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Dublin are easily swatted aside as Lohan continues to mould Banner

Clare 0-27 Dublin 1-15, Allianz NHL Division 1 Group B

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Dublin’s Daire Gray is tackled by Tony Kelly of Clare. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Dublin’s Daire Gray is tackled by Tony Kelly of Clare. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

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Dublin’s Daire Gray is tackled by Tony Kelly of Clare. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Brian Lohan isn't prone to hyperbole, and certainly won't lose the run of himself, but he couldn't have asked for a much better start to his reign as Clare hurling boss.

Undefeated throughout the group stages of the National League and with a semi-final spot secured after a comprehensive defeat of an underwhelming Dublin side, there are green shoots for the Clare legend.

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Cathal Malone of Clare wins possession ahead of Dáire Gray of Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Cathal Malone of Clare wins possession ahead of Dáire Gray of Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

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Cathal Malone of Clare wins possession ahead of Dáire Gray of Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Lohan was a no-nonsense full-back in his heyday and his stamp is all over this Banner squad as they play a direct style where supplying the likes of Shane O'Donnell and John Conlon with quick ball is the chief priority.

O'Donnell was at his brilliant best in Cusack Park yesterday as he displayed an array of touches fit for the summer and caused endless problems for a top-class corner-back like Paddy Smyth.

Tony Kelly (0-12) and David McInerney (0-4) are running the show from the middle of the park with endless potential within that tandem while Clare seem to have developed a harder edge with the Dubs cleaned out on breaking ball and unable to break the line in attack.

While winning the League is not the goal for 2020 after Clare missed out on qualification from the Munster SHC last year, Lohan is happy with where they are while also striving for more having only been appointed at Halloween.

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David McInerney of Clare is tackled by Seán Moran of Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

David McInerney of Clare is tackled by Seán Moran of Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

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David McInerney of Clare is tackled by Seán Moran of Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

"Initially, we were a little bit behind the curve. We hadn't the work done that we would have liked, we were a bit behind for the first few months but we've drove it on and we want to try and win as many games as possible now," Lohan said.

Things are not so rosy in Dublin, however, as their League campaign finished the same way it started - with a comprehensive defeat away from home, and Mattie Kenny was left with much to ponder.

Donal Burke was Dublin's only starting forward to score from play until Ronan Hayes sent over a 66th-minute point, and their attack was devoid of ball winners with Kenny likely to be without Chris Crummey (broken collarbone) for two months.

They couldn't get their hands on possession but Liam Rushe's second-half cameo was a positive having spent the season to date sidelined with injury and Kenny has eyes only for summer with last year's shock All-Ireland preliminary quarter-final defeat to Laois still fresh on his mind.

Exposure

"We used the League to get a lot of game time into lads, we achieved that. Last year we felt in the League that we didn't give enough exposure to some players and come championship, they hadn't got the opportunities and maybe it held us back a little bit in the summer as it went on," Kenny said.

Burke didn't have his best day on free-taking duties but a trio of scores had the visitors on the mark early on before Clare totally took over and fired over the next eight points to surge into a 0-9 to 0-3 lead.

McInerney was dictating affairs in the engine room and striding forward to score while O'Donnell produced some moments of wizardry and Domhnall McMahon also sent over a brace.

The game could have went away from the Dubs but Burke and defender Paul Crummey kept fighting against the tide, while the first-half introduction of Eamonn Dillon also worked the trick.

Dublin outscored their hosts 1-5 to 0-2 in the final 12 minutes of the half to amazingly go in level with Naomh Fionnbarra attacker Dillon firing a crucial goal in the 34th minute, 1-8 to 0-11 at the break.

It looked like Dublin had found their mojo but there was no sign of that purple patch in the second half as normal order resumed with Clare firing over 10 of the next 13 points and Kelly on song from placed balls, 0-22 to 1-11.

Kenny's side had no answer in front of 3,360 in Ennis as Kelly wound up with a dozen points - his third tally of 0-12 in five League games - to propel the Banner into the last four as they eye their first League title since 2016.

They have earned a break as they wait to learn their opponents while a third League defeat means Dublin face 10 weeks in the wilderness before their Leinster SHC opener against Kilkenny on May 10.

"The League started very early this year and not to have competitive matches between now and May, like yesterday was February so the League is over very early," Kenny said. "It'd be nice to have a couple of games coming up in March but that's the format and that's what we have to deal with now. We've three weeks of hard work to do before we release players to the club."

Scorers - Clare: T Kelly 0-12 (10f, 0-1 '65), D McInerney 0-4, S O'Donnell 0-3, D McMahon, D Reidy 0-2 each, D Ryan, J Conlon, A Shanagher, G Cooney 0-1 each. Dublin: D Burke 0-10 (6f), E Dillon 1-0, P Crummey 0-3, D Gray, R Hayes 0-1 each.

CLARE - E Quilligan 7; J Browne 7, C Cleary 7, L Corry 8; C Malone 7, P O'Connor 7, P Fitzpatrick 6; D McInerney 8, T Kelly 7; D Ryan 6, D Reidy 7, D McMahon 7; R Taylor 6, J Conlon 6, S O'Donnell 8. Subs: A Shanagher 7 for Ryan (44), G Cooney for Shanagher (blood sub 56), Shanagher for Cooney (58), Cooney 7 for Taylor (58), K Hehir for McMahon (63), P Collins for O'Donnell (66), R Hayes for Fitzpatrick (69).

DUBLIN - A Nolan 7; P Smyth 6, E O'Donnell 7, A Dunphy 7; J Malone 5, P Crummey 8, D Gray 7; S Moran 5, R McBride 6; D Sutcliffe 6, D Burke 7, F McGibb 5; M Schutte 5, D Keogh 6, R Hayes 6. Subs: E Dillon 7 for Moran (26), A O'Neill for Dunphy (blood sub 50), P Ryan 6 for Sutcliffe (54), O'Neill for McGibb (59), J Hetherton 6 for Schutte (60), L Rushe for McBride (65).

Ref - D Hughes (Carlow).

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