Clare close in on Offaly to score championship win

By Declan Rooney

Clare 3-26 Offaly 0-15

Clare picked up their first championship win in 22 months thanks to goals from Conor McGrath, John Conlon and Shane O'Donnell at Cusack Park.

Tony Kelly was the maestro for the Banner men and hit eight points, while Colm Galvin made a welcome comeback for the last seven minutes following his return from a three-month stint in America.

On the back of their eight-point defeat to Laois in the Leinster championship, this 20-point reversal is sure to trigger some inquiries in Offaly as the pressure will likely ramp up on manager Brian Whelehan.

Darach Honan fired Clare ahead after just 20 seconds and when Kelly pointed soon after it didn’t look good for Offaly.

Paddy Murphy got Offaly on the scoreboard in the second minute but them for 1-3 without reply.

The crucial goal came from the stick of McGrath, he slotted after Honan caught a high ball and provided the assist.

Clare led 1-5 to 0-1 before Joe Dooley struck for his first but when Tony Kelly got his second Clare were back six points in front.

They were dominating in every sector and the Offaly forwards had to live off scraps. Dooley kept them in it, he slotted four frees in the opening half but McGrath hit 1-3 for Clare.

Conlon got Clare’s final score of the first-half giving them a 1-13 to 0-9 lead at the interval, but with nine wides before he break the Banner management were surly not satisfied.

Whelehan introduced Sean Cleary at the interval and he made an immediate impact with a great score after 20 seconds, but any hopes of an Offaly comeback were dashed in the 37th minute when Conlon raced on to a long puckout and goaled past James Dempsey.

That score caused the flood gates to open as Clare went on to hit another goal and 13 points before referee James Keenan called a halt to the action. Centre back Conor Ryan got in on the action with two points in as many minutes – he hit a third later on – and Kelly showed his brilliance in the 41st minute with a wonderful point form play.

But the home side delivered the final nail in Offaly's coffin in the 44th minute, with Kelly at the heart of the move once more.

He carried well down the right wing, flicked the ball over the head of the approaching Offaly defender before laying the ball into O'Donnell's path. His first-time control let him down, but he recovered well and rattled a sweet ground stroke past the helpless James Dempsey.

Kelly went on to hit a total of eight points in a wonderful display which clinched Clare's first championship win since 2013.

Scorers for Clare: T Kelly 0-8 (2f), C McGrath 1-4, J Conlon 1-2, Colin Ryan (2f) Conor Ryan, D Honan 0-3, S O'Donnell 1-0, S Golden 0-2, P O'Connor 0-1.

Scorers for Offaly: S Dooley 0-6 (6f), S Kinsella 0-4, S Cleary 0-2, P Murphy, J Mulrooney, J Bergin 0-1.

Clare: P Kelly; D McInerney, C Dillon, S Morey; B Bugler, Conor Ryan, J Browne; P O’Connor, T Kelly; J Conlon, Colin Ryan, S Golden; C McGrath, S O’Donnell, D Honan.

Subs: D Reidy for Conlon (53), A Cunningham for O'Donnell (53), P Flanagan for Dillon (59), D O'Donovan for Browne (60), C Galvin for Honan (63).

Offaly: J Dempsey; D Shortt, N Wynne, D King; E Murphy, C Egan, G Conneely; E Nolan, J Mulrooney; P Murphy, D Currams, J Bergin; B Carroll, S Kinsella, S Dooley.

Subs: S Cleary for Nolan (35), S Ryan for Conneely (41), P Camon for Shortt (51), S Wynne for Currams (58), D Mooney for E Murphy (62), C Kiely for Egan (68).

Referee: John Keenan (Wicklow)

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