Allianz FL D2: Clare register victory
Allianz Football League Division Two
Clare 2-14 Down 1-9
By Orla Bannon at Páirc Esler
Clare footballers signed off on their Division Two campaign with a comfortable win in Newry.
Colm Collins’ side won their opening three games and then lost the next three, but they will head into a Munster championship quarter-final against Limerick on May 1 on the back of a victory after easily overpowering a Down team that had already been relegated.
Referee Anthony Nolan gave Down fullback Finn McElroy a straight red card after 55 minutes after an off-the-ball incident. He also gave two black cards to Pat Havern and Gerard Collins respectively towards the end of each half.
Clare steered well clear of any relegation trouble all season and they were never in any trouble in this dead rubber fixture either.
Aaron Griffin squeezed home a lovely left-footed finish at the near post for a goal after nine minutes and the visitors were up and running.
Clare were the bigger, more physical side and Down struggled to contain their running power and strength in the air.
They did however score four out of a run of five points after the Clare goal with Havern and Liam Kerr scoring their only points from play in the first half. Kerr also had a smart shot saved by Stephen Ryan.
Clare’s second goal was a momentum-killer for Down,
The excellent Cian O’Dea found space through the middle and he had loads of time and space to steady himself, pick his spot and drill a low ball inside the ‘keeper’s right-hand post.
Clare led 2-5 to 0-5 at the break.
The Banner had 11 different scorers on the day and broke through tackles, frequently taking the easy and sensible option to punch the ball over the bar.
Down sub Corey Quinn did make an impact, though.
He almost scored soon after coming on only for Ryan to save but midway through the second half he did find the net with a fizzing left-footed drive across goal.
The Down players, desperate to sign off with some positivity ahead of an Ulster championship clash with Monaghan on May 1, did battle but they were up against a more experienced outfit.
It’s an uphill task now for Down, who will now have to beat Monaghan, and either Cavan or Antrim, to reach an Ulster final and win the right to play in the All-Ireland series.
Scorers for Clare: Aaron Griffin 1-1, Eoin Cleary 0-4 (2f), Cian O’Dea 1-0, David Tubridy 0-2 (2f), Ciaran Russell, Gavin Cooney, Darren O’Neill, Pearse Lillis, Emmet McMahon, Joe McGann 0-1 each, Brendan Rouine 0-1 (m).
Scorers for Down: Corey Quinn 1-1 (f), Andrew Gilmore 0-3 (3f), Barry O’Hagan 0-2 (1f), Pat Havern, Liam Kerr 0-1 each, Niall Kane 0-1 (45’).
Clare: Stephen Ryan; Conor Jordan, Ciaran Russell, Gavin Cooney; Jamie Malone, Cian O’Dea, Eoghan Collins; Daniel Walsh, Darren O’Neill; Pearse Lillis, Eoin Cleary, Emmet McMahon; Aaron Griffin, Keelan Sexton, David Tubridy
Subs: Brendan Rouine for McMahon (HT), Brian McNamara for Cooney (HT), Darragh McDonagh for Walsh (45), Ciaran Downes for Collins (48), Joe McGann for Griffin (70).
Down: Niall Kane; Adam Lynch, Finn McElroy, Tomas McInerney; Gerard Collins, Conor Poland, Anthony Morgan; Ryan McEvoy, Pat Havern; Ryan O’Higgins, Liam Kerr, Ceilum Doherty; Andrew Gilmore, Barry O’Hagan, Jack McCartan.
Subs: Corey Quinn for McCartan (44), Cormac O’Rawe for O’Higgins (51), Kevin McKernan for McEvoy (67).
Referee: Anthony Nolan (Wicklow).