Clare have overcome the challenge of a stern Offaly in Round 2 of the All-Ireland SFC qualifier series.

Clare 1-18
Offaly 2-14
Venue: O’Connor Park, Tullamore

A late Kevin Hartnett insurance point sealed the win for Clare, it was fitting given the effort the Meelick man has gone through to make himself available to wear the county jersey. He played no part in the NFL following a shoulder operation and in his first appearance of the year, he appeared in the right place at the right time to put them two clear and in Monday’s draw for the next round of the qualifiers.

Offaly started well with wing-forward Ruairi McNamee goaling inside the opening three minutes. They kicked the next two scores without reply. Jamie Malone ended a nineteen minute scoring drought for the Banner with a green flag to narrow the gap to a single point. Freetakers Bernard Allen and Eoin Cleary swapped efforts before Clare hit five on the bounce, the hosts rallied with two final scores in the half to leave it all square at the break.

Two scores each at the beginning of the second half kept with the tight nature of this contest. Jamie Malone fired over two points while substitute Gavin Cooney made an impact on the scoreboard to push Colm Collins’ side three clear with fifty minutes on the clock. Offaly hit six of the final ten scores but it wasn’t enough as white flags from Gearoid O’Brien and Kevin Hartnett proved significant and enough to put Clare through to the next stage.

Without question it’s very positive for a team to pull off a result in a close finish. But if Clare’s aspirations are to be in the Super 8s, then there’s a fair chunk of work to get through between then and now, even then a difficult draw is expected for the next round. Defensively there’s still question marks for the Banner, 1-06 was conceded from placed balls and that figure is way too high, equally the 0-12 scored by Offaly’s full-forward line is also too high. The goal coming down to Offaly was to win, Colm Collins’ men did that and the manner of which gives them a valuable lift ahead of next Saturday.

Although they have exited the championship, there is reason to be more optimistic about football in the Faithful County. At the end of the day, they are a Division 4 side and they pushed their Division 2 counterparts all the way and could have easily caused a surprise. Their target for 2019 must be to get out of the bottom division and that in itself will lift the atmosphere regarding the big ball in Offaly.

Potential opponents for Clare next Saturday include; Monaghan, Tyrone, Cavan, Mayo, Armagh, Leitrim and Kildare. Regardless of who it is, it will be a tough test.

1: Eamonn Tubridy (Doonbeg)
2: Gordon Kelly (St Josephs Miltown)
3: Cillian Brennan (Clondegad)
4: Eoghan Collins (Ballyhaunis)
5: Pearse Lillis (Cooraclare) (0-01)
6: Aaron Fitzgerald (Éire Óg)
7: Cian O’Dea (Kilfenora) (0-01)
8: Gary Brennan (Clondegad)
9: Cathal O’Connor (Coolmeen)
10: Kieran Malone (St Josephs Miltown) (0-02)
11: Eoin Cleary (St Josephs Miltown) (0-06 2f)
12: Jamie Malone (Corofin) (1-04)
13: Eimhin Courtney (Éire Óg)
14: Keelan Sexton (Kilmurry Ibrickane)
15: David Tubridy (Doonbeg) (0-01)
Gavin Cooney (Éire Óg) (0-01) for Courtney (HT)
Gearóid O’Brien (Kilrush Shamrocks) (0-02) for Tubridy (56)
Conall Ó hÁiniféin (Éire Óg) for K Malone (63)
Jonah Culligan (St Breckans) for Sexton (68)
Kevin Hartnett (Meelick) (0-01) for Collins (70)

1 Alan Mulhall (Walsh Island) (1-00 Pen)
2 Brian Darby (Rhode)
3 James Lalor (Raheen)
4 Sean Pender (Edenderry)
5 Declan Hogan (Tullamore)
6 Paul McConway (Tullamore)
7 Niall Darby (Rhode)
8 Michael Brazil (Tullamore)
9 Conor McNamee (Rhode)
10 Cian Donohue (St Brigid’s)
11 Shane Nally (Ferbane)
12 Ruairi McNamee (Rhode) (1-02)
13 Johnny Moloney (Tullamore) (0-04)
14 Anton Sullivan (Rhode) (0-03)
15 Bernard Allen (Tubber) (0-05 5f)

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