After an innocuous opening exchange of points, the wheels started to come off the Mayo wagon. John Browne, the normally surehanded goalkeeper, mishandled a routine ball and Stephen Flynn alertly snapped up the loose ball and nudged it over across the goal line.
Mayo fought off that blow and came back with a goal from their fine corner forward Ronan McGee after good setup work from Barney Coulter. Then with the score 1-2 a piece, disaster struck again in a virtual replay of Clare’s first goal.
Again McGee deposited the gift in the back of the Mayo goal and Mayo were on the ropes. The rest of the half was one-way traffic in Clare’s favor. The Banner midfielders ran riot and Mayo were constantly back on their heels. Eventually Clare earned a penalty and corner back Niall Corbett came up and drove it past Mayo’s new keeper Gary Staunton.
Clare led 3-8 to 1-3 at the half time and now it was up to Mayo to fight their way back.
The second half began well for the Westerners with 1-2 from Ronan McGee. A good catch from Brendan Horan set up the Mayo goal and comeback seemed to be on. Then with the Clare midfield still ruling the roost, Padriag Hurley took center stage. The powerfully built full forward thumped over 0-6 in the final 20 minutes to crush Mayo.
And thumped is the word to describe Hurley’s kicking style. Whether from play, or frees, 50 yards was nothing to Hurley and when his foot met the ball the sound reverberated around Gaelic Park. Hurley had plenty of help from Flynn, Conrad Murphy, and especially Loughnane and Canty. The Clare midfield was so dominant that their markers were both removed by the Mayo mentors. With Mayo in tatters, Clare showed no mercy in putting together by far their best performance of the season.
Now Pat Scanlan has Clare back in the finals looking to secure their passage to Senior A division. If the Banner men are able to find this form again, their Final’s opponent will need to be on top of their game.
For Mayo this was a disaster. After a successful run-up to this semifinal, much was expected from Mayo. Instead, it all went wrong. Their steady defender, Dave Colleran, was badly out of position at midfield and, of course, the two soft goals were killers. Now Mayo must regroup and Clare head for the final.
Man of the Match: Cathal Loughnane
Clare: Eoin O’Loughlin’ Brian Cooney, Kevin Heaney, Niall Corbett (1-0), Alan Kavanagh (0-1), Paul O’Connor, Mike Louther, Cathal Loughnane (0-3), Graeme Canty (0-1), Gary Dowd, Conrad Murphy (0-1), Tadgh Foley, Stephen Flynn (2-2), Padriag Hurley (0-8), Eoin Coveny. Subs: John Paul Madigan (0-3), Con Breen, Joe Egan.
Mayo: John Browne, Niall McMahon, Lee Kelly, Keith McMahon, James Rafter, David Heaney, Eamon McEvoy, Ronan McGarrity, Dave Colleran, Brendan Horan, Barney Coulter (0-2), Mark Cullhan (0-1), Mickey McGahon, Joe Coulter, Ronan McGee (2-4).