Clare find some respite with victory over Laois
Brian Lohan happy to see his team pick up win to ease some pressure on them
Clare’s Rory Hayes and PJ Scully of Laois tussle during their Allianz Hurling League clash. Photo: Brian Reilly-Troy/Inpho
Clare 2-27 Laois 1-17
Finally, a win to lighten the mood in Clare.
It’s been a difficult few months in the Banner county, on and off the field, and in faraway Portlaoise they finally found some respite with a win to ease their relegation fears.
Okay, so relegation may be stretching it a little but boss Brian Lohan did concede after watching his team streak to victory in rain sodden conditions that they were “under pressure coming up here, looking at all the different scenarios and all the potential things that could happen to us”.
Tony Kelly’s absence didn’t help, the All-Star midfielder named to start but withdrawn after failing to recover in time from a dead leg.
The 2013 All-Ireland winners still retained enough talent to get the job done and Shane O’Donnell, their hat-trick hero eight years ago, delivered again with a key role in both goals.
The Ennis speedster scored the first after a typically direct run through the centre of the Laois defence in the 10th minute and a similar run in the 48th minute allowed him to pick out substitute Mark Rodgers for a clever volleyed finish.
It told a tale of Clare’s dominance overall that they struck 2-27 whilst also registering 20 wides, the guts of 50 chances in 75-plus minutes.
They can be cut some slack for the wasteful play as the conditions were difficult with hailstones pounding the midlands venue for around 10 minutes during the half-time interval.
Having matched Clare’s energy and ferocity in the first-half, if not their scoring power, Laois found themselves overwhelmed in the second-half and the game was effectively up by the second water break.
A nice change for Lohan, then, to be able to roll on seven subs and freewheel for the final 20 minutes or so after punishing defeats by Antrim and Wexford.
“The game is about winning and when you don’t win games you’re going to be under pressure,” acknowledged Lohan. “So from that perspective it’s good to win.”
On star man Kelly, he played down fears of a major injury.
“He got a dead leg the last game, a dead leg is typically 10 days recovery so it just wasn’t ready,” he said.
The game marked the debut of former Clare football Aaron Fitzgerald who lasted the duration in defence.
There was also a welcome return to action for Colm Galvin, another All-Ireland winner, who told Lohan last October that he was taking the remainder of the year out to recover from a groin injury.
“It’s great to have him back,” said the manager. “It was a tough thing to do to miss a full year and try to get back into inter-county hurling so I’m delighted for him.”
With the bottom teams in 1A and 1B facing each other in a relegation playoff, the result leaves Laois seriously fearing for their survival following three straight defeats.
They met Clare’s fire head on initially and it was only O’Donnell’s goal that really separated the teams, in scoring terms at least, in the first-half.
Clare should have been further ahead but free-taker McCarthy, O’Donnell, David Reidy, Shane Golden and Aron Shanagher were among a group of players who winced as they registered wides.
“I think we had 20 wides in total,” commented Lohan. “That’s a lot of wides but you don’t mind about the wides when you’re putting up 2-27 or whatever it was we scored.”
It’s a fair point and in Clare’s defence they were much more efficient in the second-half, putting another 1-15 on the board and shooting just seven wides.
Laois were consistently punished for indiscipline by McCarthy who struck eight out of eight from placed balls in the second-half, adding another one from play.
Cathal Malone impressed with four points from play overall and Rodgers made a strong contribution when he came off the bench with 1-2.
The Scariff man’s goal was mostly down to O’Donnell’s direct running in the build-up but he still needed the presence of mind to volley it beyond Enda Rowland.
There was a volleyed goal from Laois too, Ross King getting to the left endline and superbly redirecting the ball to the net when Fiachra Fennell’s long delivery appeared to be headed wide.
Laois only scored 1-2 in the second-half from play though and were outfought and out-thought by a Clare side with nine different scorers and a decent punch from the bench.
Next up is a trip to face Dublin on Saturday week at Parnell Park.
“We think we have a bit of quality, things just didn’t happy for us the last two weekends,” said Lohan. “That doesn’t mean that we don’t have quality. We think we do.
“Dublin have bounced back from the Kilkenny defeat and look very confident. There’s always a bit of quality with Dublin so that should be a good game for us next.”
Another loss leaves Laois eyeing their two remaining games nervously and surely targeting the June 12th clash with Antrim in particular.
Clare: E Quilligan; R Hayes, C Cleary, A Fitzgerald; D Ryan (0-2), J Conlon (0-1), J Browne; C Malone (0-4), J McCarty (0-1); S Golden, D Reidy, S O’Donnell (1-1); A Shanagher, I Galvin (0-2), A McCarthy (0-13, 12f).
Subs: M Rodgers (1-2) for Golden h/t, D Fitzgerald (0-1) for J McCarthy 45, C Galvin for Reidy 56, D McMahon for Galvin and C Nolan for Ryan 63, D Lohan for Conlon and G Cooney for O’Donnell 68.
Laois: E Rowland; D Conway, D Hartnett, S Downey; C Phelan, M Whelan, J Kelly (0-1, s/l); F Fennell, P Purcell (0-2); J Ryan (0-1), C Stapleton (0-1), C Collier; PJ Scully (0-10, 8f, 1 65), E Gaughan, R King (1-2).
Subs: C Comerford for Gaughan 47, L Cleere for Phelan and C McEvoy for Whelan 62, A Dunphy for Stapleton 64, S Bergin for Collier 71.
Referee: P Murphy (Carlow).