Recent games between these two have been open and high-scoring affairs, but in a radical departure from script it was a defiant Clare that emerged from monsoon-like conditions to claim a notable scalp in their latest bid to survive and thrive in Division 2 football.
Blessed with all the hard work and never-say-die qualities inculcated into their game by manager Colm Collins over the past seven years, the home side dug very deep to claim a deserved victory over a 14-man Kildare side that ran out of ideas before the end.
Just as everything came right for Clare as they recovered from an 0-8 to 0-6 deficit early in the second half to hit five out of the last seven points for victory, it went horribly wrong for a Kildare outfit hunting a success that would have put them on top of the table.
They lost Paddy Cribbin to a sin-binning just before half-time, while the 57th-minute red card issued to Paddy Brophy when matters were deadlocked at 0-9 apiece was the point of no return. Thereafter Clare kicked on thanks to a brace of inspirational scores from Keelan Sexton.
“After last week’s defeat one thing we said before going out was that we’d be proud of the performance,” said Collins afterwards.
By God you’d have to proud to be associated with a team display like that.
"It’s a compliment to the type of player we have. They’re all fellas who will die for you and that you die for, and this display typifies them and typifies this team,” he added.
There were times in the opening quarter when it looked as if the Lilywhites would leave Clare in their wake, as fine points from play by Brophy, Jack Robinson and Niall Kelly helped them into a 0-5 to 0-2 lead.
Clare were slack in defence and laboured in attack, but gradually eased their way into proceedings with a run of four of the last five points of the half through captain Eoin Cleary (2), David Tubridy and Sexton. That got them back on terms at 0-6 apiece.
This determined rally was a portent of things to come, as Clare circled the wagons once more after leaking the opening two scores of the second half to Kevin Feely and produced a dominant and controlled display to claim the spoils.
With Ciaran Russell thundering into the game at midfield, two Gearóid O’Brien points restored parity by the 47th minute before Cleary put them ahead for the first time entering the final 20 minutes. From there Clare simply weren’t going to let this glorious opportunity pass, particularly with the majority among the partisan attendance of 2,084 exhorting them to greater efforts.
Ultimately, Kildare couldn’t respond with their return of just one point from play in the second half symptomatic of their attacking woes against a disciplined Clare 15 that held firm to close out the game in a hectic last quarter.
Kevin Feely did have Kildare back on terms on 56 minutes, but after Brophy saw red a minute later it was Sexton who stepped up to win the day as Clare scored their first win over the Lilywhites since the 2016 Division 3 final in Croke Park.
“For us it’s great to have two points at home,” said Collins, “because results are going to go all over the place in this division, so we just go one game at a time and see what we can get out of each game.”
“Any marginal call that was going seemed to go against us,” reflected Kildare boss Jack O’Connor, “but that tends to happen when you’re away from home, with the crowd baying for blood in slippy conditions and a lot of physical contact”.
K Sexton (0-4), G O’Brien (0-3), E Cleary (0-3, 1 free), D Tubridy (0-1 free).
K Feely (0-4, 3 frees), N Flynn (0-2 frees), P Brophy (0-2), J Robinson (0-1), N Kelly (0-1).
S Ryan; K Harnett, C Brennan, G Kelly; S Collins, P Lillis, D Ryan; C Russell, C O’Connor; D Coughlan, K Sexton, G O’Brien; C O’Dea, E Cleary, D Tubridy.
E McMahon for O’Connor (51), C Murray for Coughlan (57), E Collins for Ryan (71).
M Donnellan; P Kelly, M O’Grady, E Doyle; C Kavanagh, J Byrne, S Ryan; K Feely, L Power; P Brophy, N Kelly, P Cribbin; J Robinson, D Flynn, N Flynn.
K Flynn for P Kelly (22), K Cribbin for N Flynn (Half-Time), J Hyland for Robinson (45), A Tyrell for P Cribbin (56), J Teacy for N Kelly (63).
Barry Judge (Sligo)