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CLARE’s senior footballers were outclassed by Derry falling to a fourteen point defeat to end their involvement in the All-Ireland SFC.

Derry 5-13
Clare 2-08
Venue: Croke Park, Dublin

Three first half goals gifted Derry with a solid foundation for this victory and while Clare have shown their resilience and spirit on countless occasions, the result was effectively sealed at half-time.

What will cause annoyance and frustration is how easily Derry managed to pull the trigger for each of their five green flags in what was an uncharacteristically poor defensive performance from the men in saffron and blue. The manner in which Derry waltzed through for their goals will have shocked the Ulster champions, loose marking and off the shoulder benefit working to their benefit.

Having claimed their first provincial crown in 24 years, much of the narrative has centred on Derry’s defensive approach. They construct a wall in the heart of their defence which will test any team to scale it but Clare never looked like breaching it and then at the other end were very leaky as they swung the gates wide open allowing Derry opportunities which they duly capitalised on.

Heading in as overwhelming underdogs, Clare needed a bright start but instead it was a downpour with Derry raiding for 2-01 before the Banner were on the board. Benny Heron and Conor Glass raised the green flags with poor marking punished on each occasion.

Eoin Cleary got Clare off the mark on fifteen minutes but as was the case all afternoon, Derry’s response would be greater and they kicked the next four scores.

There appeared to be some ray of hope when Clare put together 1-01 without reply but this evaporated when Derry finished the half with a goal, Shane McGuigan passing to a free Paul Cassidy who gladly slotted to the net making it 3-06 1-03 at half-time. The Clare goal gave a glimpse of what they can do, Jamie Malone teed up Podge Collins who fed Ciaran Russell and he found Pearse Lillis to rifle the net.

With their first score on the restart, Derry once again had the umpires reaching for the green flag when centre back Gareth McKiness this time had Tristan O’Callaghan picking the ball out of the net. Holes continued to appear in the Clare defence, they were duly exploited by Derry but never closed by the Banner management or players.

Captain Cleary cooly slotted home a second goal for Clare with a deft finish but Derry worked the ball up the field and within 35 seconds scored goal number five, Shane McGuigan getting the finish this time.

Cleary and David Tubridy would add to Clare’s tally at a time when they were only playing for pride but Derry would continue to manoeuvre their way through at the other to keep their account ticking and deservedly advance to the All-Ireland semi-finals.

Consolidating Division 2 status and defeating Meath and Roscommon in championship represent a positive year for Clare. Given the ambition within the setup the manner of their exit and the chance to have progressed to the four, the defeat will leave a sting. Eoin Cleary and Pearse Lillis were best on the day.

Shane McGuigan led the Derry attack which caused riot. Their reward is a first semi-final appearance since 2004 and it’s richly deserved. Rory Gallagher’s men have a glorious chance to make it to All-Ireland final day and must maximise this. Conor Glass, Brendan Rogers and Benny Heron also impressed.

Derry scorers: S McGuigan (1-8, 1 free); C Glass, B Heron, P Cassidy (1-1); G McKinless (1-0); N Loughlin (1 free), C McCluskey (0-1).

Clare scorers: E Cleary (1-5, 2 frees); P Lillis (1-0); D Tubridy (0-2, 2 frees); J Malone (0-1).

1: Odhran Lynch (Magherafelt)

4: Conor McCluskey (Magherafelt)
3: Brendan Rogers (Slaughtneil)
2: Christopher McKaigue (Slaughtneil)

5: Conor Doherty (Newbridge)
6: Gareth McKinless (Balinderry)
7: Padraig McGroagan (Newbridge)

8: Conor Glass (Glen)
11: Shea Downey (Lavey)

10: Paul Cassidy (Bellaghy)
13: Benny Heron (Ballinascreen)
12: Ethan Doherty (Glen)

15: Niall Loughlin (Greenlough)
14: Shane McGuigan (Slaughtneil)
22: Niall Toner (Lavey)

9: Emmett Bradley (Glen) for Heron (48)
21: Lachlann Murray (Desertmartin) for Loughlin (52)
19: Ben McCarron (Steelstown) for Glass (60)
17: Paul McNeill (Slaughtneil) for Downey (65)
23: Declan Cassidy (Bellaghy) for McGuigan (67)

1: Tristan O’Callaghan (St Breckans)

4: Cillian Rouine (Ennistymon)
3: Cillian Brennan (Clondegad)
2: Manus Doherty (Éire Óg)

5: Cian O’Dea (Kilfenora)
6: Ciaran Russell (Éire Óg)
7: Jamie Malone (Corofin)

8: Darren O’Neill (Éire Óg)
9: Cathal O’Connor (Coolmeen)

10: Pearse Lillis (Cooraclare)
11: Eoin Cleary (St Joseph’s Miltown)
12: Emmet McMahon (Kildysart)

13: Podge Collins (Cratloe)
14: Keelan Sexton (Kilmurry Ibrickane)
15: Aaron Griffin (Lissycasey)

24: Alan Sweeney (St Breckans) for Rouine (HT)
23: Brendan Rouine (Ennistymon) for McMahon (42)
25: David Tubridy (Doonbeg) for Griffin (42)
21: Joe McGann (St Breckans) for Sexton (52)
18: Gavin Cooney (Éire Óg) for Collins (52)

Referee: Martin McNally (Monaghan)


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