All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Qualifiers Round 2 – Laois 3-17 Clare 0-10

Micko’s managerial reign reaches inevitable end as Clare fail to fire

By Ewan MacKenna for the Irish Examiner newspaper

Clare 0-10 Laois 3-17

On this day of all days, perhaps it’s best to leave the first words to the greatest. “It was a difficult way to finish up, but the lads did their best against a very good side. But I took this on for one year only and that has ended now. That is it. I won’t say any more beyond that.” And with that, the speculation was flung about like a beach ball and journalists rushed for laptops to type up tributes. If it was the end of Mick O’Dwyer, and not just his time in Clare, it wasn’t befitting as a couple of moments off the field showed you just what he was up against here. Long before the start, some stewards hanging around the press box were asked about what he’d done for the county. “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” was the stark reply. If that was bad, the exodus at the end of the hurling was worse, as yellow and blue evacuated, leaving the greyness of the terracing in its place. “We’ll leave these fools to their basketball,” one fan said as he rushed for the gates.

If he’d hung around a little longer, he would have seen a decent effort from his county for a half-hour. At that point, they led 0-6 to 0-2, Rory Donnelly kicking two outstanding points while David Tubridy, as always, kept his side ticking along. In attack, Laois lacked movement; passing and shooting were awful (11 wides in the half), they struggled physically and the defence lacked intensity, allowing Clare to eke out scores with safe hand-passing moves.

Little did we know at that point, but Laois had tricked us. It was like the child trying to get into a car, only each time he reached the door the adult laughed and hit the accelerator. A Darren Strong point before the break started it, then Donie Kingston fed John O’Loughlin for a goal and at the interval they somehow led 1-7 to 0-6. That broke the home spirit. Soon after the break Strong set up David Conway to hit the net and, in a 16-minute spell, Laois had outscored their opponents 2-9 to 0-0. The towel thrown in, Ross Munnelly added another goal as all eyes turned to the sidelines.

“They just didn’t seem to be able to get their teeth into the second half,” said Justin McNulty. “We got the first goal and got a bit of momentum. Clare just couldn’t recover. I suppose the extra game helped us but when a team starts to build confidence, that’s critical. Once a team realises that, that’s when they start to get results. Also we know we have got major improvements to make.” But the last word can only be about one man. “It’ll be a huge gap,” said McNulty of his counterpart. “Micko has had some career and he can retire with dignity, whenever that time comes. Now might not even be that time.”

Scorers for Clare: D Tubridy 0-6 (5f), R Donnelly 0-2, G Kelly 0-1, S Ryan 0-1.

Scorers for Laois: R Munnelly 1-4 (3f), J O’Loughlin 1-1, D Strong 0-3, D Conway 1-0, C Begley, D Kingston(1f) 0-2 each, K Lillis, P Clancy, C Meredith, E Costello (f), T Shiel (f) 0-1 each.

CLARE: Joe Hayes; Gordan Kelly, L Healy, M McMahon; D Callinan, John Hayes, Graham Kelly; G Quinlan, C O’Connor; S McGrath, I McInerney, A Clohessy; D Tubridy, G Brennan, R Donnelly.

Subs for Clare: C Dunning for Clohessy (h-t); C Dixon for G Kelly (h-t); S Ryan for McGrath (48); J Keane for O’Connor (60); P McMahon for Brennan (63).

LAOIS: E Culliton; P O’Leary, M Timmons, P Begley; D Strong, K Lillis, P McMahon; P Clancy, J O’Loughlin; B Sheehan, C Meredith, C Begley; R Munnelly, D Kingston, D Conway.

Subs for Laois: C Kelly for Kingston (46); E Costello for Kelly (51); D Booth for P Begley (53); C Boyle for Clancy (55); T Shiel for C Begley (57).

Referee: Conor Lane (Cork)

 

Laois 3-17 Clare 0-10

Report from the RTE.ie web site

Mick O’Dwyer stepped down as Clare manager after powerful periods immediately before and after half-time was enough to see Laois past his Clare side, 3-17 to 0-10, in round two of the qualifiers in Cusack Park, Ennis. O’Dwyer’s has decided not to seek a second year in charge of the Banner men on the back of this defeat.

Goals either side of the break from John O’Loughlin and David Conway set Laois on their way to victory, but they cut lose in the second-half, allowing Clare just four points in a stingy defensive display. Ten minutes before half-time Clare had led by four points after a strong opening period, but they failed to hit the target for the next 27 minutes until David Tubridy landed his fourth point. But by that stage Laois had the win secured and led by 2-12 to 0-07 after their forwards finally found the target after hitting ten wides in the first-half.

Initially Clare made plenty of progress by feeding direct ball into Ger Brennan, who once again braved a broken rib to line out for the Banner. He was involved in everything good that Clare did early on and, after his move to the edge of the square, the points began to flow for Clare. Darren Strong had given Laois the lead in the second minute, but Clare hit back with three in a row from David Tubridy (2) and a great score from Rory Donnelly in the ninth minute.

Laois looked in slight disarray at this juncture, especially when Tubridy and Donnelly found the target again to open their lead out to 0-05 to 0-02. It could have got a lot worse for the O’Moore men in the 25th minute when wing-back Graham Kelly charged down on goal, only for his blistering drive to clear the crossbar. But that’s where Clare’s positive day ended and Laois went on to hit 1-05 before and after half-time to end the contest. The key score arrive in the 31st minute when O’Loughlin finished smartly to the net after Donie Kingston’s clever pass over the top, but five minutes after the restart David Conway found the top corner for a splendid goal to end any Clare hopes. David Tubridy kept Clare’s score respectable with three second-half frees but, late on, Munnelly palmed to the net form close range to crown the Laois win.

Laois: E Culliton; P O’Leary, M Timmons, P Begley; D Strong (0-03), K Lillis (0-01), P McMahon; J O’Loughlin (1-01), P Clancy (0-01); B Sheehan, C Meredith (0-01), C Begley (0-02); R Munnelly (1-03, 0-02f), D Kingston (0-02, 0-01f), D Conway (1-01).

Subs: C Kelly for Kingston (46 mins), E Costello (0-01, 0-01f) for Kelly (51 mins), D Booth for P Begley (53 mins), C Boyle for Clancy (55 mins), T Shiels (0-01, 0-01f) for C Begley (57 mins).

Clare: Joe Hayes; G Kelly, L Healy, M McMahon; D Callinan, John Hayes, G Brennan; G Quinlan, C O’Connor; S McGrath, I McInerney, A Clohessy; R Donnelly (0-02), G Kelly (0-01), D Tubridy (0-06, 0-05f).

Subs: C Dunning for Clohessy (h-t), C Dixon for G Kelly (h-t), S Ryan (0-01) for McGrath (48 mins), J Keane for O’Connor (60 mins), P McMahon for Brennan (63 mins).

Referee: Conor Lane (Cork)

Match Preview

Clare and Laois meet for the third time in the Qualifiers at Cusack Park on Saturday, where the footballers round off a double header of action in both codes between the counties.

In the very first year of the Qualifiers, back in 2001, Laois enjoyed a 0-13 to 1-6 Round 2 win over the Banner County at O’Moore Park, and then a year later repeated the dose when they ran out 1-19 to 1-6 winners at the same stage of the competition.

Clare performed very well in their Munster semi-final defeat to Cork, with midfielder Gary Brennan and corner back Martin McMahon standing out in a 1-20 to 1-11 defeat. Laois were soundly beaten by Louth in Leinster, but recovered very well to beat Carlow by 3-13 to 0-12 in Round 1 of the Qualifiers last week, despite being short four players who have left for the US for the summer.

Clare manager Mick O’Dwyer comes up against a county he managed from 2002 to 2006 and famously led to a Leinster title in 2003. However, the Kerry legend says he has little or no inside information on his former charges.

“I wouldn’t have much close knowledge, quite a lot of them are new players. I’d know about five or six of the team all right but the rest of them I wouldn’t know too much about,” he said.

“They played very well against Carlow, they’d a big win and they only came down from Division One recently. They’re above us and have plenty of experience playing top level teams but we’re looking forward to it.”