By Brendan O’Brien, Pearse Stadium
Clare 2-12 Roscommon 1-9
Clare made a little bit of history in Salthill this afternoon, securing a first ever place in an All-Ireland football championship quarter-final at the expense of a Roscommon side whose season petered out tamely after a promising league campaign.
The Banner did make the All-Ireland semi-final as Munster champions in 1992 but this is the first time the county has made the last eight since the back door format was introduced back in 2001 and they made it by playing some superb football.
Clare were exceptional in the first-half, taking the game to Roscommon throughout despite the fact that they faced into a stiff wind and the attempts of the Connacht side to push up on their kickouts and stem their attacks at source.
The problem for Roscommon was that they were ridiculously open at the back which meant that Clare had ample space and time to do damage on those occasions when they were able to manoeuvre possession beyond their own half.
They had already sniffed about Darren O’Malley’s net by the time David Tubridy scored the first goal seven minutes in and another followed on 24 minutes when Jamie Malone finished off a team effort that will be a contender for score of the summer.
Gary Brennan hadn’t much of a hand in either of those scores but the dynamic midfielder had a key role in all half-dozen of Clare’s point in the period. The man was a colossus but he had plenty of support from Colm Collins’ well-oiled side.
Roscommon, by way of contrast, looked rudderless and clueless. So good going forward during the league, they reverted to mass defence against Galway and they appeared lost between those two stools back on this return to Pearse Stadium.
Management made a raft of changes to the team that appeared in the programme but there was no kick in them, not even when Clare’s Cathal O’Connor was harshly sent off on a straight red after catching Niall Daly late with what was an admittedly late tackle after 37 minutes.
That at least set the tone for a scrappy second period that was marked by cards of all three colours. Roscommon’s Kevin Higgins was the next to walk, for a black. Teammates Sean Mullooly and David Murray would follow for a second yellow and a black respectively.
Enda Smith did bring Roscommon back to within three points with his 55th-minute goal but it was a rare score in a low-scoring half until Clare, who spurned a number of good scoring opportunities in the third quarter, rediscovered their rhythm with five of the last seven points.
Croke Park and the last eight awaits them.
What a story!
Scorers for Clare: E Cleary (0-6, 2 frees); D Tubridy (1-2, 0-1 free); J Malone (1-0); D Ryan, G Brennan, S McGrath and S Malone (all 0-1).
Scorers for Roscommon: E Smith (1-1); C Murtagh (0-3 frees); S Mullooly and C Devaney (both 0-1); N Kilroy, D Shine and D Murtagh (all 0-1 frees).
Clare: J Hayes; M McMahon, K Harnett, S Hickey; D Ryan, G Kelly, C O’Dea; G Brennan, C O’Connor; J Malone, K Sexton, S Collins; P Lillis, D Tubridy, E Cleary.
Subs: P Collins for Tubridy (48); S McGrath for Lillis (52); E Coughlan for Sexton (61); S Malone for Cleary (74); P Burke for S Collins (75); D Burke for Malone (76).
Roscommon: D O’Malley; S McDermott, S Mullooly, N McInerney; J McManus, N Daly, D Murray; D Keenan, C Compton; U Harney, N Kilroy, E Smith; C Cregg, D Shine, C Murtagh.
Subs: T Corcoran for Compton (32); C Connolly for Murtagh and K Higgins for Harney (both HT); D Murtagh for Cregg (42); F Cregg for Shine (68).
Referee: P Hughes (Armagh).