Clare live up to favourites label

Clare 5-21 Down 0-09, Cusack Park

Clare justified their heavy favourites’ tag as they scored a comprehensive 5-21 to 0-09 victory over Down in their NHL Division 1A opener in Ennis this afternoon.

Anthony Daly’s side, 1/80 on to beat the Mourne men, eased out to a big win as Éire Óg corner forward Barry Nugent (2-04) and Inagh centre forward Tony Carmody (1-06) top-scored at Cusack Park.

Playing into the town end, Clare raced into a 2-01 to no score lead after 6 minutes. Nugent clipped over the opening point before a long range free from right half back Pat Donnellan, who was making his league debut, was flicked to the Down net by Andrew Quinn on 3 minutes.

Nugent cut through to goal from 20 yards out on six minutes.

Brendan McGourty soon added a free for the visitors, but Clare were in dominant form, despite hitting ten wides by the half-hour. Carmody kicked home the Banner’s third goal on 21 minutes after Down ‘keeper Graham Clarke had parried a shot from Tony Griffin.

Points from Andy Savage, Eoin McGuinness, Darren Flynn and McGourty helped Down go in at the break with a pared down deficit – 0-05 to 3-07.

McGuinness opened the scoring in the second half, but three successive white flags from Griffin (0-02) and Nugent showed Clare’s intent.

McGuinness and McGourty could only hit a further three points between them – two from frees – as the Down challenge wilted in the final half-hour.

Nugent bagged his second goal midway through the half. After Donnellan had opened his account from 65 yards out, Ballycran forward McGourty landed the Mourne men’s final point at 0-09 to 4-15 down. From then on, it was all Clare. Diarmuid McMahon, having pointed seconds earlier, flashed home a 57th-minute goal after a brilliant run.

James McInerney, Carmody, Plunkett and Brian O’Connell all landed scores in the closing 10 minutes to crown an impressive display from Daly’s charges.

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