Dublin spurn chances as Clare leave it late to secure narrow victory
Clare 0-20 Dublin 1-15
Despite trailing by five points at half-time, Clare hurlers dug deep into their resources of character to record a hard-earned two-point win over a valiant Dublin after an entertaining duel at Cusack Park in Ennis.
Clare were a point in arrears with five minutes left but substitute Jason McCarthy drew them level after an assist from Clare’s industrious midfielder David Reidy.
Then, after Reidy and Chris Bennett had traded frees, a brace of Banner subs delivered the all-important last two scores – Aaron Cunningham with a superb 69th minute effort from the left touchline, and Ian Galvin with a long-range insurance point on 72 minutes.
It was actually Galvin's third point from play; curiously, he was replaced immediately after his second, only to be reintroduced with the contest on a knife-edge.
The Banner's well-timed scoring surge had been made possible by the dominance of their half-back line over the last 25 minutes. It left the majority in a Cusack Park crowd of 4,370 relatively sanguine while catapulting rock-bottom Dublin into a last-day relegation dogfight with Kilkenny in Parnell Park.
Not that Clare are out of the mire either: they are one of three teams on four points and will need a result at home to Waterford on Sunday week.
But Dublin, with just that solitary Leeside win to show from their first four games, are in far graver peril of a relegation play-off.
And to compound the frustration of manager Ger Cunningham, this two-point defeat had echoes of their Croke Park loss to Waterford. Once more we had the initial promise of a five-point lead surrendered, as more experienced rivals eventually turned the screw, abetted by some annoyingly wasteful free-taking.
Donal Burke's two converted frees sandwiched a poor miss that came as a prelude to his 32nd minute exit. His replacement, Benett, settled any early nerves with a '65 and added two second half frees – but his two deadball wides really should have been nailed and he dropped another short on a day when every score was vital.
"In games like this, it's tight margins. I don't think David Reidy missed any frees," Cunningham pointed out. "You look at the (Tipperary/Kilkenny) game last night - free-taking is hugely important, when you get a chance you must convert it. That's been disappointing."
Still, the Dublin manager took some solace in defeat - more so from their second half resistance into the teeth of a fresh wind. "Can't fault the effort, can't fault the character of the team in the second half," he concluded. "We needed to be a bit more ahead."
As it was, they were indebted to some jumbled communication in the Clare defence, allowing Ryan O'Dwyer to pilfer the game's only goal in the 19th minute.
Up to that point, he had been shunted to the periphery by Cian Dillon – but a now-trademark soaring fetch by Eoghan O'Donnell at the other end set in motion the route-one move that ended with O'Dwyer flicking beyond Patrick Kelly.
The visitors now led by 1-4 to 0-5. With Niall McMorrow sniping to telling effect on the '40', the gap grew to five (1-10 to 0-8) by the midpoint.
On the restart, raiding corner-back Seadna Morey, with the first of two inspiring points, kickstarted a run of 0-3 from Clare … only for Dublin to hit back with a hat-trick of their own, via Ben Quinn, Chris Crummey and Eamon Dillon.
But they would only manage two more converted frees in close to half-an-hour of hurling. Clare saw their chance and seized it.
SCORERS - Clare: D Reidy 0-8 (7f), I Galvin 0-3, J Shanahan, S Morey 0-2 each, D Fitzgerald, P Collins, C McInerney, J McCarthy, A Cunningham 0-1 each. Dublin: N McMorrow, C Bennett (2f, 1 '65') 0-3 each, R O'Dwyer 1-0, D Burke (2f), B Quinn, E Dillon 0-2 each, L Rushe, F Mac Gib, C Crummey 0-1 each.
CLARE: P Kelly 6; D McInerney 6, C Dillon 7, S Morey 8; B Bugler 7, C Cleary 7, D Fitzgerald 8; J Shanahan 6, D Reidy 8; C Malone 6, P Collins 6, J Conlon 6; A Shanagher 6, P Duggan 5, I Galvin 7. Subs: C McInerney 6 for Galvin (26), J McCarthy 7 for Shanahan (50), A Cunningham 7 for Duggan (56), Galvin for Collins (62).
DUBLIN: C Dooley 6; J Madden 6, S Barrett 6, E O'Donnell 7; C Mac Gabhann 6, L Rushe 7, C Crummey 7; B Quinn 7, D Fox 6; F Mac Gib 6, N McMorrow 8, R McBride 5; E Dillon 6, R O'Dwyer 7, D Burke 5. Subs: C Bennett 6 for Burke (32), C O'Sullivan 5 for Mac Gib (50), C Boland 6 for O'Sullivan (64), F Ó Riain Broin for Madden (inj 68).
REF: A Kelly (Galway).