Clare 2-22 Laois 2-13
Clare left Portlaoise with the anticipated victory this afternoon, but Davy Fitzgerald and his men were given plenty to think about before the committed hosts tired in the final quarter.
It wasn’t that there was any doubt about the verdict, but Clare were quite lethargic at times, shooting far too many wides and being a little self-indulgent in possession.
They were always a step ahead of Laois though and in particular, their size advantage was notable throughout the field.
The excellent Patrick Donnellan and Nickey O’Connell gave them a major foothold around midfield and John Conlon was the target for the vast majority of the resultant possession.
The Clonlara man had a good tussle with Bryan Stapleton but finished with the majority of the plaudits, plundering 1-3 and setting up Sean Collins’ first-half goal.
Laois were not without their standout performers, with former goalkeeper, Paddy Mullaney doing well at right corner-back, Willie Hyland was accurate from placed balls, and Neil Foyle a constant aerial threat.
Teddy McCarthy’s charges had a lightening start, Michael McEvoy, John Brophy and Matthew Whelan landing points inside the opening three minutes.
From the time Conlon drew the Laois cover to release the untracked Collins for a fourth minute goal though, Clare began to establish a firm grip on proceedings.
Donnellan, Colin Ryan and Conlon were all on target but some prodigal shooting was punished when Foyle won the sliotar strongly and beat two defenders before driving a low shot to the Clare net in the 27th minute.
Clare finished with points from centre-back James McInerney, Conlon and Donnellan to lead by 1-11 to 1-6 at half time.
Conlon took advantage of a third-man tackle on Stapleton to make ground up the endline and score an excellent goal early in the second half, to remove any lingering doubt about the final result.
But with the Bannerman’s radar dreadfully out of sync on too many occasions and Laois enjoying a strong third quarter, the game remained competitive.
Hyland, James Walsh and Stephen Maher all raised white flags and though the previously wasteful O’Connell, Ryan and McInerney responded in kind as Laois ran out of puff, a 62nd-minute goal by Willie Hyland from a penalty – won by Dayne Peacock after an AFL-style catch by Foyle – ensured that Laois got some reward for their gritty efforts.
Clare: P Kelly; E Glynn, C Dillon, C Cooney; B Bugler, J McInerney 0-2, E Barrett; N O’Connell 0-1 (f), P Donnellan 0-4; C Morey 0-1, S Collins 1-1, F Lynch; J Conlon 1-3, C Ryan 0-5 (3fs), J Clancy 0-2.
Subs: D Keane 0-3 for Lynch (49); L Markham for Morey (53); P Kelly for Barrett (67); E Hayes for Clancy (70).
Laois: E Reilly; P Mullaney, D Maher, B Stapleton; C Dunne, J Fitzpatrick, M Whelan 0-1; J Walsh 0-1, M McEvoy 0-1; J Brophy 0-1, B Dunne, W Hyland 1-6 (1-0 pen, 0-3fs); W Dunphy, N Foyle 1-1, S Maher 0-1.
Subs: D O’Mahoney for Dunphy (ht); M Meade for Dunne (55); D Peacocky for Brophy (57); C Murray 0-1 for Foyle (64).
Referee: E Hasson (Derry).