Offaly 2-14 Clare 1-19
Clare were pushed to the pin of their collar before beating a ferociously determined Offaly in a fantastic qualifier game in at O’Connor Park in Tullamore on Sunday.
With the sun beaming down, both sides served up a high-octane, high-drama game full of talking points and plenty of good football thrown into the mix.
Clare deserved their two-point win but Offaly were very close to pulling off a famous win after a traumatic year.
An injury-time penalty goal from goalkeeper Alan Mulhall somehow allowed Offaly to go in on level terms at the break, 2-5 to 1-8, but Clare should have been out of sight at that stage. Twice Jamie Malone hit the woodwork from point-blank range as Clare dominated with Gary Brennan and Cathal O'Connor in control at midfield.
Ruarí McNamee and Jamie Malone had exchanged goals earlier in the half and it set the scene for a super second half. Offaly were ahead, 2-8 to 1-10, after 42 minutes as they really took the game to Clare but the winners got the next four points on the trot.
Offaly refused to surrender and had the gap back to one point on five occasions in the closing quarter before an injury-time Kevin Harnett point gave Clare the win.
OFFALY: A Mulhall (1-0, pen); B Darby, S Pender, J Lalor; D Hogan, P McConway, N Darby; M Brazil, C McNamee; C Donohue, S Nally, R McNamee (1-2); B Allen (0-5, five frees), A Sullivan (0-3), J Moloney (0-4).
Subs: J Hayes for Donohue (h/t), P Cunningham for Nally (40 mins), E Rigney for Hogan (50), C Doyle for Pender (51), J Evans for R McNamee (56), J O'Connor for Moloney (74).
CLARE: E Turbidy; G Kelly, C Brennan, E Collins; C O'Dea (0-1), A Fitzgerald, P Lillis (0-1); G Brennan, C O'Connor; C Malone (0-2), E Cleary (0-6, four frees), J Malone (1-4); E Courtney, K Sexton, D Turbidy (0-1).
Subs: G Cooney (0-1) for Courtney (h/t), R Eyres for E Turbidy (41 mins), G O'Brien (0-2) for D Turbidy (56), C O'Hainefein for Malone (62), J Culligan for Sexton (66), K Harnett (0-1) for Collins (71).
Referee: P Neilan (Roscommon).