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Too close for comfort but Clare overcome Laois

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*Clare’s Ryan Taylor. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

Clare have narrowly overcome the challenge of Laois to secure their place in the second phase of the All-Ireland SHC qualifiers.

Clare 0-27
Laois: 3-17
Venue: UPMC Nowlan Park, Kilkenny

An improvement regarding spread of scorers was notable from Clare’s performance but it is an outing that certainly won’t strike fear into any potential opponents in this year’s championship.

Showing four changes to the side which suffered a ten point defeat to Limerick including championship debuts for Colin Guilfoyle and Paul Flanagan, Clare started well with David McInerney and Seadna Morey getting them out of the traps.

A block on Cathal Malone led to Ross King finding the back Eibhear Quilligan’s net but the Rathdowney man found it far too easy to get past the Banner defence. Mark Kavanagh added to Laois’ lead soon after before Clare levelled through two Tony Kelly scores.

Ryan Taylor helped his side regain the lead on sixteen minutes before King and Kelly traded scores. Clare then added three white flags on the trot, two via Kelly and a first championship point from Newmarket-on-Fergus’ Guilfoyle.

With five of the final six scores of the half coming from Clare men, it gave Brian Lohan’s charges a seven point advantage at the break. The dismissal of captain David McInerney on a straight red undoubtedly came as a blow and unless a successful appeal is mounted, the Tulla man will miss his county’s next outing. Their lead would have been greater were it not for two fantastic Enda Rowland saves to stop Ryan Taylor and later Shane O’Donnell from hitting the net.

Chief scorer Kelly was moved back to midfield on the restart as necessary changes were made on account of being down a man. It was a dream start for Laois who netted via a superb James Keyes finish to cut the deficit back to four points.

Three of the next four scores fell the way of Eddie Brennan’s men but an unanswered four point brace in the third quarter would allow Clare to build a lead that would prove difficult to relinquish. Laois finished the better and almost caused an upset with Aaron Dunphy also raiding for goal.

Ultimately though it would be errors throughout the game that hindered Laois, on too many occasions they were overturned on a standing strike and struggled to pick out the best pass. That said, their forward line caused Clare problems and they got great joy from ripping their opponents’ defence apart. James Keyes, Mark Kavanagh and Donnchadh Hartnett did best for the O’Moore men.

It was far from pretty but it was enough for Clare. The amount of scorers and puck-outs retained improved on the Limerick game but ultimately that was the bare minimum expected as Laois are not on the same level as the men from the Treaty County. The remainder of this campaign will give a strong indication as to where Lohan’s men rank among the top counties. On this day, Aron Shanagher, Rory Hayes and Shane O’Donnell were best for the winners while Tony Kelly had a key role on the scoring stakes.

Scorers Clare: Tony Kelly (0-13 9f), Aron Shanagher (0-03), Cathal Malone (0-02), Seadna Morey (0-02), David McInerney (0-02), Ryan Taylor (0-02), Colin Guilfoyle (0-01), Aidan McCarthy (0-01 1f), Rory Hayes (0-01).

Scorers Laois: Mark Kavanagh (0-06 3f 1SC), Ross King (1-02 2f), Aaron Dunphy (1-01), James Keyes (1-01), Patrick Purcell (0-02), Willie Dunphy (0-02), Jack Kelly (0-01), Podge Delaney (0-01), Ciaran McEvoy (0-01).

Clare:
1: Eibhear Quilligan (Feakle)

4: Paul Flanagan (Ballyea)
3: Conor Cleary (St Josephs Miltown)
2: Rory Hayes (Wolfe Tones)

5: Stephen O’Halloran (Clarecastle)
7: Seadna Morey (Sixmilebridge)
6: Aidan McCarthy (Inagh/Kilnamona)

11: David Reidy (Éire Óg)
8: David McInerney (Tulla)

10: Cathal Malone (Sixmilebridge)
9: Tony Kelly (Ballyea)
12: Colin Guilfoyle (Newmarket-on-Fergus)

14: Aron Shanagher (Wolfe Tones)
13: Shane O’Donnell (Éire Óg)
15: Ryan Taylor (Clooney/Quin)

Subs:
22: Shane Golden (Sixmilebridge) for Reidy (53)
17: Diarmuid Ryan (Cratloe) for Guilfoyle (56)
21: Gary Cooney (O’Callaghans Mills) for Taylor (61)
20: Aaron Cunningham (Wolfe Tones) for Shanagher (66)

Laois:
1: Enda Rowland (Abbeyleix)

2: Lee Cleeren (Clough/Ballacolla)
3: Sean Downey (Ballinakill)
4: Donnacha Hartnett (Mountmellick)

5: Jack Kelly (Rathdowney Erril)
6: Podge Delaney (The Harps)
7: Ryan Mullaney (Castletown)

8: Fiachra C-Fennell (Rosenallis)
18: Eric Killeen (Rathdowney Erril)

10: Aaron Dunphy (Borris-in-Ossory/Kilcotton)
11: Willie Dunphy (Clough/Ballacolla)
12: James Keyes (Raheen Parish Gaels)

13: Mark Kavanagh (Rathdowney Erril)
14: Ross King (Rathdowney Erril)
20: Colm Stapleton (Borris-in-Ossory/Kilcotton)

Subs:
9: Patrick Purcell (Rathdowney-Erril) for King (22) (Inj)
15: Stephen Maher (Clough/Ballacolla) for Kelly (HT)
19: Ciarán McEvoy (Portlaoise) for Killeen (48)
21: Conor Phelan (Castletown) for Downey (65)
25: Mark Hennessy (Clough/Ballacolla) for Maher (69)

Referee: Thomas Walsh (Waterford)

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, TheJournal.ie and The42.ie. A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to - paraic@clareecho.ie

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