltown 0-1); Eimhin Courtney (Éire Óg 0-5), Gearóid O’Brien (Kilrush 1-1), Conor Finnucane (Lissycasey 0-8, 4f).

Subs: Eamon Tubridy (Doonbeg) for Killan Roche (half-time), Eoghan Collins (Ballyhaunis) for Joe Blake (half-time), David Egan (Kilmihil 0-1) for Pearse Lillis (half-time), Tom Hannon (Doora-Barefield) for Johan Culligan (half-time), Jack Hannon (Doora-Barefield for Seán Collins (54), Éinne O’Connor (Éire Óg) for Gordon Kelly (55).

Wides: 8, frees for: 12, 45s: 2, yellow cards: Gearóid O’Brien, Pearse Lillis.

Waterford: David Whitty (Gaultier), Conor McCarthy (Ballinacourty), Gary Cullinan (Gaultier) Aidan Trihy (Clashmore/Kinsalebeg); Kieran Murphy (St Saviours), Shane Prendergast (Kilrossanty), Shane Ryan (Nire); Caoimhin McGuire (Gaultier), Dylan Guiry (The Nire); Eoin O’Brien (Stradbally), Joey Veale (Kilrossanty), Jason Curry (Rathgormack 0-7, 3f), Gavin Crotty (Dungarvan 0-1), Paul Walsh (Kilgobnet), Conor Murray (Rathgormack 1-0).

Subs: Alan Walsh (Kilmacthomas) for Kieran Murphy (half-time), Mikey Kiely (St Pat’s 0-1) for Eoin O’Brien (43), Kieran Power (Kilrossanty) for Caoimhin McGuire (46), Eoin O’Brien (Stradbally) for Joey Veale (66).

Wides: 10, frees for: 28, yellow card: Aida Trihy.

Referee: Pat O’Driscoll (Cork)

About Peter O'Connell

West Clare native Peter O'Connell has worked for The Clare Champion for 12 years and covers everything from sport, especially GAA, news, features and has been even known to branch into the fashion scene on occasion.

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