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*Gary Brennan in action against Tipperary. Photograph: Martin Connolly

Clare’s senior footballers have exited the championship falling at the first hurdle as they suffered a three point defeat to Tipperary on Sunday afternoon.

Tipperary 2-11
Clare 1-11
Venue: Semple Stadium, Thurles

A first senior championship meeting between the sides since 2002 also resulted in Clare not advancing to the provincial semi-finals for the first time of Colm Collins’ tenure as senior boss. He will also agree that this was one of the more disappointing displays from his charges as the three point margin does not tell the full story.

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Rustiness can be rightly used as an excuse for the majority of teams competing in the 2020 inter-county championships. However, senior football sides are an exception given they had two rounds of the Allianz National Football League under their belts before the championship commenced.

From what they produced in the opening half, Clare’s display was full of the hallmarks one would associate with a team that had not played an intense competitive game in weeks which is far from the truth given their pressurised league encounters with Fermanagh and Armagh in recent weeks.

But it was their first half showing against Tipperary that proved to be the worst of all three, in it they conceded fourteen frees compared with the six versus Armagh and nine from the Fermanagh. Equally the retention of their own kickouts was worse along with every aspect of their performance. Granted conditions were slippier than more recent outings while they did play against the slight elements but from their standards, it was a noticeable dip.

Based on the set-up of each side, a low scoring affair was easy to predict from the early stages. Liam Casey had the first opportunity to register on the board with four minutes on the clock but missed the target.

Stephen Ryan’s resulting kickout was fielded by Cathal O’Connor but the Coolmeen was quickly turned over and the ball found its way to Conor Sweeney who stuck the ball in the back of the Clare net.

Keelan Sexton opened Clare’s account on seven minutes with fast hands from Joe McGann putting the Kilmurry Ibrickane attacker on his way to goal. Jamie Malone would tack over the Banner’s only other score from play in the half. Tipperary were reliant on frees to keep the scoreboard ticking from their end with Conor Sweeney and Jack Kennedy amassing a one hundred percent return from all frees over the course of the game.

Kicking three points in a row was as good as it got for Clare in the first half with Sexton, Malone and Eoin Cleary on target but crucially despite dominating limited spells they never went ahead as Tipperary continued to dictate matters. All of Clare’s inroads were undone with Tipperary adding three points without reply, their run interrupted by a Sexton free to leave it 1-06 0-05 at the break.

It was the worst imaginable start again for Clare in the second half with Bill Maher finding a gap in their defence and powering through leaving Stephen Ryan with little chance of stopping his effort. This was a killer blow for the visitors who took far too long to recover from such a hit. Cleary on forty eight minutes finally got the Banner off the mark.

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David Power’s men were definitely guilty of failing to put their opponents to bed and this left the smallest glimmers of hope that the Division 2 side would swing the tie back in their advantage. David Tubridy’s missed penalty took away the chance to put the wind behind their sails and ensued that Gavin Cooney’s deflected goal was a mere consolation. It did reduce the final gap to three points, the exact distance between the sides was irrelevant come the final whistle as Tipperary progress but Clare exit the championship.

Limerick is the prize for Tipperary who are now sixty minutes from a Munster Final. They were the superior side over the hour and had moved the ball at a much quicker pace with far less unforced errors along the way. Liam Casey, Conor Sweeney and Kevin Fahey impressed for the winners.

Whether it was the Semple Stadium surroundings or not but Clare appeared to have a much more defensive approach for this encounter. For the majority of the first half, they had just three attackers in their own forward line but more importantly regardless of their position on the pitch, they didn’t exude an attacking streak. While maintaining their status in Division 2 will stand as a positive side to 2020, their championship run will not. Cillian Brennan, Podge Collins and Cian O’Dea were among those to keep the fight going for their county.

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Scorers Tipperary: Conor Sweeney (1-04 2f), Bill Maher (1-00), Jack Kennedy (0-03 3f), Liam Casey (0-02), Liam Boland (0-01), Emmet Moloney (0-01).

Scorers Clare: Keelan Sexton (0-03 2f), Eoin Cleary (0-03 3f), Gavin Cooney (1-00), Podge Collins (0-02), Jamie Malone (0-01), Cathal O’Connor (0-01), Gary Brennan (0-01 1f).

1: Evan Comerford (Kilsheelan-Kilcash)

3: Jimmy Feehan (Killenaule)
2: Alan Campbell (Moyle Rovers)

5: Bill Maher (Kilsheelan-Kilcash)
6: Kevin Fahey (Clonmel Commercials)
4: Colm O’Shaughnessy (Ardfinnan)
7: Robbie Kiely (Barryroe)

9: Liam Casey (Cahir)
8: Steven O’Brien (Ballina)

10: Jack Kennedy (Clonmel Commercials)
22: Colman Kennedy (Clonmel Commercials)
12: Conal Kennedy (Clonmel Commercials)

14: Conor Sweeney (Ballyporeen)
11: Michael Quinlivan (Clonmel Commercials)
13: Jason Lonergan (Clonmel Commercials)

15: Brian Fox (Éire Óg Annacarty/Donohill) for Lonergan (33)
26: Liam Boland (Moyle Rovers) for O’Brien (47)
18: Emmet Moloney (Drom & Inch) for C Kennedy (59)
20: Padraic Loooram (Clonmel Commercials) for Maher (71)
25: Kevin O’Halloran (Portroe) for Casey (73).

16: Stephen Ryan (Kilrush Shamrocks)

2: Gordon Kelly (St Josephs Miltown)
3: Cillian Brennan (Clondegad)
20: Kevin Harnett (Meelick)

7: Alan Sweeney (St Breckans)
15: Cian O’Dea (Kilfenora)
4: Eoghan Collins (Ballyhaunis)
5: Pearse Lillis (Cooraclare)

8: Gary Brennan (Clondegad)
9: Cathal O’Connor (Coolmeen)

12: Jamie Malone (Corofin)
11: Eoin Cleary (St Josephs Miltown)
10: Ciarán Russell (Éire Óg)

13: Keelan Sexton (Kilmurry Ibrickane)
14: Joe McGann (St Breckans)

26: David Tubridy (Doonbeg) for McGann (21)
18: Podge Collins (Cratloe) for Russell (39)
21: Emmet McMahon (Kildysart) for Sweeney (39)
17: Sean Collins (Cratloe) for Kelly (50)
19: Gavin Cooney (Éire Óg) for Sexton (66)

Referee: Conor Lane (Cork)

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