Tuesday 20 February 2018

Whelahan pleads for more time as Banner end two-year drought

Clare 3-26 Offaly0-15

John Conlon, Clare, in action against Colin Egan, Offaly. GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship, Round 1, Clare v Offaly (Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE)
John Conlon, Clare, in action against Colin Egan, Offaly. GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship, Round 1, Clare v Offaly (Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE)
Shane Golden, Clare, in action against Colin Egan, Offaly
Shane Golden, Clare, in action against Eanna Murphy, Offaly
Conor McGrath, Clare, in action against Dan Currams, Offaly
James Dempsey, Offaly, after conceding his side's second goal

Declan Rooney All-Ireland SHC qualifier rd 1

Brian Whelahan insisted he wants another year to try to revive Offaly hurling, but after a 20-point trimming from Clare he could have a battle on his hands to convince the decision makers he's the right man for the job.

Davy Fitzgerald's side were ruthless in their dissection of Offaly as goals from Conor McGrath, John Conlon and Shane O'Donnell eased their progress, but the Clare boss called on the Offaly board to stick with the Birr legend.

"Brian Whelahan is a hurling man. He eats, sleeps and drinks it, but he can't do it all on his own. You can't blame him if it's not going right," said Fitzgerald.

"I think people should give Offaly a bit of a break. They did alright in the League. I think Brian is doing a lot of work and he needs to get as much help as he possibly can off the powers that be in Offaly. They need to back each other."


Whelahan said he was disappointed with Offaly's summer return and that he wants to remain in charge for another year.

He suggested that good times might not be too far away if they can stick with their current progress and continue to build solid foundations.

"Of course (I want to stay), I'm an Offaly man. But at the end of the day that's not for me to decide," said Whelahan .

"It's going to take a number of years. You don't just flick a switch and it happens in one year. And you definitely don't flick a switch when things haven't been coming through from underage.

"It is very, very disappointing. Regardless of the two games that we've played in the Championship, the guys trained very, very hard all year. We put in a very big year and it is very disappointing to go out," added the two-time All-Ireland winner.

By contrast, Clare look to be a team on the up again. Their League displays against Kilkenny especially hinted at positive times to come.

Now with a first Championship win since 2013 in their pocket and the prospect of either Cork or Dublin in the next round of the qualifiers, this Banner side is confident again.

There is plenty for Fitzgerald to be pleased with. Colm Galvin is back in his squad after three months in America, his players are beginning to find fitness and form and suddenly he has selection dilemmas.

"We were out of the Championship this time last year. We have a game under our belt and we're kicking on," he said. "I'm just happy that in the middle of July, we're still in it. We're looking forward to the battle next weekend. This is all we talk about."

His side took no pity on a flagging Offaly at Cusack Park. In front of 14,268 supporters, the Clare forwards looked hungry for scores, Kelly at midfield was masterful, while their defence was rock solid.

Two points inside the opening 60 seconds set the tone, and by the time McGrath goaled after seven minutes, the lead was up to seven points and the win looked a certainty.

With Kelly and McGrath particularly sharp, Clare easily opened out a 1-13 to 0-9 half-time advantage.

Conlon put in another consistent display, and his goal two minutes into the second-half put Clare in total control.

Kelly showed all his class in the build-up to Clare's third goal, which O'Donnell crashed past James Dempsey, and from there to the end it was easy for Clare.

Scorers - Clare: T Kelly 0-8 (2fs), C McGrath 1-4, J Conlon 1-2, S O'Donnell 1-0, Colin Ryan (2fs), Conor Ryan, D Honan 0-3 each, S Golden 0-2, P O'Connor 0-1. Offaly: S Dooley 0-6 (6fs), S Kinsella 0-4, S Cleary 0-2, J Bergin, J Mulrooney, P Murphy 0-1 each.

Clare - P Kelly 7; D McInerney 8, C Dillon 7, S Morey 7; B Bugler 8, Conor Ryan 8, J Browne 7; P O'Connor 8, T Kelly 9; J Conlon 8, Colin Ryan 7, S Golden 8; C McGrath 8, S O'Donnell 8, D Honan 7.

Subs: D Reidy 7 for Conlon (53), A Cunningham 7 for O'Donnell (53), P Flanagan 6 for Dillon (59), D O'Donovan 6 for Browne (60), C Galvin 6 for Honan (63).

Offaly - J Dempsey 8; D Shortt 7, N Wynne 6, D King 6; E Murphy 6, C Egan 6, G Conneely 6; E Nolan 6, J Mulrooney 7; P Murphy 6, D Currams 6, J Bergin 6; B Carroll 6, S Kinsella 8, S Dooley 7.

Subs: S Cleary 8 for Nolan (35), S Ryan 6 for Conneely (41), P Camon 6 for Shortt (51), S Wynne 6 for Currams (58), D Mooney 6 for E Murphy (62), C Kiely for Egan (68).

Ref - J Keenan (Wicklow).

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