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*Clare’s Ciarán Russell. Photograph: John Mangan

Clare’s senior footballers have picked up their first win of the 2020 Allianz National Football League campaign and a vital two points.

Clare 0-11
Kildare 0-10
Venue: Cusack Park, Ennis

A week on from their first round defeat to Westmeath, Clare’s display was much improved and their victory was fully warranted. Shot selection was identified as the main disappointment in that loss, it was worked on all week and only four wides were kicked by the men in Saffron and Blue in comparison to seven the week previous.

Kilrush Shamrocks’ Gearoid O’Brien was given a starting spot ahead of Gavin Cooney and contributed three points over the seventy minutes. Kildare playing with the aid of a breeze failed to make the most of it in the opening half and found themselves heading in on level terms at half-time. They did so minus a man as Paul Cribbin had been sent to the sin-bin, with an extra man Clare added just a single score.

Jack O’Connor’s visitors regained the lead on the restart with two Kevin Feely white flags. An O’Brien double brought the Banner on an equal footing seven minutes later.

Clare first stuck their noses ahead on fifty one minutes when captain Eoin Cleary split the posts. Their task was aided when Paddy Brophy was given his second yellow card and subsequent red reducing the visitors to fourteen men for the final thirteen minutes of normal time.

A well-worked team move involving Pearse Lillis, Stephen Ryan, Sean Collins, Gordon Kelly and Cleary was finished off by Keelan Sexton on sixty two minutes in what turned out to be their final score.

Kildare reduced the deficit to the minimum when Kevin Feely pointed a free. A nervy five minutes of additional time followed and despite coughing up frees, Colm Collins’ spirited side held on to pick up their first win of the campaign. For them, Keelan Sexton, Cian O’Dea and Ciarán Russell were immense.

Such was the importance of this win that it seemed almost like championship when one studied the reactions of Clare’s backroom team and panellists. For morale, a performance like this was needed after the flat outing against Westmeath but also for Division 2 survival, they needed to put two points on the table.

They worked on their weaknesses from the first round, the next area of improvement is in the air. When Cathal O’Connor was substituted, their aerial options became limited and as such it comes as no surprise that the majority of Stephen Ryan kick-outs were short. When the ball was on the ground, their hunger was evident and in this sector Russell and O’Dea reigned supreme.

As they made their way out of the Cusack Park stands, Kildare supporters roared the Clare FM microphone as Joe Garry was giving his analysis, “ye can thank the referee” one annoyed fan shouted, “it will be a long journey home to Kildare” came the response from Garry. They lacked some electricity up front and only Jack Robinson’s fifth minute score showed them really taking on their opposing defenders.

Scorers Clare: K Sexton (0-04), G O’Brien (0-03), E Cleary (0-03 1f), D Tubridy (0-01 1f).

Scorers Kildare: K Feely (0-04 3f), P Brophy (0-02), N Flynn (0-02 2f), J Robinson (0-01), N Kelly (0-01)

1: Stephen Ryan (Kilrush Shamrocks)

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

5: Sean Collins (Cratloe)
6: Pearse Lillis (Cooraclare)
7: Dean Ryan (Na Fianna, Dublin)

8: Ciarán Russell (Kilmacud Crokes, Dublin)
9: Cathal O’Connor (Coolmeen)

12: Dermot Coughlan (Kilmurry Ibrickane)
15: Keelan Sexton (Kilmurry Ibrickane)
24: Gearoid O’Brien (Kilrush Shamrocks)

11: Eoin Cleary (St Josephs Miltown)
14: David Tubridy (Doonbeg)
10: Cian O’Dea (Kilfenora)

20: Emmet McMahon (Kildysart) for O’Connor (51)
23: Cormac Murray (St Josephs Miltown) for Coughlan (58)
17: Eoghan Collins (Ballyhaunis, Mayo) for Ryan (71)

1: Mark Donnellan (Maynooth)

2: Peter Kelly (Two Mile House)
3: Mick O’Grady (Celbridge)
19: Eoin Doyle (Naas)

5: Con Kavanagh (Sarsfields)
6: Johnny Byrne (Allenwood)
7: Shea Ryan (Sarsfields)

9: Liam Power (Raheens)
8: Kevin Feely (Athy)

12: Paul Cribbin (Johnstownbridge)
11: Niall Kelly (Athy)
10: Paddy Brophy (Celbridge)

15: Neil Flynn (Maynooth)
14: Daniel Flynn (Johnstownbridge)
13: Jack Robinson (Clogherinkoe)

17: Kevin Flynn (Celbridge) for P Kelly (22)
21: Keith Cribbin (Johnstownsbridge) for Flynn (HT)
22: Jimmy Hyland (Ballyteague) for Robinson (45)
24: Adam Tyrrell (Moorefield) for Cribbin (55)
23: John Tracey (Straffan) for N Kelly (63)

Referee: Barry Judge (Sligo)

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