This incident-filled Division 2 fixture was 46 minutes old when play spilled out over the sideline, in front of the main stand. Momentum appeared to carry Malone into the path of Stapleton, with the Tipperary selector falling backwards and hitting his head off the concrete path.
Referee Jerome Henry after consultation with his linesman, showed a red card to Malone. His hand gestures implied the Clare forward had deliberately pushed the Tipperary selector. Malone was irate with the call, as was a Clare backroom official, who ran onto the field to remonstrate with the referee.
David Tubridy, similarly, was none too pleased. He aired his grievance, Henry hesitating not a second in showing the Clare forward a black card.
Tipperary manager Liam Kearns said Stapleton remarked to feeling unwell after getting back onto his feet. Four minutes later, Stapleton collapsed onto the ground and was immediately aided by medical officials. He was stretchered down the tunnel, with the clock reading 57 minutes and, despite an ambulance promptly being called, it didn’t arrive into Cusack Park until after the game had concluded. Why there wasn’t an ambulance stationed at the venue, as is commonplace for most senior inter-county fixtures, was questioned.
“He’s had a very bad bang to his head and we think he might have had a seizure. Hopefully, he will be alright,” said Kearns.
“He said to me, after getting back up, ‘I don’t feel very well’. When I turned around again, he was lying on the ground in the foetal position. It is serious enough. That the ambulance has not got here is disappointing.”
The sides were level, at 0-7 apiece, when the Tipperary selector was injured, the pendulum having shifted in favour of the hosts, following successive points from Pearse Lillis and Malone. Indeed, when Tipperary sub, Kevin Fahey, swarmed by Clare defenders, was pulled for travelling, there was a collective fist-clenching by the Banner management.
Malone’s sending-off upset them in more ways than one, with half-back pair, Jimmy Feehan and Bill Maher, putting the visitors back in front. Eoin Cleary and Conor Sweeney subsequently swapped frees, Clare squandering chance after chance to close the gap.
Summing up the error-ridden nature of this contest was the confusion between Tipperary players, Josh Keane and Shane O’Connell, as to who should pick up the ball directly at their feet. As the pair dithered senselessly, a Clare shirt swooped in, took hold of possession, and almost put Gary Brennan through on goal.
It was shortly before 11am, yesterday morning, when notice of a successful pitch inspection circulated. The majority of Clare and Tipp supporters, mind, had already decided on a Sunday indoors, no more than 800 souls converging on a bitterly cold Cusack Park.
Those who stayed at home initially appeared to have chosen well. The first-half was nothing short of dreadful. Kearns admitted, afterwards, it was the worst 35 minutes of football he had ever seen from his charges.
Their opponents, who played into the wind and falling snow, were no better, managing just one point in the opening 16 minutes.
Passes were overcooked, undercooked, and some couldn’t even be described as a pass. The Premier lads, chasing an eighth, successive league win over their neighbours, led 0-7 to 0-5 at the turnaround.
The closing stages, to be fair, offered value for money, both sides going hammer and tongs to claim the two points.
Substitute, Kieran Malone, and a monstrous Pearse Lillis kick levelled matters, at 0-10 apiece. Henry further enraged the home support, when handing Tipperary a close-range free for a fairly innocuous challenge on Liam Casey. Sweeney converted the dead-ball effort, this kick cancelled out by Keelan Sexton. It was here Tipperary were reduced to 14 men, Josh Keane picking up a second yellow.
Eoin Cleary and Alan Sweeney both had chances to win it for Colm Collins’ side. Neither were successful.
They were fortunate, indeed, not to suffer a second successive league defeat, when Seán Casey went to pull the trigger in injury-time, Cian O’Dea blocking the kick. They’d finish with 13, Eoin Cleary black-carded just before the end.
Clare manager Collins refused to be drawn on the referee, accepting his team had plenty of chances to take the spoils.
K Sexton (0-3, 0-1 free); E Cleary (0-2 frees), P Lillis (0-2 each); G Brennan, K Malone, J Malone, C Russell (0-1 each).
C Sweeney (0-7, 0-5 frees); B Maher, J Feehan, L McGrath, L Casey (0-1 each).
K Roche: C O’Dea, A Fitzgerald, G Kelly; E Collins, C Russell, P Lillis; G Brennan, C O’Connor; J Malone, E Cleary, G O’Brien; D Tubridy, K Sexton, S O’Donoghue.
D Bohannon for O’Connor (HT); A Sweeney for Tubridy (48, bc); K Malone for O’Brien (55).
E Comerford; J Meagher, A Campbell, S O’Connell; J Feehan, R Kiely, B Maher; L Casey, J Kennedy; M Quinlivan, J Keane, B Fox; L Boland, C Sweeney, L McGrath.
I Fahey for Quinlivan (27, inj); K Fahey for Kennedy (HT); E Moloney for Boland (45); J Lonergan for McGrath (62); S Carey for I Fahey (70).
J Henry (Mayo).