Clare hold on against Galway
Fitzgerald's side lead from start to finish but forced to withstand Galway fightback
Clare's Nicky O'Connell and Damien Hayes of Galway. Photograph: Cathal Noonan/Inpho
Having lost to Waterford at home a fortnight ago, and with Galway recording an opening round win over Kilkenny on the same day, many pundits didn’t fancy Clare’s chances against their neighbours at Cusack Park, Ennis yesterday.
But a determined Banner outfit, marshalled by Davy Fitzgerald, took the league points on offer with aplomb, on a day when poor weather conditions made it difficult for the sides to serve up a classic.
Still, this was an intriguing contest that saw the hosts lead from start to finish against a Galway side that relied far too much on Joe Canning’s free-taking abilities for scores.
“We got a win today but just didn’t happen to get one two weeks ago,” remarked Clare team-boss Davy Fitzgerald, moments after the final whistle.
“We fought hard today, we got our win but we won’t get carried away,” he said.
Fitzgerald’s young side were quicker to settle. By the seventh minute they held a 0-4 to 0-1 lead thanks to fine scores by their two youthful corner-forwards Podge Collins and Shane O’Donnell as well as a pair of Colin Ryan, pointed frees.
With the aid of a considerable wind, Clare led by 0-8 to 0-4, by the end of the first quarter and by the 31st minute they held a commanding lead of 0-12 to 0-6.
Galway reduced the deficit somewhat, thanks to two Canning frees before the whistle, leaving them trailing 0-12 to 0-8 at half-time.
Clare full-forward John Conlan, after the restart, began to come further out the field and this new tactic certainly paid off.
He managed three important scores early in the half and by the 47th minute, the Banner were six clear, leading by 0-16 to 0-10.
But a foul on Galway’s Davy Glennon by corner-back Seadna Morey conceded a 20m free and Canning’s shot struck the roof of Patrick Kelly's net.
The goal gave the Tribesmen a lifeline and from then to the finish Anthony Cunningham’s charges fought hard. Clare keeper Kelly made a telling save from Glennon.
But some bad Galway wides combined with some heroic defending by the Banner boys ensured that there was never less than two points between the teams as the tie progressed as a few Canning frees kept the visitors in the hunt.
On two occasions late in the contest, one from a long range free and another from a 65, Canning elected to drop the ball in the square, in the hope of creating another goal.
But the Clare back-line repeatedly withstood the onslaught.
Canning did convert a free in injury-time but the only effect it had was to reduce the margin from three to two and Clare held out for a merited victory.
After the game, disappointed Galway mentor Mattie Kenny said: “We missed chances in the first half and I feel we should have gone in leading at half-time and our finishing in the second half let us down also. But fair duest to Clare today, they were good.