Clare 1-14 Fermanagh 2-9
PLAYING the best football of their 2015 league campaign, Clare secured their division 3 status for 2016 with an ultimately narrow win over Fermanagh in Cusack Park on Sunday. It was their third league win of 2015.
Played in front of an attendance of 938, Clare led 1-14 to 1-5 with just six minutes left and the game looked over. However Fermanagh hit the home county for 1-4 without reply in the closing minutes and until their last attack was repelled, there was a nagging anxiety amongst the Clare supporters that the already promoted Fermanagh might bang in a late goal, which would have relegated the home county.
Clare knew that a win would keep them in division 3 next season and they set about making sure that happen, although it took them 13 minutes to score, when Jamie Malone kicked the games opening point. The exceptionally industrious Podge Collins added another before Fermanagh full forward Seán Quigely held off Kevin Hartnett and flicked a long Conall Jones delivery to the Clare net.
However Clare continued to take the game to Pete McGrath’s team and come the interval points from Pat Burke, Gary Brennan and Shane McGrath helped them into a 0-8 to 1-3 lead.
While Clare were clearly hungrier and playing some good football, their seven first half wides indicated where their primary issue was in that half.
They played their best football in the opening 10 minutes of the second half with Pat Burke burying a superb goal, following an incisive run from Jamie Malone.
With Burke, McGrath and Brennan adding points, Clare led 1-12 to 1-3 ten minutes into the second half. The game seemed to wither somewhat after that and it will concern Clare that they only added two further points to their tally.
However Fermanagh only made a sustained burst in the last six minutes, with Quigley’s penalty, following a Jamie Malone foot block, giving them some hope.
Over the 70 minutes however Clare were undoubtedly the better team. They were transformed with respect to their commitment and desire, compared to their eight point defeat to Limerick in Newcastlewest in their previous match.
Gary Brennan produced his best league display at midfield, while McGrath, Burke, Podge Collins, Jamie Malone, Joe Hayes, Ciaran Russell and Martin McMahon all excelled.
It’s fair to say that every Clare player gave their last drop in what was a must win game. Wexford were relegated to division 4 along with Louth, while Kildare and Westmeath were demoted from division 2.
Clare: Joe Hayes (Lissycasey); Ciaran Russell (Éire óg), Kevin Hartnett (Meelick), Martin McMahon (Kilmurry Ibrickane); Shane Hickey (Kilmurry Ibrickane), Gordon Kelly (Miltown), Dean Ryan (Éire óg); Gary Brennan (Clondgead-captain), Cathal O’Connor (Coolmeen); Seán Collins (Cratloe), Jamie Malone (Corofin), Shane McGrath (Thomas Davis); Podge Collins (Cratloe), Shane Brennan (Clondegad), Pat Burke (Kilmacud Crokes).
Subs: Keelan Sexton (Kilmurry Ibrickane) for Martin McMahon (black card-49), Enda Coughlan (Kilmurry Ibrickane) for Shane McGrath (64).
Scorers: Pat Burke (1-3), Gary Brennan (0-5, 0-4f), Shane McGrath (0-4), Podge Collins, Jamie Malone (0-1 each).
Black card: Martin McMahon
Yellow cards: Jamie Malone, Gary Brennan.
Fermanagh: Chris Snow; Mickey Jones, Tiarnan Daly, Niall Cassidy; Aidan Breen, Ryan McCluskey, James McMahon; Eoin Donnelly (captain), Che Cullen; Paul McCusker, Conall Jones, Barry Mulrone; Eoin McManus, Seán Quigley, Ciaran Flaherty.
Subs: Eamon McHugh for Mickey Jones, Damien Kelly for James McMahon (both half-time),Ma Daniel Kille for Eoin McManus (47), Darren McQuade for Conall Jones (50), Ryan Lyons for Ciaran Flaherty (57).
Scorers: Seán Quigley (2-2, (1-0 pen, 0-1f), Daniel Kille, Darren McQuade (0-2 each), Conall Jones, Barry Mulrone, Aidan Breen (0-1 each).
Yellow cards: Seán Quigley, Eamon McHugh.
Referee: Michael Duffy (Sligo).
(By Peter O’Connell)