By Mike Fitzpatrick
Clare’s footballers recorded their first Gaelic Park victory in some time Sunday with this well-fought battle versus their Division 2 counterparts from Offaly.
Following a dismal 1999 season, long-serving manager Pat Scanlon will be happy at having gotten their first two points of the championship in what promises to be a long road ahead for the Banner County. In command for much of the game, Clare looked a different side than the one we had seen perform last year in the Bronx.
Opening with a couple of efforts from Marty McGlade and Austin Kelly, Clare took the early lead. A double from Danny Leavy brought Offaly back into the fray, and each side had a few efforts registering on the scoreboard in the subsequent 10 minutes. A Darren Docherty goal gave Clare a cushion coming up to the interval, and further points from Dermot Boylan left the score at 1-3 to 0-4 in Clare’s favor going into the break.
Offaly fought back early in the second half, with Pat Tracey forcing a fabulous save from Clare goalie Martin O’Connor. Brendan Lynch pulled one back for Offaly following an earlier attempt which was well blocked by the on form Clare keeper O’Connor. Austin Kelly had an effort that screamed narrowly wide of the Offaly goal that would have given Clare a healthier lead, and following this miss, Offaly went on the rampage, hitting back points and leveling through Danny Leavy’s effort. Sean Nolan put Offaly in front by a point, but Austin Kelly pulled Clare back onto even terms with a well-taken point, and Justin O’Halloran moved the Bannermen back into the lead.
With under 10 minutes on the clock, Mark Scanlon and Nigel Kearney brought Offaly back into the tie once more, but a killer goal from O’Halloran gave Clare the lead they’d been seeking for so long throughout the tie. Austin Kelly followed up with another point after some good work from Gerry Power, and Dermot Boylan came close to wrapping things up with an effort that screamed narrowly wide. Austin Kelly finished off the scoring for Clare with one effort that bounced over the bar, and another point that gave Clare their deserved 5-point victory.
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Offaly: Tom Furlong, John Hannify, Enda Condron, Pat Leavy, Mike Dolan, Sean Nolan (0-1), Mark Dolan, Colm Scanlon, Nigel Kearney (0-1), Paul Glennon (0-1), Danny Leavy (0-3), Dessie O’Connor (0-1), John Kiernan (0-1), Brendan Lynch (0-1), Pat Treacy (0-1). Sub: Mark Scanlon (0-2).
Clare: Martin O’Connor, James Dwyer, Sean Melly, Bobby Chambers, Tony Nolan, Mark Crossan, Gary Rocks, Pat Hegarty, Tom Nolan, Barry Lydon, David
O’Halloran (1-1), Darren Docherty (1-0), Austin Kelly(0-5), Dermot Boylan (0-3), Marty McGlade (0-1). Subs: Owen O’Loughlin (0-1), Gerry Power.
Man of the Match: Austin Kelly (Clare).