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Photograph by Natasha Barton

HURLING: Clare let off the Laois

All-Ireland Minor Hurling Championship Quarter-Final Round 3
Clare 0-21 Laois 1-12

A welcome return to form for Clare who deservedly cemented their place in the last four of the All-Ireland Minor Hurling Championship in front of 619 in Cusack Park this afternoon.
Leading from start to finish, Brian O’Connell’s side would soar ten points clear by the two-thirds mark. So while Laois inevitably unearthed a late backlash with the aid of the conditions, thanks in the main to a Ben Deegan goaled 20 metre free at the turn of the final quarter, crucially Clare never allowed the visitors to get within striking distance of a full recovery.
Chief marksman Oisin Whelan alleviated any late anxiety when arrowing over a brace of injury-time frees to advance to the All-Ireland Semi-Finals for the first time since 2012.
Backed by the strong conditions, Clare were excellent at times in the opening period, with their click inter-play and countless interceptions combining to rebuild their confidence following heartbreaking back-to-back victories to Tipperary (on penalties in the Munster Final) and Galway last time out.
Jack O’Neill picked off three points, Diarmuid Stritch was hugely infuential with two points while Eoghan Gunning, Fionan Treacy, Matthew O’Halloran and Sam Scanlan were others to shine as seven different scorers ensured a 0-14 to 0-5 interval cushion.
Laois goalkeeper Brockan O’Reilly kept his side in the match by denying Cian Neylon with point blank saves either side of the break while also smothering an Oisin Whelan one-on-one in the 38th minute.
James Organ’s second point appeared to open up an unassailable 0-18 to 0-8 lead by the 40th minute. However, Laois had other ideas and thanks to placed ball expert Ben Deegan got themselves back into contention as they slashed the deficit to just four entering the final ten minutes.
The Banner dug deep to resist, with Whelan’s late frees finally securing a semi-final showdown with Leinster champions Offaly in a fortnight’s time.

Clare: Mark Sheedy (Sixmilebridge); Eoghan Gunning (Broadford), Fionan Treacy (Éire Óg), John Cahill (Clooney-Quin); Sean McMahon (Smith O’Brien’s), James Hegarty (Inagh-Kilnamona), Riain McNamara (Cratloe); Diarmuid Stritch (Clonlara), Matthew O’Halloran (Sixmilebridge); Michael Collins (Clonlara), Jack O’Neill (Clooney-Quin), James Organ (Corofin); Sam Scanlan (Clooney-Quin), Oisin Whelan (Clarecastle), Cian Neylon (Kilmaley)
Subs: Jamie Moylan (Cratloe) for McNamara (HT), Eoin Lahiffe (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield) for O’Halloran (49-55, BS), Dylan Keane Hayes (Kilmaley) for Neylon (53), Lahiffe for Collins (56), Dannan Fox (Clooney-Quin) for Scanlan (61), Piaras Ó Sé (Ruan) for Stritch (63)

Scorers: Oisin Whelan (0-8, 6f); Jack O’Neill (0-3); Diarmuid Stritch, Sam Scanlan, Michael Collins, James Organ (0-2 each); Cian Neylon, James Hegarty (0-1 each)

Laois: Brockan O’Reily (Portlaoise); Bobby Murphy (The Harps), Ciaran Flynn (The Harps), Joseph Pearson (Clough-Ballacolla); Cormac Hogan (Clough-Ballacolla), Kevin Byrne (Camross), Rory Kelly (Castletown); Tom Cuddy (Camross), Eoghan Cuddy (Camross); Thomas Brennan (Clough-Ballacolla), Ben Deegan (Camross), Eoghan Murphy (The Harps); Jack Breen (Castletown), Jer Quinlan (Borris-in-Ossory/Kilcotton), Cormac Byrne (St Lazerian’s Abbeyleix)
Subs: Andrew McDonagh (Ballinakill) for Kelly (HT), Mark Downey (The Harps) for Cormac Byrne (HT), Liam Kirby (The Harps) for E. Murphy (47), Ciaran Coss (Borris-in-Ossory/Kilcotton) for Brennan (58)

Scorers: Ben Deegan (1-8f); Eoghan Murphy, Jer Quinlan, Eoghan Cuddy, Jack Breen (0-1 each)

Referee: Brian Keon (Galway)

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