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Clare resume League campaign in winning fashion

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*Cian O’Dea on the attack for Clare. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

As the Allianz National Football League recommended, Clare returned to winning ways albeit by making hard work of Fermanagh.

Clare 1-11
Fermanagh 1-09
Venue: Cusack Park, Ennis

Lining out in their first Allianz National Football League tie in seven months, it was bound to take each side time to re-adapt to competitive inter-county pace and this was the case throughout the opening quarter.

When they reflect on the encounter, both Clare’s start and finish to the contest will be an area to target improvement on. They added two points in either period while more worryingly allowed their opponents to dominate at these junctures. A superb goal from Joe McGann before the break plus the introduction of Gary Brennan on the restart would lift their challenge at other stages of the outing.

Efforts from Paul McCusker and Tomás Corrigan sandwiched between a Keelan Sexton left the visitors ahead with fifteen minutes on the clock. Cathal O’Connor linked up with Sexton to add Clare’s opening score from play and it served as a spark with the resulting kickout knocked down by Ciarán Russell to Emmet McMahon his ground pass sent Jamie Malone on his way to putting Colm Collins’ men ahead for the first time.

Corrigan equalised from a free on Fermanagh’s next attack but Clare replied with four of the next seven scores to boast a 1-06 0-06 advantage at the interval. The crucial score amongst this was a superb goal from St Breckans’ Joe McGann.

Corner-back Gordon Kelly with a quick free started the move for the goal, he found Aaron Fitzgerald but it was the manner in which Cian O’Dea linked with Eoin Cleary and Alan Sweeney that put the wheels in motion. Sweeney gave his clubmate an ideal low ball and from here, McGann weaved in and out past three Fermanagh defenders before firing the ball to the roof of Sean McNally’s net.

Ryan McMenamin’s charges reduced the deficit to two points cancelling out an Eoin Cleary effort with the Corrigans Tomás and Ciarán adding white flags. Their momentum was stalled by the introduction of Gary Brennan who within minutes of his first appearance for the county this year set up Jamie Malone and Cian O’Dea for successive points.

Substitute Darragh McGurn brought the deficit back to a single score as Clare brought Podge Collins on from the sideline to give the Cratloe attacker his first taste of inter-county football since 2015. Cleary and Malone added to the Banner’s account while goalkeeper Eamonn Tubridy pulled off a fine save to deny Lorcan McStravick a green flag.

Goal chances were spurned by the Erne County with Declan McCusker driving the ball wide after Ciarán Corrigan hit the post. They continued to poke holes in the spine of Clare’s defence and one such move led to the awarding of a penalty following a foot block by Podge Collins, Eddie Courtney made no mistake with the spot kick. While they did control the conclusion of the game, time came against the visitors although plenty of additional time was played.

Preparation was greatly disrupted for Fermanagh who had a number of panellists test positive for COVID-19 and their requests for the game to be postponed fell on the deaf ears of Croke Park officials. On this occasion, they were able to pull the Clare defence apart but crucially did not capitalise on this so far as scores were concerned. Ciarán Corrigan, Kane Connor and Tomás Corrigan impressed for the Ulster side.

Clare’s objective for this encounter was to secure a win and they accomplished that aim. It keeps their chances of promotion alive while the concern of relegation still also exists, such is the tight nature of life in Division 2. The manner in which their defence most notable the spine struggled when ran at needs to be tackled but the strength of the panel which saw Brennan, Podge, David Tubridy, Kevin Harnett and Sean Collins all brought on from the bench a very healthy sign of the strides being made. The return of Jamie Malone has also given a quality ball-winning option in attack with the goal manufactured by Joe McGann a sign of the talent he has to offer.

Scorers Clare: Eoin Cleary (0-04 1f 1’45), Jamie Malone (0-03), Joe McGann (1-00), Keelan Sexton (0-02 1f 1’45), Cathal O’Connor (0-01), Cian O’Dea (0-01).

Scorers Fermanagh: Tomás Corrigan (0-05 3f), Eddie Courtney (1-00), Declan McCusker (0-01), Paul McCusker (0-01), Ciarán Corrigan (0-01), Darragh McGurn (0-01).

Clare:
16: Eamonn Tubridy (Doonbeg)

2: Gordon Kelly (St Josephs Miltown)
3: Cillian Brennan (Clondegad)
4: Eoghan Collins (Ballyhaunis)

7: Alan Sweeney (St Breckans)
6: Aaron Fitzgerald (Éire Óg)
15: Cian O’Dea (Kilfenora)
5: Pearse Lillis (Cooraclare)

8: Cathal O’Connor (Coolmeen)
9: Ciarán Russell (Éire Óg)

12: Jamie Malone (Corofin)
11: Eoin Cleary (St Josephs Miltown)
10: Emmet McMahon (Kildysart)

13: Keelan Sexton (Kilmurry Ibrickane)
14: Joe McGann (St Breckans)

Subs:
17: Gary Brennan (Clondegad) for McMahon (40)
19: Podge Collins (Cratloe) for Sweeney (59)
26: David Tubridy (Doonbeg) for McGann (60)
18: Sean Collins (Cratloe) for E Collins (68)
22: Kevin Harnett (Meelick) for Fitzgerald (68)

Fermanagh:
1: Sean McNally (Teemore Shamrocks)

6: James McMahon (Roslea Shamrocks)
4: Luke Flanagan (Derrylin O’Connells)

12: Josh Largo Ellis (Irvinestown St Molaise)
7: Kane Connor (Belnaleck Art McMurroughs)
5: Cain McManus (Teemore Shamrocks)

18: Paul McCusker (Edenderry St Josephs)
9: Ryan Jones (Derrygonnelly Harps)
8: Eoin Donnelly (Coa O’Dwyers)

10: Ciaran Corrigan (Maguiresbridge St Josephs)
13: Stephen McGullion (Derrygonnelly Harps)
23: Conall Jones (Derrygonnelly Harps)

15: Declan McCusker (Edenderry St Josephs)
14: Tomás Corrigan (Knowley Brian Borus)
21: Richard O’Callaghan (Enniskilleen Gaels)

Subs:
20: Aidan Breen (Tempo Maguires) for Jones (46)
22: Darragh McGurn (Belnaleck Art McMurroughs) for P McCusker (46)
24: Lorcan McStravick (Tempo Maguires) for O’Callaghan (58)
11: Eddie Courtney (Aghadrumsee St Macartans) for Corrigan (58)
3: Daire O’Cathain (Knowley Brian Borus) for McGullion (61)

Referee: James Bermingham (Cork)

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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