*Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
CLARE’S SENIOR FOOTBALLERS have suffered a disappointing five point defeat to mark the beginning of their All-Ireland series.
Venue: Cusack Park, Ennis
Hopes were high that Clare were going to bounce back from their no-show in the Munster final loss to Kerry when they built up an early three point lead inside the first nine minutes but they fell away completely in the second half.
Indeed, it was one of the most disappointing second half displays from Clare during Colm Collins’ ten seasons as manager and it certainly puts them under pressure in a bid to progress to the preliminary quarter-finals or indeed further with clashes against Monaghan and Derry on the road to follow.
This was heralded as the most winnable of all three games and it certainly was but Clare didn’t raise a gallop in the second half where they were outscored 0-07 0-03 and were unable to get to grips with their Donegal opponents.
That Clare’s last four shots of the opening half all went wide of the posts meant they didn’t go into the dressing room as far ahead as they should have been but leading 0-06 0-03, there is no excuse for the showing that followed when they returned to the field.
A double from Pearse Lillis and a Keelan Sexton opener had Clare off to a bright start, a defensive Donegal registered their first through Ciaran Thompson on twelve minutes before Eoin Cleary responded from a placed ball.
Sexton had a glorious goal chance on the twenty minute mark but his shot was well-saved by Shaun Patton. Cleary and McMahon then pointed for Clare but so too did Oisin Gallen and Eoghan Bán Gallagher for the visitors.
Donegal themselves spurned an effort to raise a green flag which would have levelled matters, Gallagher who cut through the Clare defence rather easily and offloaded to John Ross Molloy but the corner back spilled possession before he could pull the trigger and Ciaran Russell managed to clear the spillage leaving a margin of three points between the teams at the half-time whistle.
Within thirteen minutes of the restart, Donegal were level and it was almost inevitable that if they nudged ahead that they would leave Ennis victorious.
Gallen, Thompson x2 and Caolan McGonagle split the posts while Emmet McMahon was Clare’s only scorer in the first twenty five minutes of the second half, the drought ended by Darragh Bohannon on sixty minutes.
On either side of Bohannon’s white flag, Hugh McFadden and Gallen had pointed to leave Aidan O’Rourke’s charges in front. They hit four points without reply before Aaron Griffin added Clare’s second point from play in the entire half and ultimately their last score with Gallen and Rory O’Donnell adding scores to see Donegal record a five point win.
At half-time, Clare’s U20 footballers were acknowledged via the tannoy for winning the Liam O’Connor Cup for the past two seasons. The afternoon should have ended on a high by Clare recording their first win of the All-Ireland series in 2023 but instead the mood is sombre due to a second half collapse.
Marking and tracking of runners became slack as Clare exhibited a flatness that is most unlike them. In this regard, changes and fresh legs needed to be introduced quicker and bringing Ikem Ugwueru and Mark McInerney into the fold with sixty seven and sixty eight minutes played were substitutions that came ten minutes too late. For the second game in a row, Keelan Sexton was not supplied with enough possession, most notably in the second half.
There is still a possibility for Colm Collins’ men to progress but they must get results against either Monaghan or Derry which will be no easy task.
Scorers for Donegal: C. Thompson, O. Gallen (0-4 each); C. McGonagle (0-2); E. Bán Gallagher, H. McFadden, L. McGlynn, R. O’Donnell (0-1 each).
Scorers for Clare: E. Cleary (frees), P. Lillis, E. McMahon (1 free) (0-2 each); K. Sexton, D. Bohannon, A. Griffin (0-1 each).
1: Shaun Patton (St Eunan’s)
2: Mark Curran (Dungloe)
3: Brendan McCole (St Naul’s)
4: John Ross Molloy (Ardara)
7: Odhran Doherty (Naomh Conaill)
6: Eoghan Bán Gallagher (Killybegs)
5: Caolan Ward (St Eunan’s)
8: Caolan McGonagle (Buncrana)
27: Rory O’Donnell (Milford)
15: Conor O’Donnell (Carndonagh)
14: Hugh McFadden (Killybegs)
12: Ciarán Thompson (Naomh Conaill)
11: Jamie Brennan (Bundoran)
20: Oisin Gallen (Sean MacCumhaills)
10: Daire Ó Baoill (Gaoth Dobhair)
17: Jason McGee (Cloughaneely) for Molloy (HT)
18: Caolan McColgan (Muff) for Ward (44)
13: Luke McGlynn (Glenfin) for O’Donnell (49)
21: Marty O’Reilly (Sean MacCumhaills) for Doherty (72)
1: Stephen Ryan (Kilrush)
2: Ronan Lanigan (Éire Óg)
3: Cillian Brennan (Clondegad)
4: Cillian Rouine (Ennistymon)
5: Ciaran Russell (Éire Óg)
6: Jamie Malone (Corofin)
7: Cian O’Dea (Kilfenora)
8: Cathal O’Connor (Coolmeen)
9: Darren O’Neill (Éire Óg)
10: Daniel Walsh (Kilmurry Ibrickane)
11: Emmett McMahon (Kildysart)
12: Pearse Lillis (Cooraclare)
13: Eoin Cleary (St Joseph’s Miltown)
14: Keelan Sexton (Kilmurry Ibrickane)
15: Padraic Collins (Cratloe)
17: Darragh Bohannon (Shannon Gaels) for Collins (21) (inj)
21: Aaron Griffin (Lissycasey) for O’Connor (42)
24: Brian McNamara (Cooraclare) for O’Neill (47)
26: Ikem Ugwueru (Éire Óg) for Walsh (67)
23: Mark McInierney (Éire Óg) for O’Dea (68)
Referee: James Molloy (Galway)