It was just when Laois looked certain of their first ever National Hurling League victory over the Banner men.
Laois certainly did not deserve to lose and Clare manager Anthony Daly left his lethargic charges know that such a performance was unacceptable.
“We went to Cork last week and played extremely well in a challenge. The fact that it was Cork, the lads had a right go at them. Because we had beaten Laois decisively twice last year players went into today’s game with the wrong attitude, thinking it was going to be a stroll. They know different now and I’m disappointed at the way we played. I’ll accept we have very little hurling done, only two sessions so far, and are in the middle of a very intensive training programme. But that’s no excuse for how poorly we played.
“We travel away to Dublin next week and if we play like that again, we’ll be beaten by nine points. We’re just after having a go at the players in the dressing room and, hopefully, they’ll have got the message”.
Only for the brilliance of the Laois ‘keeper, Patrick Mullaney, the home side would have won with plenty to spare. He brought off four magnificent saves, but was unfortunate at the end.
With a share of the spoils looking likely, Mullaney made the last of his great saves to deny Brian Lynch. However, he only succeeded in knocking the sliothar out to the unmarked Daithi O’Connell who batted to the empty net.
Apart from his excellent goalkeeping skills, Mullaney drove a penalty home after 13 minutes which helped Laois to a 1-6 to 0-6 half time lead, the impressive Tony Carmody claiming five of Clare’s points.
With the wind to their backs, Clare were level five minutes into the second-half and when Seanie McMahon landed the first of four magnificent long range points from frees to give his side the lead for the first time, it looked like a question of how much the home side would win by.
But Laois weren’t prepared to roll over and with Mullaney bringing off a string of superb saves, they rattled the home wide with a second goal by Cathal Brophy with 10 minutes left.
Clearly unhappy with the turn of events, Daly took off Conor Plunkett and Frank Lohan and introduced Declan O’Rourke and Daithi O’Connell and both had a huge influence.
O’Rourke rifled over three points while O’Connell’s late goal gave his side the spoils, but it was too close for comfort and their manager in particular: “One of the few positives we can take from the game was the excellent form shown by Declan O’Rourke. This is his first season with us and he’s certainly knocking on the door for a place in next week’s game,” said Daly.
“We’ll be on the training ground tomorrow morning looking to improve our first touch and getting the attitude right for the Dublin game,” he added.
Laois coach Paudie Butler was very philosophical afterwards: “They scored seven goals against us last year and many thought we were in for another drubbing today. I’m very pleased with the way we played, and am going home happy in the knowledge that we have fight, spirit, youth and most importantly, a future.
“We came down to Cusack Park today to prove to ourselves that we have a future in the top flight. You couldn’t expect us to win when you consider where we were coming from after losing by 30 points to them last year. All we have to prove right how is that we are in Division One by right and are not an embarrassment to hurling.”
: Clare: T. Carmody 0-5 (0-2 frees); S. McMahon 0-4 (0-3 frees, 0-1 65); D. O’Rourke 0-3; D. O’Connell 1-0; T. Kearse, C. Plunkett, C. Lynch, F. Lohan 0-1 each.
: C. Coonan 0-4 (0-2 frees); P. Mullaney (pen.), C. Brophy 1-0 each; R. Jones (0-1 free), J. Walsh 0-2 each; P. Russell, D. Walsh, J. Fitzpatrick 0-1 each.
: P. Brennan; C. Harrison, B. O’Connell, G. O’Grady; D. Hoey, S. McMahon, D. Clancy; D. McMahon, G. Quinn; C. Lynch, C. Plunkett, F. Lohan; T. Kearse, T. Griffin, T. Carmody. Subs: D. O’Rourke for Plunkett; D. O’Connell for Lohan; B. Lynch for Kearse; C. Forde for B. O’Connell.
: P. Mullaney; B. Campion, P. Cuddy, L. Tynon; J. Fitzpatrick, S. Dwyer, M. McEvoy; D. Doyle, J. Walsh; C. Coonan, D. Walsh, E. Browne; D. Culleton, R. Jones, P. Russell. Subs: E. Jackman for J. Walsh (off yellow card); M. Rooney for D. Walsh; C. Brophy for Doyle; C. Clear for Browne.
: J. McDonnell (Tipperary).