Every Hayes score was hard-earned off the unfortunate Ger O’Grady, who could hardly be blamed.
“Whatever I was like for Gerry O’Grady, he was twice as bad for me,” reckoned Damien, “He was sticking to me like glue, I wasn’t sorry to see the end of him, to be honest.”
What Clare boss Anthony Daly would give for the kind of selection problems that will face his Galway counterpart Conor Hayes in a week or two, when Alan Kerins, recently returned from Africa, is fit, and the Athenry players, including forwards Eugene Cloonan and David Donohue, return to the panel.
“It’s going to make things difficult for us, picking a team,” Hayes admits, “There’s a lot of fellas there, like Tony Óg Regan, left off today but you could see when he came on, he played well. We are trying out lads, working with lads, the likes of Ger Farragher, at full-forward. We know he can play well at wing-forward, and at midfield as well. This has given us an option to work on different selections, that’s the good thing about it.
“The main thing is we’ve come down here and we’ve won with the selection we had today, and we still have other lads to try out, the likes of Aongus Callinan, back from Fitzgibbon, Colin Coen who started against Dublin, he’ll be getting another run fairly soon, the Athenry lads to come back. There’ll be pressure coming on us to pick the team, try and get the balance right. The main thing is we have fellas pushing for places, and that has to be a positive thing.”
This was an abject Clare performance.
Only once in the match, following the opening point of the game by top-scoring Niall Gilligan, did they hold the lead. They trailed 2-5 to 0-7 at the break, and it could have been more had the Galway forwards brought their shooting boots; only Gilligan’s deadly accuracy from placed balls (six frees, three 65s) kept Clare in contention.
The one bright note was the form of keeper Davy Fitzgerald and full-back Brian Lohan in their first appearance in this year’s league.
The lack of forward power in Clare has become clichéd by now, but it remains a fact. Yesterday they started two backs and a midfielder in the half-forward line, and with one possible exception, it simply didn’t work. Diarmuid McMahon is a good midfielder who did reasonably well at centre-forward, ending up with two points and a fair degree of good work.
On the wings, however, Alan Markham and Frank Lohan didn’t feature on the scoresheet and didn’t even do the basics, allowing the ball out of the Galway defence far too easily.
It was the same inside, where Gilligan ploughed a lone furrow. Barry Nugent and Tony Carmody were as disappointing and as defensively culpable as the two outside them.
“I’m reading every week, everyone feels their best position is here, there,” said Anthony Daly, “but our half-forward line has been a major problem for us, what do you do but experiment in the League, or else you’re wasting your time? We have to try out things, we’ll have another look at it for next week, maybe try somebody else there. I thought Diarmuid did reasonably well, fighting a lone-enough battle in the half-forward line, he gave a great pass into Frank in the first half.”
Yes, that pass. In the 21st minute, Clare having fought their way back to parity, 0-6 to 1-3, a goal for the home side might have put a different complexion on the game. Two superb balls, Gilligan to McMahon to Frank Lohan, well inside the 20m line with a goal for the taking; the shot flashed across goal and wide. “I know Frank would feel very disappointed he didn’t play that ball with his left side, get a point at least. It was a great chance of a goal, it would have been a vital goal at that stage, but Frank Lohan is the kind of guy who will give you everything, wherever we put him, he’ll try his best.”
: Galway: D. Hayes 2-4; G. Farragher 1-3 (1-0 pen 0-2 frees); F. Healy 0-2; D. Forde 0-2. Clare: N. Gilligan 0-10 (0-6 frees 0-3 65’s); D. McMahon 0-2; G. Quinn 0-1; D. O’Connell 1-0.
: L. Donoghue; D. Joyce, S. Kavanagh, F. Moore; D. Hardiman, L. Hodgins, O. Canning; D. Collins, David Hayes; D. Tierney, D. Forde, F. Healy; Damien Hayes, G. Farragher, K. Broderick. Subs: T. Og Regan (David Hayes 64); N. Healy (Broderick 65); R. Murray (Tierney 65); K. Hayes (Forde 71).
: D. Fitzgerald; B. O’Connell, B. Lohan, G. O’Grady; D. Hoey, C. Plunkett, D. Clancy; C. Lynch, G. Quinn; A. Markham, D. McMahon, F. Lohan; N. Gilligan, B. Nugent, T. Carmody. Subs: A. Quinn (Markham 48); D. O’Connell (F. Lohan 49); C. Forde (Hoey 51); D. O’Rourke (Nugent 56); B. Lynch (G. Quinn 65).
: B. Kelly (Westmeath).