Winning manager, Pat Flanagan, was delighted with his side’s resolute second-half performance but clearly seethed at the 27th minute dismissal of influential midfielder Ross Brady.
Brady lashed out at Brendan Murphy with his foot, although he was acting in retaliation having been pinned to the ground by the former Aussie Rules man. Flanagan felt referee Cormac Reilly had done his side no favours.
“I can’t make any comment (on the sending off)” he began, before adding tellingly. “If I don’t do my job I get the sack and that’s as much as I can say about that.”
Later, he explained why he felt Brady was hard done by. “(Ross) is a young lad. He was being punched on the ground. He struck out with a boot which is a natural reaction and he’s got himself sent off, he’ll learn from it.”
Deehan was the star of the show though and half of his tally came from play as he tormented the Rathvilly rearguard. The Offaly attacker had six of his side’s first-half total as they led 0-8 to 0-2 at the interval. The Carlow champions opened the scoring with a pointed free by JJ Smith in the third minute but it was another 19 minutes before they got their next score, from the hard-working Brian Murphy. By that stage Clara had six points on the board, with Deehan slotting the first five. The Offaly men seemed undeterred by Brady’s dismissal initially and John O’Hara lofted over after a wonderful pass from Tony Dalton to put them in a strong position at the break.
Rathvilly roared back after the interval though, with Tony Bolger adopting a sweeping role in front of Deehan to good effect. Captain David Nolan was one of two substitutes introduced at half time and he already had a point on the board before pouncing for an equalising goal in the 45th minute.
Clara knuckled down however, just as they have done in previous victories over St Laurence’s and Rhode, and a fantastic point by skipper Scott Brady put them back in front. Suddenly, their belief was restored while Rathvilly’s seemed deflated. Deehan added three points, including two glorious scores, while O’Hara also got on the board and there were five between the sides.
JJ Smith converted two frees for Rathvilly in the dying minutes, one having been flicked over splendidly by sub goalkeeper Kevin Meehan, but time ran out.
CLARA: J Buckley; A Cronin, M Rosney, D Kelly; D Baggot, M Mitchell, L Hiney; S Brady 0-1, R Brady 0-1(f); T Dalton, J O’Hara 0-2, G Guilfoyle; E Brady, J Reynolds, T Deehan 0-10(5fs).
Subs: P Mitchell for Rosney (39); K Meehan for Buckley (47); S Deehan for E Brady (53); P Deehan for Cronin inj (57).
RATHVILLY: D Kehoe; BJ Molloy, T Bolger, K Byrne; J O’Donoghue, S Kavanagh, J Kehoe; K Doyle, Brendan Murphy; Brian Murphy 0-3, A Kelly, E Finnegan; D Molloy, JJ Smith 0-4(fs), G Dempsey.
Subs: D O’Brien for Finnegan (ht); D Nolan 1-1 for Dempsey (ht); L Farrell for D Molloy (51) M Curran for Bolger temp (51); S Murphy for Kehoe (59).
Referee: C Reilly (Meath)