Monday 26th February 2018
Allianz Football League Division 2: CLARE 1-12 DOWN 1-10
By Orla Bannon at Pairc Esler - WWW.GAA.IE
Clare claimed their first win of this season's Allianz Football League campaign to boost their chances of staying in Division Two.
Despite the dismissal of Ciaran Russell after 54 minutes and an unconvincing second half display by the Banner, they took full advantage of Down's wastefulness in front of goals to pick up a valuable two points.
Although they were never ahead in the game, Down dominated for long spells but hit 15 wides on a frustrating afternoon in Pairc Esler as their poor home league form continued. Clare were the better side in the opening half and led 1-9 to 1-5 at the interval.
They lost Russell after a black card offence, having already been booked in the incident which led to a Down penalty three minutes into the second half. But in another sign of Down's wastefulness, Darragh O'Hanlon blazed the penalty over the bar.
It's a result which eases Clare's relegation worries a little, but they are still vulnerable – as are Down, who are also sitting on four points after four games.
Having lost seven out of eight home league games in the last three seasons, they might not be too disappointed that two of their remaining three games are on the road.
Sean O'Donoghue's goal after 35 seconds was the perfect start for Clare, the forward cutting through the right side of Down's defence and blasting the ball high into the roof of the net. Eoin Cleary quickly added the first of his five first-half frees to put Clare 1-1 to no score ahead, but Down responded well and hit four unanswered points to draw level by the ninth minute. Donal O'Hare scored three of them, two from frees, with Shay Millar landing the equaliser. Cleary was outstanding from placed balls and his left-footed sideline conversion from inside the 21-yard line was the most memorable score of the day.
The unmarked O'Hare tapped into an open net after Caolan Mooney did all the hard work, his searing pace and unselfish fisted pass across goal teeing him up for a simple finish after 19 minutes.
That left it 1-04 apiece but it was the last time they were level with Clare hitting five of the next six points before half time, Keelan Sexton, Kieran Malone and four Cleary frees stretching them four clear at the break.
Russell's high tackle on David McKibbin gave Down a penalty and a way back into the game, but O'Hanlon's kick sailed high over the bar.
The second half became a little niggly as tempers boiled over on a few occasions and the closest Down got was to within two points, despite the best efforts of Mooney and Aaron Morgan who landed points.
O'Hare missed three frees while Anthony Doherty also had a mixed afternoon from dead balls, while in contrast Clare only had two wides in the entire game. Down 'won' the second half by five points to three, but Clare hung on for their first league win of the season.
Scorers for Down: Donal O'Hare 1-4 (3f), Anthony Doherty 0-2 (1f, one '45'), Shay Millar 0-1, Darragh O'Hanlon 0-1, Caolan Mooney 0-1, Aaron Morgan 0-1
Scorers for Clare: Eoin Cleary 0-7 (6f), Sean O'Donoghue 1-0, Cian O'Dea 0-1, Kieran Malone 0-1, Keelan Sexton 0-1, Eoghan Collins 0-1, David Tubridy 0-1
DOWN: Marc Reid; Colm Flanagan, Benny McArdle, Anthony Doherty; Darren O'Hagan, Niall McParland, Caolan Mooney; David McKibbin, Niall Donnelly; Darragh O'Hanlon, Conor Maginn, Shay Millar; Barry O'Hagan, Donal O'Hare, Ryan Johnston. Subs: Kevin McKernan for McKibbin (BC, 51), Aaron Morgan for R Johnston (51), Conor Poland for Maginn (51), Ruairi Wells for O'Hanlon (63), Sean Dornan for B O'Hagan (69)
CLARE: Killian Roche; Cian O'Dea, Cillian Brennan, Eoghan Collins; Ciaran Russell, Aaron Fitzgerald, Pease Lillis; Gary Brennan, Cathal O'Connor; Kieran Malone, Eoin Cleary, Gearoid O'Brien; Sean O'Donoghue, Keelan Sexton, David Tubridy. Subs: Alan Sweeney for O'Brien (46), Conor Finucane for Sweeney (68), Darragh Bohannon for Malone (70), Eimhin Courtney for Sexton (70)
Referee: James Molloy (Galway)