Mayo 2-14 Clare 0-13
AT half-time a huge shock looked on but Clare were outscored 2-8 to 0-5 in the second half of their third round All-Ireland qualifier game against Mayo in Ennis on Saturday.
The O’Connor brothers, Cillian and Diarmuid, buried two early second half goals and from there, Mayo were in control.
In front of an attendance of 11,576 in Cusack Park, Clare led 0-8 to 0-6 after 35 minutes. They made an electric start and led 0-6 to 0-1 after 19 minutes. Andy Moran, who put over 0-3 from play in the first half, kicked the games opening score in the first minute but Clare racked up 0-6 in a pulsating spell. Mayo were also dealt a very early setback when Donal Vaughan was black carded for a tackle on Gary Brennan in the fourth minute.
Brennan was one of Clare’s point scores in that period, while Eoin Cleary, David Tubridy, Keelan Sexton and Jamie Malone also raised white flags.
Malone could have goaled in the 15th minute when he picked up a break off Brennan and cut through the Mayo back line. However he opted to shoot when the better option was to lay off to Eoin Cleary. David Clarke made a decisive stop and diverted the shot for a ’45.
In the final 15 minutes of that half, Moran kicked the remaining 0-2 of his tally, while Lee Keegan, raiding from the half-back line, added a nice point, while Diarmuid O’Connor and Kevin McLoughlin did likewise.
Three minutes into the second half, Clare goalkeeper Joe Hayes made an excellent save from Kevin McLoughlin but he could do nothing four minutes later, when Cillian O’Connor picked up an under hit Martin McMartin free and planted a decisive goal.
Two minutes later Diarmuid O’Connor raised a second Mayo green flag and the 2016 All-Ireland finalists now led 2-7 to 0-8.
Clare could not sustain the energy levels they had shown in the opening half in what was their 10th championship fixtures between this and last season. They lost key midfielder Cathal O’Connor to a leg injury, while Ciarán Russell was black carded. Just two of their eleven substitutes had started a league or championship game, which underlined the inexperience on their bench. In contrast Mayo were able to introduce the proven quality of Tom Parsons and Jason Doherty
Clare were hugely disappointed to have lost but if they are to continue their upward curve in the season ahead, they will have to somehow add more depth to their panel. Gearóid O’Brien, who pointed a superb long range score, was the first Clare subsitute this season to score in 11 league and championship games.
On top of finding some new players, who can make an impact, Clare will also hope that their veteran players, including Gordon Kelly and Joe Hayes, will remain involved in 2018.
Mayo: David Clarke; Brendan Harrison, Ger Cafferkey, Chris Barrett; Lee Keegan (0-1), Colm Boyle, Keith Higgins (0-1); Séamus O’Shea, Aidan O’Shea (0-1); Diarmuid O’Connor (1-1); Donal Vaughan, Kevin McLoughlin (0-2), Andy Moran (0-3), Cillian O’Connor (captain 1-5, 5f), Conor Loftus.
Subs: Stephen Coen for Donal Vaughan (4 BC), Evan Regan for Conor Loftus (48), Jason Doherty for Andy Moran (55), Tom Parsons for Seamus O’Shea (58), Fergal Boland for Diarmuid O’Connor (64), Alan Dillon for Aidan O’Shea (67).
Clare: Joe Hayes; Dean Ryan, Kevin Harnett, Gordon Kelly; Martin McMahon; Jamie Malone (0-1), Cian O’Dea; Gary Brennan (captain (0-1)), Cathal O’Connor; Ciarán Russell, Eoin Cleary (0-3, 2f), Pearse Lillis; Seán Collins (0-1), David Tubridy (0-4f), Keelan Sexton (0-2, 1’45).
Subs: John Hayes for Cathal O’Connor (49 inj), Eoghan Collins for Ciáran Russell (40 BC), Gearóid O’Brien (0-1) for Cian O’Dea (53), Seanie Malone for Pearse Lillis (64), Darren Nagle for Keelan Sexton (70 BC).
Referee: Seán Hurson (Tyrone).