*Cian O’Dea. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

TWO FORMER Clare footballers made their debuts in the Connacht senior football championship over the weekend.

Cian O’Dea and Pearse Lillis were part of New York’s starting fifteen as they faced off with Mayo in the quarter-finals of the Connacht SFC held at Gaelic Park. The duo both emigrated to the United States last year.

Kevin McStay’s Mayo recorded a fifteen point win when it finished 2-21 2-6 in their favour.

Kilfenora native O’Dea lined out at centre back with Lillis from Cooraclare featuring at wing forward for the Big Apple’s side. They played for the full seventy minutes for what is a new-look side that will now be competing in the Tailteann Cup.

O’Dea relocated to the States in the aftermath of Clare’s All-Ireland SFC loss to Donegal last season. He has taken up a three-year coaching post with New York GAA. His 2023 season with Clare was disrupted with injury after he sustained knee ligament damage. He made his first championship appearance as a sub in the 2015 Munster semi-final loss to Cork and was a central figure in the county’s seven year stay in Division 2. He sported his trademark braids for the defeat against Mayo.

Pearse Lillis. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

Lillis has also been based in the US since the summer. He made his senior debut for Clare in the 2016 National Football League when Clare started their Division 3 campaign with a 1-11 0-7 win over Sligo in Hennessy Memorial Park in Miltown Malbay. Over the subsequent seven years, his role on the side continued to grow and it is accepted that he was one of Clare’s best performers in last year’s championship. The twenty five year old had been most comfortable in either the half-back and half-forward lines during the ten season tenure of Colm Collins.

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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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