Dublin defeat leaves Daly future in doubt
CLARE 1-16 DUBLIN 0-16
DUBLIN arrived in Ennis last night seeking redemption but left defeated and dismayed after Clare produced an exhilarating second half's hurling to reach the third phase of the qualifiers on Saturday next.
Afterwards Anthony Daly gave no clear impression of whether he has a future with this team but he did remark that the matter was out of his hands. The past two weeks have been probably the worst of his hurling life.
Having been crushed by Kilkenny in Leinster, and relegated in the league, this was Dublin's last chance at salvation. To put it bluntly, they were not up to the task and they will spend long hours trying to discover the reasons why. There will be any amount of theories. Did they over-train? Did they over-achieve last year? Those are for another day.
Daly has completed four years in charge and after the richly promising gains made last year -- winning a league, reaching an All-Ireland semi-final -- their form has fallen through the floor.
None of this need unduly concern Clare, although Davy Fitzgerald will feel sympathy for his old comrade and friend.
Clare made the night theirs. Their last summer victory was in 2008; this is a new generation of talented young hurlers -- four of last year's minors appeared -- and they are keen to start turning potential into hard gains.
Their victory was founded on an incredibly spirited, skilled and disciplined performance after Nicky O'Connell was sent off early in the second half. Fitzgerald made five changes to the team in a bold selection, bringing in Darach Honan and Tony Kelly and shaking up the half-back line. Kelly had a rewarding first outing and finished with 1-2 from play. Seadna Morey slotted calmly into midfield. John Conlon scored four points. Conor McGrath had an off-day by his standards and yet they won.
The sending off proved pivotal. O'Connell received a second yellow for a challenge on Danny Sutcliffe and when Paul Ryan converted the free Dublin led by five points. David Treacy widened the gap to six and Clare looked in serious bother. Instead, the moment transformed them and they left Dublin for dead.
In a pulsating spell, they hit six points in a row up to the 51st minute, to draw level, the last a tremendous score and first from play for McGrath. Alan McCrabbe ended the procession with a well-struck free but Clare were frenzied, roared on by the majority of the 9,000 attendance. Among their scores of note was a monster point from Sean Collins.
Fifty three minutes in Honan caught a ball, was fouled, and young Kelly nailed the 20m free, the game's only goal. Clare were back in front for the first time since the early stages. Even with the free man, Corcoran filling the role, Dublin could not handle the intensity and their forwards were making no impact.
The expected backlash from after their capitulation to Kilkenny a fortnight later never materialised. One facile win over a shambolic Laois is all they have from a season that has seen worrying regression.
Having led by four at half time, mainly due to the free-taking of Ryan, and extending it to six, a man up, they could not drive on. They rejigged the half-back line but missed Conal Keaney, who failed a fitness test. Maurice O'Brien was a surprise starter in the middle of the field and chipped in with two fine points but was later withdrawn.
Liam Rushe and Ryan O'Dwyer never gave the leadership expected of them, with the latter withdrawn. The backs battled spiritedly, but their forwards melted.
The home side scored from the opening sequence of play through Conlon, and with Kelly full of running, and McGrath and Honan in a two-man inside line, they created lots of problems. They had three points on the board before Dublin opened their account on nine minutes with a '65' from Ryan.
Ryan's accuracy from placed balls was a life-saver for Dublin. By half time he had eight of their 11 points, six frees and two '65s'. They didn't get their first score from play until Sutcliffe found the range on 21 minutes to put them two up.
It looked like that had settled but Dublin's lead proved unreliable and did not offer the storm protection required when the tempest arrived in the second half. They have a long winter of brooding ahead. Clare, unified and well drilled, will be a match for anyone.
Scorers -- Clare: C McGrath 0-5 (4f), T Kelly 1-2, J Conlon 0-4, D Honan, S Collins 0-2, S Morey 0-1. Dublin: P Ryan 0-9 (7f, 2 '65s'), M O'Brien 0-2, D Sutcliffe, D Treacy, A McCrabe (f), S Lambert, N Corcoran 0-1.
Clare: P Kelly; D O'Donovan, C Dillon, C Cooney; B Bugler, P Donnellan, N O'Connell; S Collins, S Morey; F Lynch, J Conlon, J Clancy; T Kelly, D Honan, C McGrath. Subs: P O'Connor for Cooney (22); C Galvin for Clancy (42); C Ryan for Honan (63); A Cunningham for Lynch(65).
Dublin: G Maguire; R Treanor, P Kelly, N Corcoran; J Boland, T Brady, M Carton; J McCaffrey, M O'Brien; L Rushe, A McCrabbe, D Sutcliffe; D Treacy, R O'Dwyer, P Ryan. Subs: D O'Callaghan for O'Dwyer (42); S Durkin for McCaffrey (48); N McMorrow for Ryan (49); S Lambert for O'Brien (52); R O'Carroll for Treacy (56).
Referee: D Kirwan (Cork).
Sunday Indo Sport