In arctic conditions, Clare utilised a support game which required plenty of running, and despite the fact that four of their players saw club U21 action on Saturday — one, Seadna Morey, endured extra time on top of that — they held the visitors at bay for a good victory.
For their part Galway were sluggish enough the previous weekend in Ennis, when they wore Connacht jerseys and lost to Munster, and their start yesterday was no better. The impressive Colin Ryan opened Clare’s account early from a free and the home side maintained that initiative for the rest of the half, aided by the wind.
Clare left Shane O’Donnell isolated up front for much of the half and his unselfish running caused Galway endless problems. With Brendan Bugler and Pat Donnellan on top at half-back, Clare had the Galway defence under pressure, winning frees which Ryan converted at will.
It was four points to one after 10 minutes, but Galway then got a toehold in the game thanks in no small way to Davy Glennon’s hard running in midfield. He and Joe Canning (two points, one a free) helped Galway cut the deficit to one before Ryan hit four points on the trot (three frees) to give Clare breathing space.
Galway might have had a goal on 23 minutes but Niall Healy fired wide. Tony Kelly hit two on the trot to make it 0-11 to 0-5 as the half wore down, but Canning hit three frees to Ryan’s one, making the deficit a respectable 0-12 to 0-8 at the break.
Clare’s energy on the return was impressive. John Conlan shook off a thunderous mid-air collision to score three points from play, and a Ryan free made it 0-16 to 0-9.
Then the exertions began to show for some of the Clare players. Andy Smith pointed for Galway and Clare gave up a free just over 21 metres out; they lined the goal but Joe Canning’s free was one of those struck so sweetly, the ball is only visible when it rolls back out of the net: 1-10 to 0-16, and he added two frees to set up a storming finale.
Tony Kelly had added another Clare point before the game turned — Davy Glennon was put clean through but Clare keeper Patrick Kelly advanced, spread himself, and turned the ball aside. A goal at that point would probably have buried the Banner, but Kelly’s rousing save was a welcome shot of adrenaline.
Both teams flagged in the last 10 minutes, and there was a heart-stopping moment late on for the home support when a first-time pull from Joe Cooney whistled past the post, but on the balance of play, Clare deserved the win.
“We had a lot of the play,” said Clare boss Davy Fitzgerald afterwards.
“The frees they got just before half-time kept them in it. Looking at the average age of our team, the lightness of our team, you’d have thought that today wouldn’t have suited us — that you’d need battlers and workers.
“Both teams had that, but I’m particularly pleased with my team because they stood up to the physical challenge, because Galway are a physical and tough team.
“I didn’t mind playing into the wind in the second half, the way we play. We don’t just thump the ball anywhere.”
Galway selector Mattie Kenny said the Tribesmen had their chances: “We came down with our eyes open, we knew what was ahead of us — that Clare would be up for it. We knew it would be a tight battle, so we’re disappointed with the result. We had three clear goalscoring opportunities, and if you miss them, they usually come back to haunt you. It didn’t come down to the last frees, we had our chances. We missed 2-5 in chances in the first half and should have gone in ahead. The workrate was good, we kept pushing on, on the day, our finishing let us down.”
Scorers for Clare: C. Ryan 0-8 (0-6 fs); J. Conlan, T. Kelly 0-3 each; P. Collins 0-2; F. Lynch and S. O’Donnell 0-1 each.
Scorers for Galway: J. Canning 1-8 (1-6 fs); A. Harte 0-2; A. Smith, D. Glennon and N. Donoghue 0-1 each.
Subs for Clare: F. Lynch for Barrett, 53. C. Galvin for Conor Ryan, 56; D. Honan for O’Donnell and J. Clancy for Collins, both 63.
Subs for Galway: A. Harte for Haran, 39; B. Flaherty for Smith, 52; S. Moloney for Healy, 56; T Og Regan for Collins (61-66 blood).
Referee: C Lyons (Cork)