First ever All-Ireland quarter-final awaits Clare footballers

First ever All-Ireland quarter-final awaits Clare footballers

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Jamie Malone powers past the Roscommon defence. Pic: Martin Connolly
Jamie Malone powers past the Roscommon defence. Pic: Martin Connolly

Clare have booked their place in the quarter-finals of the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship for the first time in the County’s history.

Clare 2-12
Roscommon 1-09
Venue: Pearse Stadium

Páraic McMahon reports from Pearse Stadium.

A commanding first half display laid the foundations for Clare as overcame the challenge of Roscommon with six points to spare.

While it was the Connacht side that were first to register early scores once Clare struck the back of the net with a David Tubridy strike their belief and confidence grew and with it the noise from the travelling supporters. This is a milestone win for Colm Collins’ men, they are through to the All-Ireland quarter-finals for the first time in the County’s history but in doing so they defeated a Division 1 but not just that they dominated a Division 1 team.

They were presented with a glorious chance one minute into the game when Dean Ryan opted to pass to Keelan Sexton instead of fisting over the bar, Sexton’s effort tailed to the left and wide as he attempted to palm the ball to the net. Roscommon opened their scoring with two unanswered points via Ciaráin Murtagh and Enda Smith.

Captain Gary Brennan was the first Clare player to get on the scoreboard, it was fitting that as ever the Clondegad man would lead the way for the Banner. A minute later, David Tubridy struck to the back of the net in a move that was well-worked by Eoin Cleary and Jamie Malone.

Once more the Rossies hit two points on the trot. A run from Gary Brennan resulted in a score from Dean Ryan as the Ennis man wisely handpassed the ball over the crossbar on the thirteenth minute, this was followed by Tubridy’s first point of the game a minute later.

Donie Shine and Shane Mullooly raised white flags for the beaten Connacht finalists to put the sides on level terms with nineteen minutes played. Clare went back in front as Eoin Cleary kicked between the posts, this was a score created by Gary Brennan as the St Flannans schoolteacher weaved through the opposing defence before offloading to the Miltown sharpshooter.

They took momentum from this and a move straight from the training ground was finished to the back of Darren O’Malley’s net with a Jamie Malone goal. It started with Sean Collins and he kicked a perfect ball in space to Keelan Sexton who handpassed to Cleary, he danced past some defenders and observed how Malone had timed his run, once the Corofin man hit fifth gear he had the ball and before long it was booted to the back of the net.

Tubridy and Cleary added points as did Niall Kilroy before the half-time whistle which saw the men sporting their alternative blue kit leading 2-06 0-07 at the break.

Scores were harder to come by in the second half but the search for drama wasn’t as difficult. With just over two minutes played, Clare were reduced to fourteen men as Pádraig Hughes gave Cathal O’Connor his marching orders for a high tackle.

Finding themselves a man down with a five point advantage, Clare needed a score to settle themselves and they got it via the boot of Eoin Cleary as he pointed a free two minutes after the sending off. Full-back Sean Mullooly was awarded a second yellow card for a foul on Podge Collins which left both teams with fourteen men.

The next score came fourteen minutes later as Roscommon cut the gap significantly as Enda Smith was on the end of an attack to tap the ball to the back of Joe Hayes’ goal. They hit the score from substitute Diarmaid Murtagh but Cleary got Clare’s second score of the half with sixty one minutes played.

Enda Smith almost had a second goal for the side joint managed by Fergal O’Donnell and Kevin McStay but his shot went wide. Shane McGrath won the Clare kickout and worked the ball up the field, the Garda travelled the length of the field mixing the play with Sean Collins and McGrath struck between the posts to put four points between them. Conor Devaney and Eoin Cleary traded scores as the game entered additional time. As he’s already done this season, Miltown’s Seánie Malone added another white flag to seal Clare’s place in the last eight.

Off the back of a heavy beating six days ago, it was never going to be easy for Roscommon to set the world alight. This was a game for them to come out swinging and they didn’t. They struggled to defend when their counterparts ran at them and struggled to track the runners for the two goals shipped. They were dominant when it came to kickouts, only losing four of their own over the course of the game. The Rossies can have no complaints with this one as they were second best for the majority of the game and they only got four points from play.

The first half performance that Colm Collins’ men produced was as good as any from a football team representing Clare in the one hundred and thirty two years of the sport. Gary Brennan was simply outstanding in the middle of the field, giving an exhibition and putting himself in contention for an All-Star. Kevin Hartnett at full-back was superb, Dean Ryan, Jamie Malone and Sean Collins did well also.

Concentration levels dropped in the second half and Clare only kicked five points in the forty two minutes of the half. To prolong their season a full seventy minutes is required. Against a strong breeze in the first thirty five it was difficult to win Joe Hayes’ kickouts but they played smart and timed their runs with Gary Brennan and Pearse Lillis particularly effective at this. Momentum is with the side and crucially they believe they can go progress and for all of us watching them is an absolute treat.

Clare: Joe Hayes (Lissycasey); Shane Hickey (Kilmurry Ibrickane), Kevin Hartnett (Meelick), Martin McMahon (Kilmurry Ibrickane); Dean Ryan (Éire Óg) (0-01), Gordon Kelly (St Josephs Miltown), Cian O’Dea (Kilfenora), Gary Brennan (Clondegad) (0-01), Cathal O’Connor (Coolmeen), Sean Collins (Cratloe), Jamie Malone (Corofin) (1-00), Eoin Cleary (St Josephs Miltown) (0-06 2f 1’45); Pearse Lillis (Cooraclare), David Tubridy (Doonbeg) (1-02 1f), Keelan Sexton (Kilmurry Ibrickane). Subs: Podge Collins (Cratloe) for Tubridy (46), Shane McGrath (Thomas Davis) (0-01) for Lillis (55), Enda Coughlan (Kilmurr Ibrickane) for Sexton (60), Seánie Malone (St Josephs Miltown) (0-01) for Cleary (72), Pat Burke (Kilmacud Crokes) for S Collins (74), Damien Burke (Cooraclare) for Malone (75).

Roscommon: Darren O’Malley (Michael Glaveys); Sean McDermott (Western Gaels), Sean Mullooly (Strokestown) (0-01), Niall McInerney (St Brigids); John McManus (Roscommon Gaels), Niall Daly (Padraig Pearses), David Murray (Padraig Pearses); Cathal Compton (Strokestown), David Keenan (St Barry’s); Ultan Harney (Clann na nGael), Niall Gilroy (Fuerty) (0-01), Enda Smith (Boyle) (1-01); Cathal Cregg (Western Gaels), Donie Shine (Clann na nGael) (0-01 1f), Ciaráin Murtagh (St Faithleach’s) (0-03 3f). Subs: Thomas Corcoran (Strokestown) for Compton (31), Kevin Higgins (Western Gaels) for Harney (HT), Cian Connolly (Roscommon Gaels) for Murtagh (HT), Diarmuid Murtagh (St Faithleach’s) (0-01 1f) for Cregg (42), Conor Devaney (Kilbride) (0-01) for Higgins (44) (BC), Fintan Cregg (Elphin) for Shine (67).

Referee: Padraig Hughes (Armagh)

All photos by Martin Connolly

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