BADLY needed and gratefully received. That just about encapsulates what winning their opening NFL Division 4 league game meant to Clare in Cusack Park last Sunday.
It has been a while since a Clare senior football team were seen wrapping celebratory arms around each other at the end of a league or championship match. Or since the manager, in this case Micheál McDermott, was met by a series of outstretched, congratulatory hands.
Five minutes into the second half, it looked like Clare’s 2010 campaign was destined to start with a morale-sapping loss. Tony Hannon had just pointed a 45’ for Wicklow, awarded following Joe Hayes’ crucial stop from Paul Earls after Mick O’Dwyer’s team had cut through Clare. Two minutes later, Clare were 0-9 to 0-2 adrift when Leighton Glynn pointed after Paul McWalter had attacked from wing-back.
It had taken Clare, who were 0-7 to 0-2 behind at half-time, 24 minutes to find the target in the first half, when Laurence Healy scored. There was no sign that they were about to outscore Wicklow 1-7 to 0-2 during the closing half hour.
The key to Clare’s second-half excellence was David Russell’s move from wing to full-forward. Russell had been peripherally involved in the half-forward line during the opening half, while his man, Paul McWalter, had attacked regularly from wing-back.
Until Russell was sent to the edge of the square, Clare had struggled at full-forward with neither Paul Reidy or Mayo native, Scott Kinnevan, offering enough movement or ball-winning ability.
With the Kilkee man in front of goal, however, Clare had a mobile, ball-winning target man to hit.
Centre-forward, David Tubridy, also upped his game considerably after half-time, while Gary Brennan continued to win plenty of ball.
Three points from Tubridy, including a left-footed effort from play, along with scores from Alan Clohessy, Laurence Healy again and Russell reduced the deficit to a single point, Wicklow 0-9 Clare 0-8. A brace from Tony Hannon and Paul Cunningham steadied Wicklow momentarily but Hannon then missed from a very scoreable opportunity in the 24th minute.
A minute later, David Tubridy’s long drifting ball was broken by Kinnevan and finished to the Wicklow net by Gearóid Lynch.
Now level and sensing that they had the momentum, Clare drove forward in the form of Gordon Kelly who was fouled 30 yards from the town goal. With the breeze at his back, Tubridy curled over the winning score, igniting jubilant scenes from the men in saffron and blue.
While this wasn’t exactly an example of footballing perfection from Clare, it was a game they had to win however they did it.
Joe Hayes was very solid in goals, while Clare won all but two of his 12 first-half kick-outs.
Ironically, Clare didn’t do as well with their own second-half kick-outs, although they won most of Wicklow’s.
Under some pressure in the opening half, both Gordon Kelly and debutante full-back, Barry Duggan, defended resolutely, while Mark Tubridy grew into his role at centre-back and supported the play impressively in an attacking sense.
Laurence Healy worked very hard and kicked two points from midfield, while up front, Tubridy, Russell and Gary Brennan led the Clare attack, while Gearóid Lynch imparted yet more evidence of his goal-scoring opportunism. Lynch won plenty of ball, although he was often too far from goal to create much. Clare will have to work on getting the Kilkee man to make sharper runs closer to goal.
This was a good day for Clare football and one which they will now hopefully build on. Clare play Kilkenny in Freshford next Sunday followed by Leitrim in Ennis on March 7.
Clare: Joe Hayes (Lissycasey), Gordon Kelly (Miltown, captain), Barry Duggan (Cratloe), Dean Ryan (Éire Óg); Graham Kelly (Miltown), Mark Tubridy (Cooraclare), Brian Cummins (Corofin); Ger Quinlan (O’Curry’s), Laurence Healy (Ennistymon); Gary Brennan (Clondegad), David Tubridy (Doonbeg), David Russell (Kilkee); Alan Clohessy (Liscannor), Paul Reidy (Kilmihil), Gearóid Lynch (Kilkee).
Subs: Scott Kinnevan for Paul Reidy (27) and Chris Dunning (Wolfe Tones) (64) for Laurence Healy.
Scorers: David Tubridy 0-5, (o-4f); Gearóid Lynch 1-0, Laurence Healy 0-2, Alan Clohessy and David Russell 0-1 each.
Wides: 7; frees won: 29.
Yellow cards: Paul Reidy, Graham Kelly, Gearóid Lynch, Brian Cummins, Gordon Kelly and Scott Kinnevan.
Marks: 3; 45’s: 0.
Wicklow: Mervyn Travers, Ciarán Hyland, Stephen Kelly, Alan Byrne; Patrick McWalter, Brian McGrath, Darren Hayden; James Stafford and JP Dalton; Leighton Glynn (captain), Tony Hannon, Paul Cunningham; Paul Earls, Seánie Furlong, Ciarán Jones.
Subs: Dean Odlum for Paul Earls.
Scorers: Tony Hannon 0-6, (0-4f and 0-2 45’), Leighton Glynn 0-2, Seánie Furlong, Pat McWalter and Paul Cunningham 0-1 each.
Wides: 9; frees won: 27.
Yellow cards: Dean Odlum and Tony Hannon.
Marks: 2; 45’s: 0.
Referee: Michael Meade (Limerick).
McHale looks for a bit of ego-mania from his team
CLARE coach Liam McHale can’t wait for the day that some of the county footballers’ egos inflate a bit more than is the case at the moment. Speaking after Clare’s defeat of Wicklow in Cusack Park, the Mayo man said that the absence of self-belief and presence of doubt was something he has noticed in his brief time with Clare thus far.
“I’ve great admiration for the players. There are no egos there at all. Coming from Mayo, I’ve coached the Mayo U-21 and seniors and there could be a couple of egos there that are hard work. You don’t find that here. Maybe, we’d be better off if we had a few more egos. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I’d be delighted to have to deal with that,” McHale laughed.
“But they’re great lads. The likes of David Tubridy is as good a player as you’ll see anywhere. He’s very graceful and he’d be the Maurice Fitzgerald of Clare football. But they have no arrogance and sometimes maybe they doubt themselves a little bit,” the Ballina man added.
McHale believes that the training programme Clare are on helped them to assert themselves after half-time.
“It sets us up well but I’m not happy with the way we played. We’ve done 26 sessions and have had eight matches, three of them A v B. Everything we do is game specific. They have been put on a programme and they are expected to adhere to the programme. When we train, it’s all game-specific work that we do but, in particular in the first half, we didn’t execute the way that we were supposed to. But in the second half, we showed a little bit more of what we’ve been working on and I’m absolutely delighted that we won,” he said.
When Wicklow were going well in the opening half, McHale says he could sense their big game experience.
“They’re a very good side. You could see that they played four of five times in Croke Park. They had a lot more flair and a lot more confidence than we had at times. That comes from winning games. This Clare team has had a difficult four or five years. A lot of those boys have been around during that time and they’ve had losing seasons and it’s very hard to pick yourself up. It’s set up nicely for us if they continue to work hard and try and improve on what we did,” the former Mayo midfielder concluded.
McDermott remains calm on the line
MICHEAL McDermott was noticeably calm during his first league match as Clare senior football manager. Rather than opting for haring up and down the sideline and feeding his team with a constant stream of advice, McDermott stood alongside Liam McHale and James Foran for most of the 70 minutes, trying to take it in, while keeping the head.
At the end of the hour and 10 minutes of football, McDermott’s calmness was rewarded. Halfway through the first half, Clare would have been justified in springing two or three subs as everybody bar Gary Brennan struggled in the home county’s attack. Management did introduce Scott Kinnevan for Paul Reidy but left it at that. Their patience was justified as David Tubridy and David Russell upped their games considerably on the resumption, while Gearóid Lynch and Alan Clohessy notched crucial scores. Afterwards, McDermott was commendably understated as well.
“This game was like an All-Ireland final to us today. That’s how crucial it was. But the game is over now and there’s two points in the bag. If we look back on this and start clapping each other on the back and saying it was a great job done, we’ll lose focus on the next match,” he predicted.
“The most important thing was our discipline in the second half which was vital. We gave away a lot of frees in the first half that were punished. We said at half-time that discipline in the second half was vital in particular against the wind, when they were kicking,” he added.
McDermott maintained that nerves hindered Clare in the opening half, although he they created up to five goal chances and were pulled twice for legitimate fist passes.
“They ran themselves into the ground. They showed great character and great leadership, all over the field, to dig out that victory,” he reflected.
McDermott acknowledged that David Russell’s second-half display in the inside line, helped to propel Clare to victory.
“We knew he wouldn’t have the legs to last the 70 minutes out there but we knew he was going to be a big threat. The great thing about himself and his club mate, Gearóid Lynch, the little bit of thinking between them was good,” the Clare manager noted.