Clare 2-14 Offaly 0-19
Clare maintained their 100% record in the NHL with a last gasp win against Offaly fielding a new style side giving game time to fringe players and resting key men. Limerick looking on might suggest that Clare were giving Offaly a chance but this Clare management have shown that there are more reserves available this year than in others year and indeed won the game with 14 men for 62 minute of this hard fought Tullamore encounter.
The changes in the Clare team that obviously hit the radars of the major bookmakers and punters that signalled a heavy punt on Offaly into warm odds on with Clare who were favourites drifting in the betting. The story was clearcut. Clare, who were already in the final and if they lost to Offaly they would meet once again this coming weekend. Limerick and Antrim were in action in Casement park and a win for the glensiders would result in a Clare/Antrim pairing that would surely have be the Clare choice. Should Limerick and Offaly were to both win it would favour Offaly as the scoring average favoured the faithful men. Offaly and Limerick drew when they met in round 4.
11 personnel and positional changes in the Clare side but it was the visitors to O Connor Park who struck first with Cathal McInerney on target in the first minute with Offaly’s Joe Bergin responding in the third minute after a weak clearance by Enda Barrett to level matters. Colin Ryan in the space of two minutes sent over a brace of frees after a fouls on Domhnall O Donovan and Caimin Morey to send Clare two clear
Offaly had a clear goal chance but spurned it seconds after Fergal Lynch had been sent off on a red card after a tussle with David Kenny. David Franks became the loose man for Offaly as it took until the 14th minute for the game’s next score amid much action and it fell to another Colin Ryan free to leave Clare three points clear. This was shortlived as a poor line ball by James McInerney went to Joe Bergin who scored his second and his sides second score at the end of the first quarter. Shane Dooley playing his 50th game for Offaly had his first score in the 19th minute from a free to reduce the Clare lead to the minimum. Colin Ryan who was Clare’s main scoremaker had his fourth successful conversion from four efforts after 20 minutes only for Sean Ryan hit for his first score as Offaly were coming more into the game.
Great work by Aaron Cunningham helped create a chance for Cathal McInerney that he gladly converted. Offaly were dogged in their efforts refusing Clare to build up a first half lead as Shane Dooley was successful with his second free in the 24th minute. Colin Ryan effected great work to set up Liam Markham who was unmarked and the Cratloe man scored a great effort after 25 minutes as Clare at this juncture were (0-7) to (0-5) clear. Aaron Cunningham after a great ball from Domhnall O Donovan was on target as Alan on the sideline in an Offaly Management bib could only stand and admire his beloved. A powerful catch by Caimin Morey after a long free by Pat O Connor was ended successfully as the Bridge man under pressure from three Offaly men still managed to score to stretch Clare four clear as the home side were struggling for the previous five minutes to get past half way.
Expressive wing back Patrick Kelly who was determined to take the chance he was being offered by Fitzgerald scored a magnificent effort from a crazy angle before Shane Dooley in the 32nd minute left Offaly (0-10) to (0-6) in arrears. Great last gasp defending by Donal Touhy and Pat Kelly denied Shane Dooley a sure goal. The last score of the half fell to a Shane Dooley free to leave Clare (0-10) to (0-7) interval lead. With Limerick winning well at Casement park it stood at this time that Clare would play Limerick in the league final. Clare introduced Brian Donnellan and Stephen O Halloran for the second half as Galvin and Morey made way.
The first score fell to Derek Morkham for Offaly before Aaron Cunningham was fouled with Ryan on target for the Banner sides first score of the new half. Derek Morkam was beginning to dominate for Offaly. Within four minutes the sides were level, (0-11) apiece after a hat trick of scores from ice cool Shane Dooley (2 frees). Whilst the standard of fare was below championship level the hits and intensity was there for all to see. Offaly went ahead through Colin Egan for the first time only for Colin Ryan to equalise a minute late after 49 minutes as Ryan once again in league form can be clinical. Shane Dooley once again from a dubiously awarded 65 put Offaly clear but within two minutes the ball was in the net after Brian Donnellan raced on to to a Enda Barrett ball and finished past James Walshe in the Offaly goal. Clare were two clear but that was halved with another free by Dooley before Ryan doubled it again with 15 minutes left to play. The interchange between Dooley and Ryan continued as Dooley scored from play. With 14 minutes to play the sides were level (1-13) to (0-16) after another free from Dooley.
The tempo was increasing as Joe Bergin pointed a great effort as Eoin Hayes replaced Cathal McInerney as Offaly were growing in confidence knowing that Limerick were winning in Antrim with some ease. Joe Bergin was pulled down by Donal Touhy and from the penalty as Dooley let Clare off the hook going for a point to send Offaly two clear in the 62nd minute. A lot of action with no score came for the following five minutes before the game exploded in the last three minutes. Firstly Touhy saved from Dooley. From the clearance the ball was worked to Cathal Chaplin who first timed to the Offaly net. Cathal Parlon, son of former minister Tom Parlon once more brought parity between the sides. There was still one twist in the story and it fell to Aaron Cunningham who pointed the winner and ensured a modicum of slagging in a certain Shannon house for the coming week.
The DIv 1B league final is fixed for next Saturday evening in the Gaelic grounds against Limerick with the winner promoted to 1A in 2013 and a daunting league semi final spot against the mighty Kilkenny. Best for Clare were Donal Touhy, James McInerney, Liam Markham Pat Kelly, Pat O Connor, Aaron Cunningham, Brian Donnellan and Colin Ryan. Best for Offaly included Shane Dooley who hit (0-12), Derek Morkham, Joe Bergin (0-3), Sean Ryan, Cathal Parlon, David Kenny who worked hard, Colin Egan and Cathal Parlon. CLARE: Donal Touhy, Eamonn Glynn, James McInerney, Domhnall O Donovan, Enda Barrett, Pat O Connor, Pat Kelly (0-1), Colm Galvin, Liam Markham (0-1), Caimin Morey (0-1), Colin Ryan (0-7), Cathal Chaplin (1-0), Cathal McInerney (0-2), Fergal Lynch, Aaron Cunningham (0-2). Subs; Brian Donnellan (1-0) for Galvin, Stephen O Halloran for Morey, Eoin Hayes for C McInerney