CLARE..............5 32 LAOIS...............0-12
By Michael O Connor.
A game to forget for those looking for a contest was the fear for what transpired to be a sizable attendance of 5,518 for this round 1 qualifier in Cusack Park on Saturday evening. The oddsmakers who were stung later for the first goalscorer after unsure information from media outlets offered Clare at even money at -17 points. As it turned out they could have offered -34 and still pundits would have won such was the paucity of Cheddar Plunett's charges.
Clare were forced to change regular net minder Patrick Kelly who suffered a ligament leg injury as Whitegate's Andrew Fahy made his senior inter county championship debut. The Whitegate man was in goal when Clare won the 2011 Intermediate All Ireland crown. Conor McGrath was also ruled out and he was replaced by Aron Shanagher as the bookies had Clare marked up for the easiest of wins. There was little change other wise to the Clare side from earlier outings in the league and championship as David McInerney who earlier in the season was touted to be missing most of the year was in for the start. Darach Honan who disappointed in championship action was untogged along with a multitude of panellists.
Charles Dwyer was on hand with the first score after 5 seconds as Aron Shanagher saw a goal effort saved then the rebound going wide. As Tony Kelly was now on frees due to the absence of McGrath the expectancy was there for a bountiful return from the Ballyea sharpshooter. He didnt fail in this regard and was on the mark after three minutes for Clare's first score. Clare hit two wides before David Reidy saw his effort saved on the line but Shane O Donnell who had a barren time in front of goal all season poked the rebound to the net in the 5th minute. Laois possess for the last half decade one of the best forwards in hurling in the person of Willie Hyland and a lot of what they play goes through the Clough Ballacolla man. Laois goalkeeper Enda Rowland was on hand to send over a long range free after nine minutes before PJ Scully added another Laois free after 12 minutes as Clare failed to score from the 5th to the 14th minute when once again Tony Kelly converted the easiest of frees. One of the best scores of the day fell to Podge Collins after 15 minutes before John Conlon and Tony Kelly added further points by the end of the first quarter to open up a five point lead.
Clare forward striking was causing distress for the Clare management as long ball to nowhere or no one in particular and against better opponents scores would have been conceded such was the possession giveaway. Willie Dunphy responded with a Laois point after Conor Cleary failed to clear the ball in front of goal. David McInerney (2), Neil Foyle, Tony Kelly (2) and Conor Cleary were all point scorers by the 30th minute as the home side were stretching clear on a (1-10) to (0-5) lead. The last five minutes of the half ended all hope of an entertaining second half as Clare stepped up a gear on the field adding (1-4) without reply. Colm Galvin (2), Tony Kelly and John Conlon took the point chances as Aron Shanagher hit the first of his eventual hat trick to leave Clare 15 clear, (2-14) to (0-5) ahead at the break.
Clare did the basics right and any real analysis on the game would hinge on a woeful Laois effort and perhaps 15 minutes of the first half that saw Clare malfunction in the scoring stakes. Clare supporters all over the ground engaged themselves on their phones for the second half regaling friends with updates from Pairc Ui Rinn instead of watching the game. Clare hit Laois hard for eight points in a row in the opening ten minutes of the second half to open up a mammoth 23 point lead with Tony Kelly (3), Shane O Donnell, Davy McInerney, Podge Collins, Aron Shanagher and Conor Cleary on target. Willie Hyland broke up the scoring sequence before Tony Kelly, Cathal O Connell (who replaced Kelly) and two Shanagher goals sunk Laois deeper into the mire and 29 points behind. Laois goalkeeper Enda Rowland who was in this scribe's opinion his sides best player denied Clare at least three goals and scored two points from frees into the bargain. Mark Kavanagh, Matt Whelan and Willie Hyland (2) rounded off the Leinster sides scoring as Clare still managed a further (1-6) as Podge Collins had his sides 5th and final goal as Laois ended with 13 players as Charlie Dwyer and Ben Conroy both received two yellow cards during the game.
Best for the winners included Shane O Donnell, Tony Kelly, Aron Shanagher, David McInerney, Cian Dillon, Pat O Connor, Colm Galvin, Cathal O Connell and Conor Cleary. Enda Rowland, Patrick Purcell, Willie Hyland, Cahir Healy until injury forced his removal and Charles Dwyer tried hardest for Laois
CLARE: Andrew Fahey (Whitegate), Cian Dillon (Crusheen), Patrick O’Connor (Tubber), Oisin O’Brien (Clonlara), Jack Browne (Ballyea), David McInerney (Tulla) (0-3), Brendan Bugler (Whitegate), Conor Cleary (Kilmaley) (0-2), David Reidy (Éire Óg), John Conlon (Clonlara) (0-2), Padraic Collins (Cratloe) (1-3), Colm Galvin (Clonlara)(0-2), Tony Kelly (Ballyea) (0-10), Shane O’Donnell (Éire Óg) (1-3), Aron Shanagher (Wolfe Tones)(3-1).
Subs: David Fitzgerald for McInerney, Shane Golden (0-1) for Reidy, Seadna Morey for Cleary, Cathal O Connell for Kelly, Colin Ryan for Conlon,
LAOIS: Enda Rowland (0-2), Dwane Palmer, Cahir Healy, Leigh Bergin, Matt Whelan (0-1), Ryan Mullaney, Patrick Purcell, Colm Stapleton, Charles Dwyer (0-2), Neil Foyle (0-1), Ben Conroy, John Lennon, Willie Hyland (0-3), Pj Scully (0-1), Willie Dunphy (0-1). Subs: Ross King for Leigh Bergin (inj), Mark Kavanagh for Scully, Darren Maher for Stapleton, Joe Phelan for Willie Dunphy,
Refere: Barry Kelly (Westmeath)