Clare 1-21 Laois 0-16: Clare are underwhelming on performance but delivering the results.
For the third consecutive league tie, Clare played within themselves, to grind out a win and protect their winning start to 2016, which now extends to seven games.
However, despite leading from start to finish and never really looking like letting the points slip, the Banner County definitely made harder work of it than was entirely necessary as a transitional Laois side created an abundance of scoring chances that they ultimately failed to take on home soil on Saturday evening.
“It’s a win, and a win is a win, as the man says,” offered Clare coach/selector Dónal Óg Cusack. “I think Laois put it up to us and they had a lot of wides in the second half as well, so it was an eight-point margin in the finish and if they had converted even half of those chances, it could have been a lot less of a margin.
“All these things to me, they’re just signs of a work in progress and it just gives us plenty of food for thought and plenty for working on the training ground.”
With an eye on Munster Championship opponents Waterford’s displays in Division 1A, the former Sunday Game pundit was also quick to put Clare’s current development path in clearer perspective.
“I think it’s important that you are getting the wins. But it’s like everything else, we are down in 1B and there is a massive gulf in terms of the standard between 1B and 1A. But the lads are working fierce hard and I couldn’t say any more about them in terms of their application and dedication to the game, and it’s work as we go.
“It’s a huge challenge coming on June 5 and you see the likes of the performances that Waterford are putting in at the moment and I don’t think anyone is going to be under any illusions in terms of the task that will face us then.
“But it’s a case of taking every game as it comes, we can only play what’s in front of us at the moment.”
Six different scorers pushed Cusack’s adopted side into a 0-7 to 0-3 opening quarter advantage, a margin they would be able to maintain through Colin Ryan and Bobby Duggan until the defining score of the game provided a welcome boost heading into the dressing rooms.
The tie was in its second minute of injury-time when Duggan fired a long delivery towards the square that was broken and finished to the net by John Conlon, to hand his side a 1-13 to 0-9 interval cushion.
Far from deterring the previously winless hosts, however, Laois would up the ante on the restart but couldn’t make that improvement felt on the scoreboard as the wide tally mounted and glorious goal opportunities for substitute PJ Scully and Charlie Dwyer were repelled by goalkeeper Andrew Fahey.
Instead, Bobby Duggan’s unerring accuracy from long- range frees largely kept Clare’s noses in front to eventually consolidate their promotion charge while in the process, sinking the home side into greater relegation play-off danger.
Scorers for Clare:
B Duggan (0-6f); J Conlon (1-2); Colin Ryan (0-5, 1f, 1’65); D Reidy (0-3); A Cunningham (0-2); G O’Connell, Conor Ryan, C O’Connell (0-1 each)
Scorers for Laois:
Z Keenan (0-5 (4f); W Hyland, PJ Scully (2f) (0-3 each); C Dwyer (0-2); L Bergin, S Maher, E Rowland (’65) (0-1 each)
A Fahey; P Flanagan, C Dillon, P O’Connor; B Bugler, D McInerney, C Cleary; D Reidy, C Ryan; J Conlon, C Ryan, G O’Connell; A Cunningham, S O’Donnell, B Duggan
C Galvin for Cleary (H/T); O O’Brien for Dillon (48, inj), C O’Connell for G O’Connell (58); D Fitzgerald for Galvin (63, blood sub); C O’Donnell for S O’Donnell (68); M O’Malley (Kilmaley) for Reidy (70)
E Rowland; C Healy, N Foyle, J Phelan; L Bergin, M Whelan, R Mullaney; C Cotter, P Purcell; C Dwyer, Z Keenan, T Delaney; R King, W Hyland (Clough/Ballacolla), S Maher
PJ Scully for King (21); W Dunphy for Maher (57); J Walsh for Bergin (62); C Stapleton for Foyle (62)
D Kirwan (Cork)
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