Great times then for the Banner County, times to be savoured says joint manager Donal Moloney.
“It may never happen again in our lifetime,” he said. “We don’t have massive resources to maintain an effort like this all the time. People look at the quality of that team today.
“It’s not as if we have a conveyor belt of the same quality coming through. We should enjoy this while we have it and we should savour it. We have the All-Ireland senior final in two weeks and we should make the most of it because it might not break like this again. We have to absolutely make the most of this wonderful opportunity.”
They made the most of Saturday’s opportunity, though it did take them until the second half to do so. They had problems with Galway, yes, but more especially they had problems with their shooting, hitting eight first-half wides. The Tribesmen were faring even worse though with just three points from 10 shots on goal to trail at the break by two, 0-5 to 0-3.
None of the senior stars shone in this period, full-back McInerney making the most positive impression but he was the one caught for all three Galway points, two by full-forward Cathal Mannion, the third from Conor Cooney after he had been switched to the edge of the square. Midfielders Galvin and Kelly were almost anonymous but Podge did score a fine point.
The second half however was a different game. The Clare machine — with the seniors beginning to find their mojo — clicking smoothly through gears the young Galwegians didn’t have. It began with a let-off, Galway corner-forward through on goal just three minutes after the restart but booting wide from close range. As good teams tend to do, Clare took full advantage and just a minute later diminutive corner-forward Cathal O’Connell pounced on the break of a Stephen O’Halloran centre to goal from close range.
“When you have the likes of Tots [O’Connell] and Shane O’Donnell and Davy O’Halloran and these guys, if something breaks, they’ll punish it,” said Donal. “It was a fortunate enough break for Tots, from where I saw it, fell beautifully for him, but he had a great game today, delighted with how he finished it.”
From there Clare drove on, their power, pace and precision simply too much for Galway. They added 11 points, all six forwards getting in on the act, sub Cathal Malone notching two absolute beauties.
At the other end the defence too was on top, the full-back trio of captain Paul Flanagan, McInerney and Jack Browne outstanding, centre-back Alan O’Neill a tower of strength with the pacy Seadna Morey racing forward for a dashing point, Stephen O’Halloran also winning his personal battle.
All in all, an impressive win, so comfortable that Moloney and co-manager Gerry O’Connor could afford the luxury of replacing their senior starters before the end.
“We’re trying to play a certain style that suits the way they’ve trained for the past two or three years. We’re trying to use the ball and the guys have great athleticism and are able to find each other. They love playing it and we’re playing to their strengths. Passes will be intercepted and balls will be intercepted but when it does work it is quite effective. Those guys are going day-in, day-out, you can’t expect them to hit 100% performance for 60 or 70 minutes every day; in Croke Park last week, again today. It’s not always possible. For some of the guys, particularly for Tony, Colm and Podge, they were really focused on today and on beating Galway.
“That will help them in two weeks, going into the All-Ireland [senior] final.”
Scorers for Clare: C O’Connell (1-6, 5fs), D O’Halloran (0-3), P Collins, C Malone (0-2 each), S O’Donnell, P Duggan, S Morey (0-1 each). Scorers for Galway: C Cooney (1f); C Mannion (0-3 each); S Maloney (0-1).
CLARE: R Taaffe; P Flanagan (c), D McInerney, J Browne; S Morey, A O’Neill, S O’Halloran; C Galvin, T Kelly; P Duggan, P Collins, S O’Donnell; C O’Connell, A Cunningham, D O’Halloran. Subs for Clare: C Malone for Cunningham (30+2), D Keane for O’Donnell (47), M O’Neill for Collins (51), J Shanahan for Galvin (55), E Boyce for Kelly (55).
GALWAY: S Mannion; P Killeen, J Hanbury, B Keane; P Huban (c), D Burke, M Keating; A Touhy, P Claffey; T Flynn, C Cooney, J Glynn; P Brehony, C Mannion, J Flynn. Subs for Galway: C Keane for T Flynn (38), S Maloney for J Flynn (48), S Sweeney for Claffey (54), J Carr for C Mannion (57).
Referee: D Kirwan (Cork).