Phew. If Clare senior football manager Micheál McDermott had been captain of the Titanic 98 years ago, the iceberg would have melted long before it interfered with the liner. Hopefully, Clare’s luck will hold but they can’t rely on the chance that it will. Unless they improve radically, in virtually every sector of the field and on the sideline, they will receive an unmerciful hammering some day soon.
Insipid in the first half and trailing 0-9 to 0-5 after 35 minutes, Clare didn’t improve thereafter. Their luck did though and two fortunate goals derailed Leitrim.
The Connacht side’s goalkeeper, Gareth Phelan, was unable to field a couple of high balls, driven in by Barry Toner and Chris Dunning respectively and directly contributed to Leitrim’s defeat. They have now lost three of their first four games and have virtually no chance of achieving promotion. If Clare win in Ruislip next Sunday, they will have full points from four matches, with five more to come.
Toner’s goal, 15 minutes into the second half, brought Clare back into the game, yet Leitrim still led 0-13 to 1-7. Six minutes from full-time Mickey Moran’s team were again three points up, 0-16 to 1-10, when Dunning’s long ball also crossed the Leitrim line.
Gary Brennan, who excelled when moved to midfield in the second half, swapped points with Leitrim’s Darren Sweeney, leaving the teams tied deep into injury time.
David Tubridy then stepped up to kick a high-quality, nerveless winner from play, just two minutes after he had kicked Clare’s ninth wide. A minute earlier, a quick Tubridy free to Brennan didn’t work, with the Clondegad man kicking high and wide.
By the time Barry Toner marked his debut with a 17th minute point, Leitrim had already kicked four, as Clare struggled in every sector but especially at the back and in midfield. Leitrim’s attacking strategy was ahead of Clare’s in that they were bunching their inside-forwards before they headed for open space, leaving the Clare full-back line struggling badly.
Yet both teams played lax football and distribution was especially poor for most of the game. For example, Leitrim centre-back Gary Reynolds was winded by a belt of a ball from his own man, Shane Foley. The incident encapsulated the low level of football played.
The result will camouflage the performance but Clare have major reconstruction work ahead if they are to compete with Carlow, Longford, Limerick and Waterford. The defence will have to be rearranged, with Laurence Healy clearly more comfortable at corner-back, rather than midfield. Wing-backs Mark Tubridy and Graham Kelly both struggled throughout, with Tubridy substituted at half-time. Kelly could have been withdrawn as well and conceded too many frees throughout the 70 minutes. Dean Ryan improved when he was moved to centre back but was given the run around by Philip Howard in the opening half, with the Leitrim man kicking three points from play. Gordon Kelly didn’t look comfortable either and may still be feeling his shoulder injury, while Brian Cummins was removed at the interval. Barry Duggan also had his most trying game to date at full-back.
Shane McNeilis was badly exposed for pace by David O’Connor when he was introduced at centre-back. Clare also struggled in the middle of the field, losing seven of their 16 first-half kick-outs, most of which were directed towards Gary Brennan at wing-forward. Joe Hayes was trying to speed up the kick-outs but Clare still have plenty to do to on their kick-out strategy.
Gary Brennan and David Tubridy were Clare’s best players, while the remaining forwards contributed intermittently but weren’t involved often enough. Scott Kinnevan was brought on early in the second half but didn’t suggest that he is at inter-county standard yet.
Clare don’t appear to have developed an attacking pattern and this is something they will have to do if they are to win promotion.
Clare: Joe Hayes, (Lissycasey); Dean Ryan, (Éire Óg); Barry Duggan, (Cratloe); Brian Cummins, (Corofin); Graham Kelly, (Miltown); Gordon Kelly, (Miltown, captain); Mark Tubridy, (Cooraclare); Ger Quinlan (O’Curry’s); Laurence Healy, (Ennistymon); Gary Brennan, (Clondegad); David Tubridy, (Doonbeg); Michael O’Shea, (Kilkee); Barry Toner, (Shannon Gaels); David Russell, (Kilkee); Alan Clohessy, (Liscannor).
Subs: Shane McNeilis (Kildysart) for Brian Cummins; Chris Dunning (Wolfe Tones) for Mark Tubridy; Scott Kinnevan (Parteen) for Laurence Healy; Gearóid Lynch (Kilkee) for Barry Toner; Paul Hehir (Doonbeg) for David Russell.
Scorers: David Tubridy 0-7, (0-4f); Barry Toner 1-2; Chris Dunning 1-0; Michael O’Shea 0-2; Gary Brennan 0-1.
Yellow card: Graham Kelly
Leitrim: Gareth Phelan, Dermot Reynolds (Annaduff); John McKeon, Tomás Beirne, James Glancy, (St Mary’s); Gary Reynolds, Shane Foley; Daniel Beck, Darren Sweeney; Philip McGuinness, David O’Connor, Michael Foley, Philip Howard, James Glancy (Glencar); Declan McGilhooly.
Subs: Dermot Reynolds (St Mary’s) for James Glancy (St Mary’s); Barry Prior for Dermot Reynolds, (Annaduff); Colm Clarke for Shane Foley, Shane Canning for Darren Sweeney.
Scorers: Michael Foley 0-8, (0-7f); Philip Howard, 0-3; David O’Connor, James Glancy 0-2 each; Dermot Reynolds (St Mary’s), Darren Sweeney, 0-1 each.
Yellow cards: Tomás Beirne
Referee: Pat Sheehy (Kerry).