“It was a difficult way to finish up, but the lads did their best against a very good side. But I took this on for one year only and that has ended now. That is it. I won’t say any more beyond that.”
And with that, the speculation was flung about like a beach ball and journalists rushed for laptops to type up tributes.
If it was the end of Mick O’Dwyer, and not just his time in Clare, it wasn’t befitting as a couple of moments off the field showed you just what he was up against here. Long before the start, some stewards hanging around the press box were asked about what he’d done for the county.
“You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear,” was the stark reply. If that was bad, the exodus at the end of the hurling was worse, as yellow and blue evacuated, leaving the greyness of the terracing in its place.
“We’ll leave these fools to their basketball,” one fan said as he rushed for the gates.
If he’d hung around a little longer, he would have seen a decent effort from his county for a half-hour. At that point, they led 0-6 to 0-2, Rory Donnelly kicking two outstanding points while David Tubridy, as always, kept his side ticking along.
In attack, Laois lacked movement; passing and shooting were awful (11 wides in the half), they struggled physically and the defence lacked intensity, allowing Clare to eke out scores with safe hand-passing moves.
Little did we know at that point, but Laois had tricked us. It was like the child trying to get into a car, only each time he reached the door the adult laughed and hit the accelerator. A Darren Strong point before the break started it, then Donie Kingston fed John O’Loughlin for a goal and at the interval they somehow led 1-7 to 0-6. That broke the home spirit.
Soon after the break Strong set up David Conway to hit the net and, in a 16-minute spell, Laois had outscored their opponents 2-9 to 0-0. The towel thrown in, Ross Munnelly added another goal as all eyes turned to the sidelines.
“They just didn’t seem to be able to get their teeth into the second half,” said Justin McNulty. “We got the first goal and got a bit of momentum. Clare just couldn’t recover. I suppose the extra game helped us but when a team starts to build confidence, that’s critical. Once a team realises that, that’s when they start to get results. Also we know we have got major improvements to make.”
But the last word can only be about one man. “It’ll be a huge gap,” said McNulty of his counterpart. “Micko has had some career and he can retire with dignity, whenever that time comes. Now might not even be that time.”
Scorers for Clare: D Tubridy 0-6 (5f), R Donnelly 0-2, G Kelly 0-1, S Ryan 0-1.
Scorers for Laois: R Munnelly 1-4 (3f), J O’Loughlin 1-1, D Strong 0-3, D Conway 1-0, C Begley, D Kingston(1f) 0-2 each, K Lillis, P Clancy, C Meredith, E Costello (f), T Shiel (f) 0-1 each.
Subs for Clare: C Dunning for Clohessy (h-t); C Dixon for G Kelly (h-t); S Ryan for McGrath (48); J Keane for O’Connor (60); P McMahon for Brennan (63).
Subs for Laois: C Kelly for Kingston (46); E Costello for Kelly (51); D Booth for P Begley (53); C Boyle for Clancy (55); T Shiel for C Begley (57).
Referee: Conor Lane (Cork).
CLARE: Joe Hayes; Gordan Kelly, L Healy, M McMahon; D Callinan, John Hayes, Graham Kelly; G Quinlan, C O’Connor; S McGrath, I McInerney, A Clohessy; D Tubridy, G Brennan, R Donnelly. LAOIS: E Culliton; P O’Leary, M Timmons, P Begley; D Strong, K Lillis, P McMahon; P Clancy, J O’Loughlin; B Sheehan, C Meredith, C Begley; R Munnelly, D Kingston, D Conway.