Joe McGann under pressure from Kavan Keenan. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

CLARE’s senior footballers have kept their promotion hopes alive after recording their fifth win of the 2024 National Football League.

Clare 0-15
Antrim 0-12
Venue: Cusack Park, Ennis

Three points was the winning margin but it should have been far greater but Clare as has been the case throughout the campaign struggled to put their opponents to bed. The evidence of this was more glaring on this occasion as they played the entire second half with the benefit of an extra man yet failed to make it count.

To put it into context, Clare had an eight point lead at the beginning of the second half but allowed Antrim to gradually chip away to lower the deficit. Whether it is a mix of complacency and lapses in concentration is hard to accurately ascertain but a continuation of basic unforced errors hindered their cause and when the standard of opposition rises so too will the consequences.

997 spectators took shelter from the rain of Ennis to watch the contest, the outcome of which keeps Clare’s chances resting on the action in the final day where they will have to beat Down to seal an automatic return back to Division 2.

Emmet McMahon who sustained a knee injury in training on Thursday night missed out on the contest and the loss of the Kildysart man was felt, hopefully for Clare’s sake his absence will only be for a brief spell.

Ciaran Downes and Pat Shivers traded frees to start off the day’s scoring, Downes kicked three placed balls from the ground by the seventh minute as Clare began to find their feet.

Handed a starting jersey due to McMahon’s injury was Mark McInerney and his turnover nine minutes in won back possession for Clare which allowed Ronan Lanigan to work a move involving Joe McGann and Dermot Coughlan who teed up Aaron Griffin for the first score from play.

At the other end Marc Jordan answered back but his effort was quickly cancelled by McInerney.

Antrim goalkeeper Michael Byrne took Joe McGann clean out of it when the St Breckan’s gained possession 65m from goal and was just about to show his pace. A free was awarded but no yellow card flashed yet in the next passage of play at the other end both Ikem Ugwueru and Padraig McBride found themselves entering the book for much milder offences.

Byrne kicked the subsequent free that was denied by the upright and fortunately for Clare Brian McNamara was tuned in to catch the ball as it dropped.

A pinpoint pass from Eoghan McCabe to Joseph Finnegan saw the centre back lower the deficit to two points on twenty three minutes.

However Clare responded with four scores in a row via Cormac Murray, Aaron Griffin, Mark McInerney and Dermot Coughlan to lead 0-9 0-3 at the sounding of the half-time whistle.

During this spell, Antrim were also reduced to fourteen men when Conor McLarnon picked up a red card after kneeing Gavin Murray off the ball.

What could have been a goal ended up as a point as Joe McGann had his chance for a green flag saved but managed to rescue possession and had to settle for a white flag. McInerney converted a free on forty minutes to see Clare lead by eight points but they would fail to score for the next nine minutes as Antrim kicked three points without reply, all from the boot of Patrick McBride.

Éire Óg’s Gavin Murray kicked his first score in the Clare colours off his left boot on forty nine minutes with Antrim responding via Dominic McElhill and Ryan McQuillan. Daniel Walsh had a goal disallowed for a square ball on the fifty fifth minute.

Murray got his measurements off with a handpass in the closing stages after Ronan Lanigan had done tremendous work to force a turnover but also in his run up the field, this misplaced pass was just one of the many examples of Clare making avoidable errors.

Overall Clare can be content that approaching the final round the chance of promotion still exists. They were a level above Antrim but didn’t make this show in the full-time score and with the ambition of wanting to play in a higher Division comes the realisation that such performances will not suffice, that will also be the case next weekend in Newry. Ronan Lanigan, Brian McNamara and Aaron Griffin stood out for Mark Fitzgerald’s side.

Scorers Clare: M McInerney (0-4 3f), C Downes (0-3 3f), A Griffin (0-3), C Murray (0-2), D Coughlan (0-1), J McGann (0-1), G Murray (0-1),

Scorers Antrim: P McBride (0-3), R McQuillan (0-2 1f), P Shivers (0-1 1f), M Jordan (0-1), J Finnegan (0-1), E McCabe (0-1), D Lynch (0-1), R McCann (0-1), D McEnhill (0-1 1M)

Clare:
1: Stephen Ryan (Kilrush Shamrocks)

2: Manus Doherty (Éire Óg)
3: Ronan Lanigan (Éire Óg)
4: Micheál Garry (Cooraclare)

5: Ikem Ugwueru (Éire Óg)
6: Alan Sweeney (St Breckan’s)
7: Daniel Walsh (Kilmurry Ibrickane)

8: Brian McNamara (Cooraclare)
9: Gavin Murray (Éire Óg)

12: Dermot Coughlan (Kilmurry Ibrickane)
14: Aaron Griffin (Lissycasey)
11: Ciaran Downes (Kilmihil)

24: Mark McInerney (Éire Óg)
15: Cormac Murray (St Joseph’s Miltown)
13: Joe McGann (St Breckan’s)

Subs:
23: Jamie Stack (St Breckan’s) for McGann (44)
17: Cillian Rouine (Ennistymon) for Ugwueru (47)
18: Darren Nagle (Liscannor) for Garry (61)
25: Thomas Kelly (Shannon Gaels) for McInerney (67)
26: Shane Griffin (Lissycasey) for Murray (68) (inj)

Antrim:
1: Michael Byrne (O’Donovan Rossa)

4: Kavan Keenan (Ballymena)
2: Daniel McNicholl (Roger Casements)
3: Declan Lynch (Lámh Dhearg)

5: Ronan Boyle (Naomh Brid)
6: Joseph Finnegan (Naomh Brid)
7: Dermot McAleese (Roger Casements)

9: Conor Hand (Naomh Eoin)
8: Colm McLarnon (Naomh Pól)

10: Eoghan McCabe (St Galls)
11: Patrick McBride (Naomh Eoin)
12: Ruairí McCann (Kickhams Creggan)

15: Dominic McEnhill (O’Donovan Rossa)
14: Pat Shivers (Cargin)
13: Marc Jordan (Lámh Dhearg)

Subs:
17: Benen Kelly (Cargin) for Shivers (HT)
26: Ryan McQuillan (Con Magees) for McEnhill (51)
19: Eoin Hynds (Con Magees) for Hand (53)
18: Cormac McGettigan (O’Donovan Rossa) for Keenan (62)
24: Niall Burns (St Gall’s) for McCabe (67)

Referee: Derek O’Mahoney (Tipperary)

 

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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