By Michael O Connor.
Four goals on the minus side for Clare, yet five points up and in control but not dominant, that ultimately allowed Dublin to stay in touch before delivering the killer blow to end Clare’s interest in the All Ireland championship once more at the semi final stage. Clare can have little complaint. They had the scores, the chances for more scores but were unsure in the high ball and this cost dearly.
Form lines of uncertainty about how the game would go hung over the fixture. Were Clare good enough to reach the decider after losing twice as many suggested that Dublin’ Leinster final win against Wexford was devalued by the ease Galway dismantled the Slaneysiders in the quarter final.
The opening score went to Cian Boland after Brian Carey failed to control the ball in the first minute. This was quickly matched by Eire-og’s Shane O Donnell to settle the Clare nerves at headquarters for the third year in a row at this stage. A wonderful long distance point by Jamie Shanahan suggested that the Sixmilebridge man was back to something like his best to put Clare a point up after only two minutes.
Bobby Duggan with the first of a number of frees kept the pressure on Dublin who were finding Clare difficult but still not conceding any real tally of scores. Dublin had a chance of a free yet sent the effort wide after Shane O Brien fouled. Dublin centre back Robert Murphy who started well overcarried the ball allowing Bobby Duggan his second score after 9 minutes as Clare sneaked three clear.
A second missed free from Paul Winters let Clare off the hook and when Jamie Shanahan pointed a free from half way Clare were definitely in the driving seat as Dublin had yet to even threaten a real goal chance. A penalty awarded when Shane Taylor was pulled back by Cian McGabhann was blasted to the Dublin net by Jamie Shanahan to surge Clare seven clear with only 15 minutes played. Dublin got back in the game when a lobbing ball by Conor McHugh was missed by Brian Carey and Eibhear Quilligan as Oisin O Rourke tipped the breaking ball to the net.
Jamie Shanahan did not let this unsettle him as he pointed from the puck out. Dublin hit back from a a fast ball sent in as Sean Treacy made no mistake. Dublin were by all appearances beginning to settle as Conor McHugh narrowed the Clare lead to a goal (1-6) to (1-3) after 19 minutes. A major let off for Clare when Quilligan saved from Caolan Conway only for Boland to pop over the rebound as now Dublin were only two in arrears and Clare were not as confident as in the first quarter. Shane Taylor hit back quick from play as the referee who was quick to award frees was giving Clare their fair share and this allowed Duggan to hit his third score.
Chaos was beginning to be the buzz word in the Clare square when the ball was sent in high and fast with Conor McHugh effective at this policy. This created the second Dublin score as McHugh set up Conway who caught brilliantly and blasted past Quilligan as Paul Winters was now at wing forward for Dublin. Clare, now ahead by the minimum as Clare pulled Bobby Duggan outfield but this was not really working for Clare. A smart handpass from Conroy allowed a great point from 70 yards by Shanahan restored a two point lead. Another free awarded to Clare was expertly pointed by Duggan for his fourth score. Cormac Costello hit back immediately for Dublin before once again Dublin naivety gave another scorable free to Duggan as this was really keeping Clare in the game and three clear. The final score of the half went to Paul Winters as Clare went in at the break (1-11) to (2-6).
Paul Winters was beginning to live up to his star billing and opened the scoring from a 31st minute free and the game was level when Winters set up Oisin O Rourke for the equaliser. Bobby Duggan with his 6th score slowed down the Dublin juggernaut as Clare once more were thankful for David Hughes whistle that gave Duggan a chance to score his seventh free and when Shanahan scored once more from play Clare had taken back a three point lead (1-14) to (2-8) five minutes into the second half.
Colm Cronin burst past four Clare men and from a narrow angle scored a wonderful point. The 9/4 on offer on Oisin O Donnell to score a goal anytime was reality for some punters as he delivered with a sharp effort past the Dublin keeper to send Clare (2-14) to (2-9) ahead after 42 minutes. This high scoring game now required a Dublin goal to give spectators a powerful last quarter. Sean McClelland who had a solid hour at left half back scored a huge effort from inside his own half and now the Dublin deficit was four with 15 minutes to play. Shane O Brien rugby tackled Oisin O Rourke as Dublin were awarded a penalty that was hit by Sean McClelland but saved by Gearoid Ryan. Paul Winters pointed the resulting 65 and now once more Clare were holding a nervous three point lead that was turned into four when Shane Taylor worked hard to score from 45 yards with nine minutes remaining. Jamie Shanahan who had been the dominant scoring force for Clare in the first half from play was now less involved as the tempo and the marking of Dublin increased markedly.
With the pressure that Dublin were putting on Clare for perhaps two minutes at a time before allowing Clare to respond one hoped from a Clare perspective that point for point would do Clare without concession of goals. How fateful that thought was. Donal Gormley who had missed most of the season through injury entered the fare and with his first touch scored for the city side. Clare hit back with an excellent crossfield ball by Bobby Duggan that found Taylor who scored with ease. Clare were now four clear but rocked to the core when Colm Cronin found the net after the Clare defence opened up. When Cian Boland got the equaliser in the 56th minute Clare would gladly have taken a draw from this tie.
Conor McHugh put Dublin a point up only for David Conroy with a truly excellent effort to give one last kick from Clare to equalise once more at (3-14) to (2-17). A point that wasn’t give or whatever one thinks for oneself controversy materialised but in the end it was no score for Clare. The last action of the game saw Jamie Shanahan harshly cautioned by the referee resulting in a Dublin free. Paul Winters floated in the free and as everyone watched it Oisin O Rourke ran across the square and flicked the ball to the net and Clare were on their way home, beaten for the third time in this years championship.
CLARE: Eibhear Quilligan, Shane O Brien, Brian Carey, Gearoid Ryan, Aidan McGuane, Conor Cleary, Eoin Quirke, David Conroy (0-1), Jamie Shanahan (1-4), Shane Taylor (0-3), Alex Morey, Aidan O Gorman, Bobby Duggan (0-7), Niall Deasy (0-1), Shane O Donnell (1-1). Subs: Conor Deasy for Morey, Stephen Ward for Deasy
DUBLIN: Cian MacGabhann, Shane Barrett, Cian O Callaghan, Eric Lowndes, Eoghan O Donnell, Robert Murphy, Sean McClelland (0-1), Cormac Costello (0-1), Colm Cronin (1-1), Conor McHugh(0-2), Sean Treacy (0-1), Caolan Conway (1-0), Paul Winters (0-3), Cian Boland (0-3), Oisin O Rourke (1-1). Subs: Donal Gormley (0-1) for Treacy.
Referee: David Hughes (Carlow).