Fitzgerald circles the wagons as Clare beat Dublin
‘In Clare we do things properly. There is a code of discipline and that’s it’
Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald during the game. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
The Clare team warm up before the throw-in. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Dublin’s Mark Schutte is challenged by Brendan Bugler of Clare. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Clare 2-22 Dublin 2-20
Wow, did Clare hurling need this. Not just to breathe some life into their dangerously flat-lined Allianz League campaign - but to restore same face against the backdrop of a rising disciplinary controversy.
Not that Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald necessarily saw it that way, responding to reports of player unrest with typical defiance: there was no extra pressure on his team, he said, beyond their own desire to finally win a first league game of the season, after three defeats on the trot.
Clare certainly did that, eventually wearing down Dublin in the second half, despite playing with 14 men for the last 35 minutes. Yet the manager was inevitable drawn afterwards on the claims made in this newspaper that two panel members - Davy O’Halloran and Nicky O’Connell - left the panel last week, after what O’Halloran described as “humiliating” punishment from Fitzgerald for an apparently minor breach of discipline, when both players were caught on a night out, although not, they claimed, while actually drinking.
“Not at all,” said Fitzgerald, when asked if that was an issue with the team. “In Clare we do things properly. There is a code of discipline and that’s it and we’ll just drive on. The lads have been great, absolutely fantastic.
“I suppose you guys and others have to write stories and there is nothing I can do about it. As I said to the lads, we don’t need to listen to stuff or do whatever, we just concentrate on our own thing, we are an honest team so we are, we still have stuff to improve on from today and we will. The only panic that was out there was guys that want to create.”
Yet the punishment, according to O’Halloran, meant he was not allowed access to the team changing rooms, forced to tog out separately, and he was prevented from wearing the panel’s gear to training; he was also unable to be involved in matches or travel to them, no dialogue was allowed with other teammates at sessions and he was made to train alone in a corner of the pitch doing intensive physical work. O’Halloran claimed that he felt particularly aggrieved by the punishment when realising that a fellow but more senior member of the squad was exempt from similar sanctions, despite what they considered a more serious breach.
“110 per cent, that didn’t happen,” added Fitzgerald, was asked was there indeed any double standard: “The bottom line is - and this is the only thing I’m going to say on this - we as a management would be very fair in what we do. There is rules there, that’s it. And listen, I am very, very happy that we have done everything correct and I know the players are as well, that they are very happy with that as well. The bottom line is the lads aren’t bad lads, they are good lads and I wish them all the best with their clubs going forward.”
Clare certainly did plenty more talking on the pitch, 1-9 from Tony Kelly showing them way in a very hard-earned win, especially when playing the entire second half with 14-men, after losing Brendan Bugler to a straight red card.
It was Kelly’s goal, with five minutes left to play, which finally put Clare in the driving seat, after an intense second half rally which included a range of wonderful points from John Conlon, who also added a first half goal, plus Conor McGrath and a majestic long-range effort from David McInerney.
Indeed Clare had been chasing the game from early on, Liam Rushe’s long-range effort on nine minutes - which badly wrong-footed Clare goalkeeper Donal Tuohy, the ball then swept over the line by Cian Boland - easing Dublin in front, and they were up 1-6 to 0-4 after 15 minutes.
There was no let up from either team until the break: Conlon and Kelly scored a couple more long range points for Clare, and Aaron Cunningham chipped in with another, before they made a serious assault on goal. Cunningham’s shot was brilliantly saved by Alan Nolan, and then Michael Carton cleared another blistering shot off the line, this one off the hurl of Kelly (Carton injuring his ankle in the process).
Dublin then tagged on another two points, to go seven points up, before Clare finally got their goal, in unlikely circumstances, as Conlon’s shot from 40 metres out - which looked to be sweeping wide - instead swept into the net, much to the disbelief of Nolan, and nearly everyone else at Cusack Park. Clare’s tails were up, yet down the other end of the field, Brendan Bugler was red-carded for an off-the ball, so that Clare went into the break with only 14 men -though only chasing a two-point deficit, 1-12 to 1-10.
The set up the frantic second half, which Clare won on both desire and indeed nerve, and so give themselves some chance of avoiding the relegation play-off if they can beat Kilkenny next Sunday
Clare: D Tuohy; P Flanagan, C Dillon, D McInerney (0-1); B Bugler, C Ryan, P O’Connor; P Donnellan (0-1), C Galvin; J Conlon (1-4, two frees), T Kelly (1-9, seven frees), S Golden; C McGrath (0-5), S O’Donnell, A Cunningham (0-1). Subs: D Reidy (0-1) for Goldon (42 mins), J Browne for O’Connor (52 mins), D O’Donovan for Flanagan (64 mins), B Duggan for Cunningham (70 mins).
Dublin: A Nolan; P Schutte, C O’Callaghan, M Carton; C Crummy (0-1), P Kelly, S Barrett (0-1); S Durkin, C Cronin; D Sutcliffe (0-1), P Ryan (0-5, all frees), M Schutte (0-3); D O’Callaghan (1-4), L Rushe (1-4), C Boland (1-0). Subs: N Corcoran for Carton (35 mins, inj), B Quinn (0-1) for Cronin (55 mins), C Keaney for Corcoran (60 mins), E Dillon for Sutcliffe (64 mins)
Referee: Cathal McAllister (Cork)