*Donal Moloney listens from a distance as the Clare minors speak in a huddle. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
After the highs of their Munster championship campaign which ended in a penalty shootout loss to Tipperary in the final, Clare’s minor hurlers were brought crashing back down to earth this Saturday afternoon.
Venue: Kenny Park, Athenry
Galway, having their first outing in this season’s championship, proved much too strong for a Clare side which failed to produce any of the form which had seen them do so well in the Munster campaign.
The Banner side struggled throughout and they were always chasing the game after going eight points behind in the opening quarter. Galway dominated the opening quarter at the end of which they led 0-8 to 0-0. Clare struggled in most departments in this period, failing to re-produce the form they had shown in the recent provincial final clash with Tipperary.
Little was known about Galway in the lead up to this, their first game in this season’s championship but the name of Aaron Niland was known by all followers by the final whistle as he caused huge problems throughout.
By half time Niland had 0-9 to his credit, five from frees, three from play and one from a sideline effort. Clare’s ill discipline in that first half proved costly as they conceded some silly frees which Niland punished.
The decision by Clare to play centre back James Hegarty as a sweeper didn’t work as Galway opened up the Clare defence regularly in the opening half in particular. Centre forward and team captain Rory Burke was another who stood out in that opening half when he fired over 0-4 from play while another of their stars was centre back Oscar O’Gorman.
The game was fifteen minutes old before the visitors had their first score which came from full forward Oisin Whelan.
Clare returned for the second half with Cian Neylon, a surprising omission from the starting line up, in at corner forward and while they managed the opening score of the half through James Organ, they missed a couple of opportunities to close the gap.
In a six minute spell from the sixth minute of the half, Galway landed five points, three from Niland and the tie was effectively over as a contest
Niland, team captain Burke and centre back O’Gorman were stand out players for the winners on a day when Clare struggled in most areas. Jack O’Neill and team captain John Cahill worked hard for Brian O’Connell’s charges on a disappointing afternoon.
Clare now play Laois in two weeks time and they will need to show a big improvement if they are to progress to the All-Ireland semi-finals. This will be a home fixture for the county minors who have shown their capabilities in provincial clashes with Cork and Tipperary.
Scorers Galway: Aaron Niland (0-16, 10 frees, 1 line ball); Rory Burke (0-4); Oscar O’Gorman, Paddy McCrthy Conor Lawless, Conor Dolphin, Conor Gilligan (0-1) each.
Scorers Clare: Oisin Whelan (0-4, 3f); Diarmuid Stritch, Michael Collins, Jack O’Neill, James Organ Sam Scanlon (0-1) each
1: Donagh Fahy, Ardrahan
2: Luke McInerney, Loughrea
3: Sean Murphy, Clarinbridge
4: Darragh Counihan, Clarinbridge
5: Ben O’Donovan, Gort
6: Oscar O’Gorman Kilconiron
7: Jack Lonergan, Turloughmore
8: Cilliabn Travers, Turloughmore
9: Paddy McCarthy, Sarsfields
10: Orin Burke, Padraig Pearses,
11: Rory Burke, Oranmore Maree
12: Conor Lawless, Athenry
13: Ryan O’Donnell, Oranmore Maree
14: Aaron Niland, Clarinbridge
15: Conor Dolphin, Mullagh
Sean Walsh (Moycullen) for Burke (51);
Joey Wallace(Ballygar) for Lonergan(53);
Cullen Killeen (Loughrea) for Travers(57)
Conor Gilligan (Craughwell) for O’Donnell(58);
Sean Power Ballinasloe) for O’Donnell (61)
1: Mark Sheedy, Sixmilebridge
2: Eoghan Gunning, Broadford
3: Fionnan Treacy, Éire Óg
4: John Cahill, Clooney-Quin, Captain
5: Sean McMahon, Smith O’Briens
6: James Hegarty, Inagh-Kilnamona
7: Riain McNamara, Cratloe
8: Piaras O’Se, Ruan
9: Matthew O’Halloran, Sixmilebridge
10: Michael Collins, Clonlara,
11: Jack O’Neill, Clooney-Quin
12: James Organ, Corofin
13: Sam Scanlan, Clooney-Quin
14: Oisin Whelan, Clarecastle
15: Diarmuid Stritch, Clonlara
Cian Neylon (Kilmaley) for O’Se (half time)
Dylan Keane-Hayes (Kilmaley) for Stritch (43)
Eoin Lahiffe(St.Josephs) forCollins (48)
Fiachra Ó Braoin (Sixmilebridge) for McNamara (51)
Fionn Hayes (Sixmilebridge) for Whelan (55)
Referee: Ritchie Fitzsimons (Offaly)