Dublin 2-22 Clare 0-15
All-Star midfielder Alan McCrabbe struck eight points as Dublin accounted for Clare’s young guns at a rain-sodden Croke Park.
McCrabbe's haul included two superb sideline cuts, but the turning point was a speculative 45th minute goal from Dublin's Peter Kelly whose long delivery in was missed by goalkeeper Donal Tuohy.
The Clare net minder's mistake in failing to deal with the dropping ball saw the Dubs move back into a four-point lead at 1-14 to 0-13 and they never looked back, a second goal from substitute Simon Lambert putting the seal on the Metropolitans' first ever All-Ireland SHC qualifier win.
It was a special moment for their manager Anthony Daly who had a wry smile at the finish. Emotions were sure to be running high for both managers as Daly, facing his native county, came up against his former Clare colleague, Ger ‘Sparrow’ O’Loughlin.
Daly is in his second year in the capital, O’Loughlin his first as Banner boss, and it showed in the end as the extra development and work under the current managerial team helped Dublin prevail in a game which they might have lost in previous years.
Having opened up a 0-14 to 0-7 lead at half-time, Clare came hard at Daly’s men with a rousing display in the early part of the second half. Points from Colin Ryan, Nicky O’Connell, Darach Honan and Fergal Lynch whittled the gap down to the minimum and it was anyone’s game.
Unfortunately for Clare, Tuohy’s lapse allowed Dublin to regain control and with O’Callaghan and McCrabbe being afforded too much space, the contest was over with that second goal in the 66th minute.
Daly brought Peadar Carton and Declan O’Dwyer into a reshuffled Dublin attack, from the one that lined out against Kilkenny in the recent Leinster semi-final. Domhnall O’Donovan started in place of Nicky O’Connell for Clare, although O’Connell was introduced for injured corner back Pat Vaughan after just 17 minutes.
Up to the 18th minute, the sides seemed evenly matched. Locked level at 0-4 apiece, Dublin had opening points from McCrabbe (0-2), O’Callaghan and Stephen Hiney, while Clare’s scores arrived from the hurleys of John Conlon, Fergal Lynch, Colin Ryan and Sean Collins.
Clare were struggling to garner possession from puck-outs, Joey Boland claiming a couple of notable balls for Dublin, and O’Dwyer also impressed when setting up team captain Hiney’s point on the quarter-hour.
Dublin went on to dominate the remainder of the first half, scoring nine points in succession before Clare got a chance to reply. McCrabbe started the run, taking a pass from the prominent Liam Rushe, and O’Dwyer, operating in a deeper role, added another for a 0-6 to 0-4 lead.
The best of the lot was wing forward Peter Kelly’s inspirational catch and point from 100 yards out. With Vaughan’s presence clearly missed, the Clare backs struggled to keep tabs on O’Callaghan and Rushe and scores followed from O’Callaghan (0-4), Shane Durkin and McCrabbe. ‘Dotsy’ had six on the board by half-time.
O’Callaghan’s sixth was sandwiched by late Clare scores from Conlon, who snaffled his side’s first point in 16 minutes, substitute O’Connell and Jonathan Clancy.
Seven points adrift at half-time, Clare had a mountain to climb but credit to the younger players, including eight from last year’s All-Ireland Under-21 winning side, they mustered a terrific response.
Ryan kicked things off with a free and points from play from O’Connell and Honan, who broke onto a loose ball to bat over off his left, confirmed Clare’s improvement. They were winning more puck-outs and a second Lynch point had the Dubs’ lead down to three.
Dublin goalkeeper Gary Maguire stood firm to deflect a rasping shot from Honan out for a ‘65’ which Ryan duly pointed. Centre-forward Conlon tagged on his third point to increase the pressure on Daly’s side at 0-14 to 0-13.
But when Tuohy misjudged the flight of Kelly’s delivery in towards the Clare square and the ball cleared everyone to nestle in the back of the Clare net, Dublin got back in the groove. McCrabbe showed his class with a textbook sideline cut from the right and followed up with his sixth point of the encounter.
When Maurice O’Brien finished a good run with a point, Dublin’s seven-point advantage had been restored. Lambert and McCrabbe, with his second sideline cut, cancelled out a Clancy effort for Clare, and then O’Callaghan’s impish run and batted pass set up Lambert for a powerful 66th minute shot to the net and it was a case of game over.
Rushe and Brendan Bugler added their names to the scoresheet before Maguire bravely stooped low to save a stinging goal-bound shot from Clancy and Dublin had the final say in injury-time, as McCrabbe pulled first time on a breaking ball on the ground to point from play and Hiney did likewise in less spectacular fashion.
Clare’s summer run is over, but Dublin are now dreaming of a phase 3 qualifier win – Antrim or Tipperary will be their opponents – and a shot at redemption in the All-Ireland quarter-finals. They lost in the quarters to Limerick last year.