By Mike Fitzpatrick
Rockland 4-9, Clare 1-8
Rockland, the baby of senior football, came of age this week. Having won their first ever senior game when they competed with Longford last week, the upstate side clinched their second victory in seven days when they defeated last year’s strugglers Clare in this senior football Div. II clash.
Rockland, having played two senior football games, have now won two, and scored more than any of their rivals.
Clare entered the game having defeated Offaly in their first tie of the campaign, a victory which was a long time in coming. The Bannermen were on a high, and surely must have felt a little confident entering the fray here versus a side which had far less senior experience than they did.
They were surprised however.
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Pat Scanlon¹s men were rocked by a fantastic second half performance from the upstaters which left them trailing by a massive margin. The first half suggested strongly that either side could have edged in front, with both teams hitting points in at either end.
Dave Fitzgerald and Gerry Grogan upped the tempo for Rockland just before half time however, and left their rivals trailing by a worrying tally of five points.
The two Clare Darrens, Gleeson and Doherty, managed to register efforts for Scanlon¹s men and the tie still seemed within their grasp. They had drawn level following a fine Austin Kelly point, until Rockland¹s Leo Turley slid in to nip the ball past Martin O¹Connor in the Clare goal from close range.
O¹Connor was to be beaten another three times in the tie, certainly a tribute to the prowess of the Rockland forward line, as a keeper of his standard is rarely beaten so many times in a game.
Clare did have something of a rally in the second half, when efforts from Kelly and Doherty flew over the crossbar, and a goal from Kelly suggested that they were still within a shout of clinching something from the tie.
Rockland¹s forward line had other ideas. Gerry Grogan hit his second goal of the afternoon, and another one from Dave Fitzgerald killed off the tie for Clare.
Clare are certainly in with a chance of playoff promotions and it would be crazy to dismiss them so early in the season.
Rockland though, who knows? Having just moved up from junior football, and winning their first two ties in the senior set up, they look a good bet as dark horses to go a long way this season.
Clare: Martin O¹Connor, James Downes, Sean Melly, Bobby Chambers, Gary Rocks, Barry Keating, Tony Nolan, Pat Hegarty, Darren Gleeson (0-4), David O¹Halloran, Barry Malone, Austin Kelly (1-3), Darren Doherty (0-2), Dermot Boylan, Barry O¹Halloran
Rockland: Sean Soraghan, Kieran Lee, Tom O¹Riordan, Dermot Yorke, Tommy Acton, Mike Healy, Ray Reilly, Paddy Corcoran (0-1), Tom McHugh, Gerry Grogan (2-1), Mike Fitzpatrick (0-3), Gerry O¹Riordan, Dave Fitzgerald (1-1), Leo Turley (1-2), Paul Rowley. Sub: Peter Corcoran (0-1).
Man of the match: Austin Kelly (Clare).