By Michael O Connor.
Clare are back with a bang in the NHL as a consequence of a hard earned two point win over Galway who travelled to Ennis on the back of a solid win over the All Ireland champions in Round 1. Few gave Clare much real hope and whilst they lived dangerously with Galway going close on at least five occasions the win went to the team who were by and far the better side for over 40 minutes of this round 2 clash
Andrew Smith was suspended for the Tribesmen’s opening game of the season when they defeated All Ireland champions Kilkenny. He took Aidan Harte's place in midfield, while Colm Callanan startedf ahead of Fergal Flannery in goal. The Clare side showed a number of positional changes and two personnel changes from the opening round loss. James McInerney and Fergal Lynch were replaced by Nicky O Connell and Conor Ryan with Seadna Morey moving to corner back.
A number of starters were also in action for their clubs in the county under 21 championship the day previous to further compound selection issues for the Clare management. It was a game of huge importance for both sides as a further defeat for Clare would consign them into the relegation final and a win for Galway would ease their path considerably to the league knock out stages. The reverse results would put both teams on a par entering round 3 of the league.
Tension was apparent with little happiness on the countenances of both managements prior to throw in and after three minutes the Galway management had more reason to be unhappy with Clare two clear after successful efforts from Colin Ryan and Shane O Donnell. Damien Hayes saw his effort for goal saved by Clare netminder Patrick Kelly in one of the coldest and wettest days in Cusack Park for many a day.
Galway got on the scoreboard through Joe Canning who was well crowded out at centre forward for the first quarter. Colin Ryan and Padraig Collins added further Clare scores to send the home side three clear. Galway hit back with three in as many minutes from Canning (2) and David Glennon to level proceedings. With the aid of a strong breeze Clare needed to be well ahead of Galway entering the second half. David Glennon and Johnny Glynn were giving the Clare rearguard a torrid time but crucially were not adding scores despite a number of close shaves for the home side. Clare, through four Colin Ryan scores (3 frees) and a second Padraig Collins raced Clare (0-9) to (0-4) clear as Damien Hayes hit the ball wide from an eminently scorable position as Clare were let off the hook. Niall Donoghue, Tony Kelly (2), Joe Canning (3) and Colin Ryan were the scorers in the last 12 minutes of the first half to see Clare (0-12) to (0-8) ahead at the break but far from assured that success would be confirmed come the long whistle.
With the aid of the wind and elements in the second half many were expecting Galway to blitz Clare early on but in the final analysis the opening three scores that fell to Clare proved to be the cushion that they required late on when on the backfoot. John Conlon (2) and Colin Ryan surged Clare seven points clear before Aidan Harte broke the scoring streak only for Conlon to hit the target once more. With Galway (0-16) to (0-9) in arrears they badly needed a run of scores and it came in the shape of Canning (1-2) and Andrew Smith on target to leave Galway just behind by the minimum. Both sides began to empty their benches as Tony Kelly restored a two point lead. The defining moment of the game that won and lost it for both sides was a body block by Patrick Kelly in the 59th minute from David Glennon after he was set up by Aidan Harte and Jonathan Glynn. Dynamic sub Fergal Lynch had the final score of the game for Clare before a late flurry of activity in front of the home side goal resulted in just a solitary Joe Canning pointed free to leave the Clare players and management celebrate in a mood reminiscent of summer time championship fare.
Best for Clare were Patrick Kelly, Domhnall O Donovan, David McInerney, Colin Ryan, Conor Ryan Nicky O Connell, Padraig Collins in the first half and John Conlon in the second half. Galway had good display’s when they got their collective displays working in harmony from Joe Canning, Joe Cooney, David Glennon, Jonathan Glynn, Kevin Hynes, Over the 70 minutes apart from Joe Canning the other 5 starting Galway forwards managed 1 point.
CLARE: Patrick Kelly, Domhnall O Donovan, David McInerney, Seadna Morey, Brendan Bugler, Pat Donnellan, Patrick O Connor, Conor Ryan, Nicky O Connell, Colin Ryan (0-8), Tony Kelly (0-3), Enda Barrett, Padraig Collins (0-2), Shane O Donnell (0-1), John Conlon (0-3). Subs: Fergal Lynch (0-1) for Barrett, Darach Honan for O Donnell, Jonathan Clancy for Collin, Colm Galvin for Conor Ryan.
GALWAY: Colm Callanan, Johnny Coen, Kevin Hynes, Fergal Moore, Niall Donoghue (0-1), Joseph Cooney, David Collins, Iarlaith Tannian, Andrew Smyth (0-1), Johnny Glynn, Tadgh Haran, Davy Glennon (0-1), Niall Healy, Joe Canning (1-9), Damian Hayes. Subs: Aidan Harte (0-1) for Haran, Shane Moloney for Healy, Brian Flaherty for Smith.
Referee: Colm Lyons (Cork).