O'Connell hits late winner to deny Saffrons
CLARE'S long journey home from Casement Park will have been a sweet one after midfield maestro Nicky O'Connell snatched the winner in injury-time.
It was a deserved victory for Clare, who played the last 19 minutes with 14 men, centre-back Jamie McInerney having been sent off for a second yellow card.
The Banner boys controlled most of the first half with the wind at their backs. Their opening goal was hit home in the 11th minute by winger Conor McGrath, whose first effort was well blocked by 'keeper Chris O'Connell. This sent the visitors into a 1-2 to 0-2 lead and they never looked back.
Over the next 21 minutes they added 1-7 to their tally, Cathal McInerney grabbing the second goal on 19 minutes, while confining Antrim to just two points.
The Saffrons hit back in the closing minutes of the half with a point from a free by Karl Stewart and a cracking goal from Neil McManus who was sent through by Conor Carson to leave Clare ahead 2-9 to 1-5 at the break.
Now with wind advantage, the home side dug deep as they hit 1-7 to Clare's two points between the 38th and 58th minutes to tie up the game at 2-12 apiece, with Liam Kearns snatching the goal on 50 minutes.
But Antrim should have made much more of the wind advantage as they failed to snap up points when the situation presented itself.
Niall O'Connor sent Clare ahead from a free, Karl Stewart levelled from a placed ball 70 metres out on the wing, but, in injury-time, O'Connell fired over the winner from another placed ball.
MAN OF THE MATCH -- Nicky O'Connell (Clare).
SCORERS -- Clare: N O'Connell 0-7 (6f), C McGrath 1-1, C McInerney 1-0, J Conlon, D Honan 0-2 each, P Vaughan, D McMahon 0-1 each. Antrim: N McManus 1-4 (2f), K Stewart 0-4 (3f), L Kearns 1-0, C Carson 0-2, K McKeegan, C McFall, S McNaughton 0-1 each.
CLARE -- D Touhy 7; M Early 6, C Cooney 7, D O'Donovan 7; B Bugler 8, C Dillon 6, J McInerney 5; N O'Connell 9; P Vaughan 8; P O'Connor 6, J Conlon 8, D McMahon 7; D Honan 7, C McInerney 5, C McGrath 7. Subs: F Lynch 5 for P O'Connell (h-t), J Clancy 7 for C McInerney (h-t), C Ryan 6 for McMahon (47), S Collins for Clancy (68).
ANTRIM -- C O'Connell 8; N McAuley 7, C Donnelly 7, A Graffin 7; K McKeague 8; M Herron 6, C Herron 6; K McKeegan 7, K Stewart 8; L Kearns 6, M Armstrong 6, N McManus 7; D Hamill 5, C Carson 8, C McFall 6. Sub: S McNaughton 6 for Armstrong (38).
REF -- E Hassen (Derry).