Clare footballers in dreamland after handing ragged Rossies reality check
Clare 2-12 Roscommon 1-9
This has already been a year to remember for the Clare footballers, but Colm Collins's side can now look forward to a second day in Croke Park when they head for an All-Ireland quarter-final against Kerry next Sunday.
Nearly an hour after the full-time whistle, the last of the Clare supporters left the Pearse Stadium pitch after they flocked in to celebrate their third qualifier win of the season, the latest coming against Roscommon.
Goals from David Tubridy and Jamie Malone in the first half mean they will be the heroes, but to pick individuals from this Clare side would be unfair. Dominant around the middle, bright in attack and tigerish in defence, Clare devoured a Roscommon side that came into the game with tender egos following last Sunday's 11-point hammering in the Connacht final replay.
With a Division 3 league final win over Kildare already to their name at Croke Park this year, Colm Collins will be hopeful his side can claim a major championship scalp against Kerry next weekend, but for now he chose to lap up the celebrations with his compatriots.
"It is a very special day for Clare football and for all the people that followed us in the bad times," said the Clare manager.
"Well, we were up against a very strong Division 1 team, they blazed a trail at the start of the league this year so they have quality and we were expecting them to come at us and they did. And we did have a few scary moments when we didn't put scores on the board, but we worked hard and eked out the win."
Roscommon will be very disappointed with the manner of their summer. Last year they collapsed against Sligo in Connacht and to Fermanagh in the qualifiers and this season left a similar aftertaste. Their hopes were not helped by the sending off of Sean Mullooly in the 49th minute when he picked up a second yellow in quick succession, and considering Clare had already seen Cathal O'Connor shown a red card 12 minutes earlier, it was a silly red card to earn.
But even if Mullooly had stayed on, or if Kevin Higgins didn't pick up a black card 10 minutes after his introduction, or if David Murray wasn't sent off in added time, Clare were never going to be beaten.
A season that promised so much after a bright maiden campaign in Division 1 has fizzled out. Kevin McStay had no answers afterwards.
"We were not up for it. The six days is obvious, you know the stats. It is a very tough one to manage if we were going to rise," said McStay.
"I thought we'd be the match of Clare. Six-day turnaround and going to play Dublin or Kerry or someone you'd be up against it. It was Clare we were playing coming from Division 3 and we are Division 1 and we felt we'd match them but the evidence didn't match up.
"We had said to them, 'You'll think you are going nicely until you get a sucker punch and it's how you react to that', but then they put another goal on top of it. That really made a gap and we couldn't react to it. We didn't have it in us today."
But in the early stages it seemed as if Roscommon might have the ability to become the fourth team to upset the six-day turnaround stats and points from Ciarán Murtagh and Enda Smith saw them lead by two after five minutes.
But with Dean Ryan and Seán Collins a threat running through the heart of Roscommon, Clare soon settled. Jamie Malone picked out Tubridy for the opening goal in the sixth minute, and while Roscommon managed a couple of retorts, the Banner men pulled clear when Malone rounded off a stunning move to hit their second goal in the 24th minute.
Five down at half-time, surely a counter-punch would arrive from Roscommon when O'Connor was sent off in the 37th minute, but Cleary pointed next to stretch the Clare lead. Smith's goal and a point from Diarmuid Murtagh cut the lead to two points with 10 minutes remaining, but all belief drained from Roscommon when Cleary pointed and Smith and Murtagh kicked wides.
Subs Shane McGrath and Seán Malone added points for Clare, but it was Cleary who settled them, his late brace turning the Clare bus for Croke Park again.
Scorers - Clare: E Cleary 0-6 (2f, 1'45), D Tubridy 1-2 (1f), J Malone 1-0; D Ryan, G Brennan, S McGrath, S Malone 0-1. Roscommon: E Smith 1-1, C Murtagh 0-3 (3f), D Murtagh (f), S Mullooly, N Kilroy (f), D Shine (f), C Devaney 0-1.
Clare: J Hayes; S Hickey, K Harnett, M McMahon; C O'Dea, G Kelly, D Ryan; G Brennan (c), C O'Connor; J Malone, S Collins, P Lillis; E Cleary, D Tubridy, K Sexton. Subs: P Collins for Tubridy (47), S McGrath for Lillis (56), E Coughlan for Sexton (60), S Malone for Cleary (74), P Burke for Cleary (75), D Burke for J Malone (76).
Roscommon: D O'Malley; S McDermott, S Mullooly, N McInerney; J McManus, N Daly, D Murray; C Compton, D Keenan; U Harney, N Kilroy, E Smith; C Cregg, D Shine, C Murtagh (c). Subs: T Corcoran for Compton (32), K Higgins for Harney (h-t), C Connolly for C Murtagh (h-t), D Murtagh for C Cregg (42), C Devaney for Higgins (46 BC), F Cregg for Shine (67).
Referee: P Hughes (Armagh).
Sunday Indo Sport