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*Clondegad’s Gary Brennan. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

Clondegad brought their 2021 Clare SFC bid back to life with a vital one point win over favourites Éire Óg on Saturday afternoon.

Clondegad 0-14
Éire Óg 1-10
Venue: Cusack Park, Ennis

After producing a below par opening round display against Doonbeg, Clondegad were written off and included as contenders for relegation by many personnel including within their own club. However, they delivered a much improved showing and they reaped the rewards by edging past Éire Óg by the smallest of margins.

Albeit a case of Clondegad moving in the right direction, Éire Óg’s performance was a backward step when compared with their impressive opening round outing against Lissycasey three weeks ago.

Leading for the opening eleven minutes of the tie, Clondegad’s dominance was overturned when Darren O’Neill raised a green flag. Goalkeeper Nathan Murray travelled with the ball to his opposing 65m line and offloaded to O’Neill, he found Philip Talty in space but Darren Cleary would deny him. O’Neill was quick to react and he put the rebound into the bottom of the net.

This would serve as a turning point in the game but also offered Éire Óg a lever with which to narrowly hold the advantage throughout the contest. The lever collapsed when Cormac Reidy equalised on forty seven minutes.

Early scores from Gary Brennan and Barry Toner had Clondegad ahead until O’Neill’s green flag but this strike was sufficient to see them hold the lead for the first half and Mark McInerney’s final score of the half would have them 1-06 0-07 in front at half-time.

Substitute Sean O’Leary and the experienced Toner had Clondegad on level terms within two minutes of the restart only for Éire Óg to respond via Nathan Murray and Philip Talty.

Brandon O’Connell kicked an excellent score in the last attack of the third quarter to give the Estuary men a big lift and they followed this up with efforts from Cormac Reidy and Morgan Garry to nudge in front. Goal chances at either end went abegging with Mark McInerney and Francie Neylon coming close.

As the pressure mounted, Gavin Cooney was sprung from the bench for the Ennis club, he added a point soon after to have the sides level on fifty five minutes but up stepped Gary Brennan to convert the winning free on sixty two minutes. A last gasp chance to secure a share of the spoils was missed by Aaron Fitzgerald but in truth, over the hour the deserving winners came out on top.

Having overcome last year’s semi-finalists Lissycasey in round one, all Éire Óg needed to do was secure a win to advance to the quarter-finals. They didn’t complete this task and now must defeat Doonbeg in the final round if they are to progress to the last eight. For Paul Madden’s men, Manus Doherty and Mark McInerney did well but on the whole the Townies will know they certainly didn’t do themselves justice.

Much more life and intensity flowed into Clondegad’s showing this time round than when they travelled to Cusack Park three weeks ago. Their use of the ball was much more proficient too. Gary Brennan, Conor Gavin, Barry Toner and Morgan Garry stood out for the winners.

Scorers Clondegad: G Brennan (0-06 5f), B Toner (0-03), M Garry (0-02 1M), S O’Leary (0-01), B O’Connell (0-01), C Reidy (0-01)

Scorers Éire Óg: M McInerney (0-06 1f), D O’Neill (1-00), P O’Malley (0-01 1M), P Talty (0-01), G Cooney (0-01), N Murray (0-01 1’45).

Éire Óg:
1: Nathan Murray

10: Ronan Lanigan
3: Aaron Fitzgerald
2: Manus Doherty

7: Ciaran Russell
6: Conal Ó hÁiniféin
5: Éinne O’Connor

9: David McNamara
8: Darren O’Neill

12: Niall McMahon
4: Ikem Ugwueru
11: Aidan McGrath

13: Philip Talty
17: Paddy O’Malley
15: Mark McInerney

Subs:
20: Tadhg Connellan for Ugwueru (HT)
23: Jarlath Collins for O’Malley (45)
14: Gavin Cooney for McMahon (52)
25: Conor O’Halloran for McGrath (58)

Clondegad:
16: Darren Cleary

5: Brian Casey
2: Brian Murphy
3: Joe Neylon

33: Morgan Garry
6: Conor Gavin
4: Cillian Brennan

27: James Murphy
13: Gary Brennan

10: Brandon O’Connell
8: Mark Crowe
9: Eoin Gavin

7: Cormac Reidy
17: Barry Toner
14: Daniel Kelly

Subs:
15: Podge McMahon
11: Sean O’Leary for E Gavin (HT)
25: Francie Neylon for C Brennan (37) (Inj)
12: Shane Brennan for Kelly (37)
22: Eoin Glynn for Crowe (45)
23: Evan Flynn for M Garry (62)

Referee: Jim Hickey (Cratloe)

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