Clare 2-15 Kildare 0-11
Clare made heavy weather of dispensing with Kildare but a strong showing in the final quarter enabled them to pull away from their plucky opponents at St Conleth’s Park.
There was double disappointment for the hosts as news filtered through that a last-gasp goal had given Westmeath victory over Down and relegated the Lilies to Division 3.
Barry Nugent opened the scoring for the Banner with a good point but Kildare put their opponents on notice when Adrian McAndrew forced Donal Touhy into a smart save.
Diarmuid McMahon’s ninth minute goal, after a strong run by Nugent, might have deflated Andy Comerford’s side but with Michael Divilly striking plenty of ball around the middle and former Tipperary All-Ireland winner, David Kennedy, commanding at centre-back, they got themselves back into proceedings.
A wonderful point from 65m by Mark Moloney got them off the mark and some fine scores by Kennedy, Martin Fitzgerald and David Harney kept them in touch.
The impressive Colin Ryan, John Conlon, Cormac O’Donovan and Nugent came up with the replies though and Clare led by 1-7 to 0-6 at the break.
Kildare resumed in determined fashion and three points in six minutes from Moloney, Fitzgerald and a Kennedy 65 reduced the margin to the minimum.
Crucially though, with Brendan Bugler looking very strong at centre-back, Kildare only managed one point in the final 20 minutes, through a Fitzgerald free. In that period, Clare registered a goal and seven points to confirm their superiority.
Ryan contributed a goal and two points of that tally, with the goal coming from a powerful ground shot with 10 minutes remaining.
Nicky O’Connell was introduced in the 47th minute and had quite an impact, firing over three points, including a free from inside his own 45m line.
Worryingly for the Munster men though, they shot a total of 16 wides over the 70 minutes, split evenly over the two halves and they will need to be better than this if they are to be a force in the championship.
Clare: D Touhy; P Vaughan 0-1, C Cooney, D O’Donovan; G Quinn, B Bugler, P Donnellan; C O’Donovan 0-2, B O’Connell; J Conlon 0-2, J Clancy, F Lynch 0-1; D McMahon 1-0, B Nugent 0-2, C Ryan 1-4(2fs, 1 65). Subs: S Collins for Lynch (40); N O’Connell 0-3(1f) for B O’Connell (47); M Murphy for Clancy (51); M Scanlon for McMahon (54); E Glynn for Quinn (61)
Kildare: D Byrne; P Reidy, J Doran, P Curtin; N Ó Muineacháin, D Kennedy 0-3(2fs, 1 65), B White; J Houlihan, D Carter; M Moloney 0-2, F Ó Muineacháin, M Fitzgerald 0-4(3fs); D Harney 0-2, A McAndrew, K Divilly. Subs: M Divilly for White inj (7); C Kenny for McAndrew (44); P Moloney for F Ó Muineacháin (64)