ALL-IRELAND SHC QUARTER-FINAL:
Galway 2-14 Clare 1-23
It might be the most open All-Ireland championship ever but Clare remain the outsiders even after this character-building triumph, their third win on the trot.
And yet they appear to be the team learning most as they go on. Yesterday, they coolly and collectively brushed off Galway’s two attempts to stage a second-half comeback.
Compared to their qualifier win over Wexford at the same Thurles venue, when Jack Guiney’s late goal stung them before prevailed in extra-time, this was a far more mature performance.
When Jonathan Glynn soloed through and beat Patrick Kelly on his near side with a 49th minute goal to cut Clare’s lead to four, they scored five of the next seven scores to restore their seven-point lead by the 56th minute.
When Joe Canning pounced on Domhnall O’Donovan’s misplaced hand-pass to set up Niall Healy to finish to the roof of the net and Joe Cooney tagged on a point, Clare registered the following three points.
A Damien Hayes point in the last minute of normal time cut Galway’s deficit to four but man of the match Colin Ryan then cancelled it with one of his own before firing over his eighth free of the game.
Ryan’s marksmanship was key to Clare’s effort on a day when Canning was moved off free-taking responsibilities in the 57th minute after amassing four wides from placed balls (one from play) as well as hitting the post.
While he started well and was sharp to assist Healy for his goal, Canning has had several better afternoons in Semple Stadium.
Lazy analysis would point to his erratic shooting as the main tenet for Galway’s demise. As much as seeing their leader shoot some inexplicable wides would have impacted on Canning’s team-mates, Galway were poor in most departments.
Things were so bad at half-time, Galway trailing 1-12 to 0-8, that Anthony Cunningham and his management team made three changes. They were by far the poorer side and even with a sweeper in their defence, Clare were stretching them across the field and creating space with great effect.
Even when the totemic pair of Joe Cooney and Iarla Tannian were introduced, they were mismatched against the speedier pair of Ryan and Colm Galvin in the middle.
This was the curtain-raiser dressed up as the main event and for a long period in the first half, the atmosphere was relatively sedate compared to what had unfurled earlier in the afternoon, a lot of the Cork and Kilkenny support in the 33,383 crowd having left.
Clare played a large part in that too, silencing the Galway supporters in the latter part of the half having trailed in the opening exchanges.
Canning’s radar was good early on, sending over a free and a 65 in the first eight minutes to complement scores by Hayes and Aidan Harte. The scoring pattern was tit-for-tat at that stage, Ryan’s frees for Clare keeping them in touch and then John Conlon’s 10th minute point, when a goal looked on, levelled matters.
Hayes added his second in the 14th minute but it turned out to be the last time Galway were in the ascendancy on the scoreboard. A flurry of scores from Pádraic Collins, three in total, in seven minutes pushed Clare two ahead.
Then came their goal in the 23rd minute, Conor McGrath finishing expertly to Colm Callanan’s right and tucked nicely into the corner of the net. Five ahead, Clare added another four points before the break, two of them sandwiched between a pair of Canning frees.
The other brace came courtesy of a Ryan free and a Patrick O’Connor strike after Kelly was level to a Niall Burke goal attempt in the 30th minute. The end of the half also saw Brian Gavin issue Davy Fitzgerald with a stern warning for exchanging words with one of his linesmen.
It appeared the Offaly official was prepared to send the Clare manager to the stand if his behaviour was repeated but it was a calm Fitzgerald that emerged in the second half. He was eased by seeing Ryan widen the gap to eight in the first minute and then came a three-minute period which summed up Canning’s day.
After hitting a post with a free, he then sent the ball wide and was subsequently blocked in attempting a shot at the posts. To cap it off, he then conceded a free.
He was his usual self in posting a free in the 41st minute and then four minutes later, Glynn goaled. Galway were just three behind when substitute Cyril Donnellan pointed in the 50th minute but Clare pieced together a burst of points again, Ryan, Brendan Bugler and Tony Kelly all on the board.
The margin was reduced to two after Healy’s goal and Cooney’s point but Clare absorbed it, Collins delivering a fine score after showing great skill soloing the ball down the left wing.
Substitutes Fergal Lynch and Nicky O’Connell then got in on the act to steady Clare’s ship prior to Ryan’s late brace.
This wasn’t a lead they were going to surrender.
Scorers for Clare: C Ryan (0-10, eight frees), C McGrath (1-2), P Collins (0-4), J Conlon, D Honan, P O’Connor, B Bugler, T Kelly, F Lynch, N O’Connell (0-1 each).
Scorers for Galway: J Canning (0-7, five frees, one 65), D Hayes (0-3), J Glynn, N Healy (1-0 each), A Harte, C Donnellan, D Burke (free), J Cooney (0-1 each).
CLARE: P Kelly; D O’Donovan, C Dillon, D McInerney; B Bugler, P Donnellan, P O’Connor; Colin Ryan, C Galvin; J Conlon, P Collins, Conor Ryan; C McGrath, D Honan, T Kelly.
Subs for Clare: F Lynch for J Conlon (55), N O’Connell for T Kelly, S O’Donnell for D Honan (both 48), C McInerney for C McGrath (69), S Morey for C Galvin (70+1).
GALWAY: C Callanan; K Hynes, F Moore, D Collins; J Coen, J Grealish, S Kavanagh; A Harte, A Smith; D Burke, J Glynn, C Cooney; N Burke, J Canning, D Hayes.
Subs for Galway: I Tannian for A Smith, J Cooney for J Coen, D Glennon for C Cooney (all ht), C Donnellan for N Burke (48), N Healy for A Harte (60).
Referee: Brian Gavin (Offaly).