Coming so quickly after a disheartening trip to Galway, the 13-point loss described as a “disaster” by yesterday’s man of the match Conal Keaney, quickly drawn-up theories about an imminent Dublin demise were just as rapidly put paid to with a display more in tune with those of reigning Leinster champions.
The home team, in truth, had more on the line here. They simply couldn’t countenance a second successive defeat going into the fortnight’s break before the remaining three round games in as many weeks. Clare meanwhile were coming off a home win over Kilkenny that they had invested in heavily.
Looking a million miles from their poor aerial performance in Salthill, Dublin were excellent in claiming high ball throughout yesterday. The platform provided by Liam Rushe and Michael Carton in the half-back line was the launch-pad for Anthony Daly’s men while Keaney ensured plenty of ball was sticking up front.
Clare, having won the toss, elected to face a significant breeze in the first half and not surprisingly were in arrears at the break, 1-12 to 0-10.
The marksmanship of Alan McCrabbe, making his first league start for Dublin since 2012, provided most of their first half scores, picking off half a dozen from frees as well as a beautiful sideline cut.
Colin Ryan posted five frees in that period, a couple of them won by Shane O’Donnell off Peter Kelly, who outside of fouling last year’s All-Ireland final replay goal hero, gave him little in general play.
Keaney’s 14th-minute goal pushed Dublin 1-6 to 0-2 ahead, the former dual player anticipating a ball not dealt with by David McInerney.
Three Clare scores in four minutes brought them to within three points by the 29th minute, but Dublin finished out the half the stronger via a brace of McCrabbe frees and a Colm Cronin point when a goal looked on.
Young midfielder Cronin, though, made amends nine minutes after the break when he kept his composure to strike a ground shot past Donal Tuohy after being expertly found by a low McCrabbe stick-pass.
That strike gave Dublin an eight-point advantage.
“Colm might have got another goal on the stroke of half-time but it was a cool finish and a good ball in by Alan,” said Daly. “It’s good to have him back. He’s a dead leg but he likes it here in Parnell. It’s his home turf. It was a good day for him coming back, his first start.”
Davy Fitzgerald felt the concession of the Cronin goal was out of character for Clare. “We didn’t play with the same enthusiasm and same fire as we normally would. I’m not happy with the second goal we gave away. You shouldn’t have a midfielder going in there inside of the square scoring. That’s unacceptable on our behalf. We’ll deal with those few little issues.
“There was no real giving out to them. I can’t expect these boys to be up day after day after day. They’re a young bunch of lads and I’m not going to put that pressure on them.”
Dublin had more second- half goal chances, David O’Callaghan’s second attempt in the 46th minute crashing against the crossbar and back into play.
Clare sub Cathal “Tots” O’Connell was narrowly wide with an opportunity at the other end, but bar two close-range frees from Tony Kelly and Bobby Duggan and Gary Maguire denying a John Conlon effort near the end, it was the closest they got to a goal. Colin Ryan was replaced and though Duggan struck a couple over he also missed two when Clare couldn’t afford it.
Keaney’s 68th minute point was Dublin’s only score in the last 19 minutes but they were doing more than enough in defence to keep Clare out, in doing so ridding the bad taste of the Galway defeat.
Scorers for Dublin: A McCrabbe (0-9, 8f, 1 sl); C Keaney (1-3); C Cronin (1-1); S Durkin (0-2); J McCaffrey, D O’Callaghan (0-1 each).
Scorers for Clare: Colin Ryan (0-7, 7f); J Conlon (0-3); B Duggan (2f), T Kelly (1f) (0-2 each); C McGrath, P O’Connor, C O’Connell (0-1).
DUBLIN: G Maguire; N Corcoran, P Kelly, S Timlin; J McCaffrey, L Rushe, M Carton; S Durkin, C Cronin; A McCrabbe, D Sutcliffe, R O’Dwyer; D O’Callaghan, C Keaney, M Schutte.
CLARE: D Tuohy; C Dillon, D McInerney, S Morey; B Bugler, P O’Connor, Conor Ryan; P Donnellan, S Golden; J Conlon, T Kelly, Colin Ryan; C Galvin, S O’Donnell, C McGrath.
Subs for Dublin: J Dougan for S Timlin (31); E Dillon for A McCrabbe (63, inj); D Treacy for D O’Callaghan (66); N McMorrow for R O’Dwyer (70+1).
Subs for Clare: N O’Connell for S Golden (h-t); C O’Connell for Conor Ryan (41); B Duggan for Colin Ryan (49); D Reidy for S Morey (65).
Referee: A Kelly (Galway)