Banner victory marred by injuries to Honan and Conlon
Clare mixed moments of brilliance with long stretches of the mundane yesterday as injuries to Darach Honan and John Conlon marred their opening day Division 1B victory over Offaly in Ennis.
Both sides had players shown straight red cards when Peter Duggan and Conor Doughan clashed in the 50th minute, while Offaly finished with 13 men after Paddy Rigney's second booking 12 minutes from time.
A 15-minute spell of domination before half-time including a goal from Peter Duggan gave Clare the edge, but Offaly can be encouraged by their day's work despite defeat.
Injuries are testing Clare's strength in depth and Banner boss Davy Fitzgerald was annoyed by the latest casualties and what he claimed were late hits. "Darach's worrying enough. He's gone to hospital straight away. He could hardly breathe," said Fitzgerald.
"I saw the tackle and I'm not happy with it. It was missed, there were two or three tackles missed today. He could have a cracked rib or something like that but we're not sure. It was disappointing.
"With John Conlon, the ball was no place in sight. It's going to cost us two players for a while."
After 21 minutes packed with positive, intense hurling Offaly led by 0-6 to 0-4, but their inability to quell the flutter of Clare attacks before half-time proved critical.
In Shane Kinsella, who swept around midfield and half-back, Offaly had a standout performer, while wing-back Pat Camon was their top scorer from play in another fine display.
Despite hitting 16 wides, we saw flashes of Clare's brilliance in this win, as their ability to score at a rapid rate saw them pull clear in the ten minutes before half-time. Had Shane Dooley converted a penalty in the 61st minute a five-point lead might have been a little tougher to defend.
Offaly host Laois at O'Connor Park in Tullamore next week in what promises to be a key local battle for points.
Offaly manager Eamonn Kelly says he liked what he saw for the most part from this charges. "Other than that 15 minutes before half-time, we were competitive for the rest of the game," said Kelly.
"I think the goal in the finish might have flattered the scoreline a small bit. If we had scored our penalty, it might have only been five or six points in it. It's a learning curve. We have a lot of work to do to be competitive at this top level."
In the end Aaron Shanagher's injury-time goal flattered Clare a touch, but getting off to winning start left Fitzgerald satisfied.
"You can't be disappointed when you win, that's for sure," said the Clare manager. "It's great, we want to keep winning games as much as we possibly can. If we win four or five of these games, we'll be delighted.
"I thought the 13 or 14 minutes coming into half time, I thought that was the Clare I know. We only saw it for about 15 minutes but we really played well in that patch."
Scorers - Clare: Colin Ryan 0-9 (7f); J Conlon 0-3; A Shanagher, P Duggan 1-0; B Duggan (1f), D McInerney 0-2; C Cleary, D Reidy, C Galvin, S O'Donnell, C Dillon 0-1. Offaly: S Dooley 0-8 (6f, 1'65); P Camon 0-3; P Murphy 0-2; C Doughan (1f), S Kinsella 0-1.
Clare - P Kelly 7; P O'Connor 7, C Dillon 8, D McInerney 9; Conor Ryan 7, P Flanagan 7, C Cleary 8; D Reidy 8, C Galvin 7; Colin Ryan 7, J Conlon 8, P Duggan 7; S O'Donnell 8, D Honan 7, C McGrath 6. Subs: A Cunningham 7 for Honan (35+1), A Shanagher 7 for Conlon (39), B Duggan 8 for Colin Ryan (52), D Fitzgerald 5 for McGrath (57), J Browne for Conor Ryan (64).
Offaly - J Dempsey 7; N Wynne 7, C McDonald 7, P Rigney 6; P Camon 9, C Doughan 6, S Gardiner 6; P Guinan 7, S Kinsella 9; P Murphy 8, S Dooley 7, J Bergin 5; J Mulrooney 6, C Egan 6, J Sampson 7. Subs: J O'Connor 7 for Guinan (32), S Quirke 6 for Sampson (35+1), S Cleary 6 for Mulrooney (63), B Murphy 5 for Bergin (65).
Ref - S Cleere (Kilkenny).