Fitzgerald urges fans to 'stick with' Clare
CLARE manager Davy Fitzgerald took up the verbal cudgel on behalf of his young players to plead with the Banner followers for patience and understanding.
A narrow but deserved victory over last year's All-Ireland finalists at Cusack Park, Ennis, gave Fitzgerald the perfect platform to state his case once again.
"We lost to Waterford by a point and you'd swear someone had died around there. I can't understand it," said Fitzgerald.
"None of these top six teams are bad teams. There's very little between the lot of them. I was disappointed we lost to Waterford, but we were within a point of them.
"These guys are giving everything for Clare. They'll play for our supporters and give them everything. Just stick with them in the good days and the bad days."
In terms of giving everything, four players in particular exemplified the spirit of the team. Tony Kelly, Shane O'Donnell, Padraic 'Podge' Collins, and Seadna Morey all played U-21 club championship matches on Saturday.
Morey actually played a full 60 minutes and then 20 more in extra-time, but these young lads all performed well in the win yesterday.
"To play two serious championship games in 24 hours, that's serious for those boys and my hat is off to them. I don't know how they did it," said the Clare boss.
Galway had a strong team in action but they never led, despite creating plenty of chances.
They faced a tigerish Clare who were strong and quick in defence, busy around the midfield sector and whose free-taker Colin Ryan knocked over scores from all distances and angles.
Ryan scored 0-8, seven from frees, and his only wide came from a pressurised shot outfield in open play. The defence was marshalled well by skipper Patrick Donnellan and David McInerney. Morey and Domhnall O'Donovan battled really well, especially around the goal area where Galway forged some threatening chances only to be defied by heroic blocks, and a couple of good saves by goalie Patrick Kelly.
Brendan Bugler was tasked with man-marking mighty Joe Canning, and stuck to the task with – for Canning – irritating dedication.
In fairness, Joe cracked in a terrific goal, but that was from a 20-metre free and the rest of his 1-9 total came from eight frees and one point from play. A bitterly cold day with a strong wind favouring Clare in the first half didn't affect the decent quality of the fare on offer.
The Banner led by 0-12 to 0-8 at half-time, with a flurry of three late scores from frees by Canning narrowing what had been a growing gap between the sides.
Galway selector Mattie Kenny admitted that the Tribesmen were a tad frustrated with their first-half showing. "We missed 2-5 in the first half. We should have gone in at half-time winning, but we didn't," he said.
"We had enough chances in the second half to win the game and we didn't do that. If you keep missing chances, they usually come back to haunt you by the time the game is over."
The expected Galway onslaught didn't happen at the start of the second half. Instead, by the 43rd minute Clare's John Conlan had struck three fine scores from play and Colin Ryan added another to bring the home side to 0-16.
The riposte from Galway in that time was just two points, one by Aidan Harte and the other an Andy Smith score. Clare refused to buckle and dug deep, but they were rocked by Canning's 47th-minute goal from that 20-metre free.
He added two more points from placed balls and with 15 minutes left, Clare led by just a point at 0-16 to 1-12. How did they survive the wave of maroon attacks from there to the end?
It was a combination of factors – defiance and spirit – as shown by David McInerney launching his body into harm's way to try and block a puck after losing his hurley – and Galway's lacklustre finishing.
Tony Kelly and sub Fergal Lynch finished Clare's scoring by the 60th minute, and the Banner battlers held out to restrict Galway to just a Canning 67th-minute point.
In the last three minutes plus a minute for time added on, the exchanges were ferociously contested.
Canning tried to engineer a goal by hitting in a free from over 60 metres aimed at his big men around the Clare goal, but the ball was scrambled out for a '65'.
He tried from there to set up another late goal attempt but Clare's array of bodies did enough to force a Joseph Cooney last-gasp shot wide of the posts.
Man of the match: C Ryan (Clare)
Scorers – Clare: C Ryan 0-8 (7f), T Kelly, J Conlon 0-3 each, P Collins 0-2, S O'Donnell, F Lynch 0-1 each. Galway: J Canning 1-9 (8f), N Donoghue, A Smith, N Healy, A Harte 0-1 each.
Clare – P Kelly 7; D O'Donovan 7, D McInerney 8, S Morey 7; B Bugler 7, P Donnellan 7, P O'Connor 7; Conor Ryan 7, N O'Connell ; Colin Ryan 8, T Kelly 7, E Barrett 7; S O'Donnell 7, J Conlan 7, P Collins 7. Subs: F Lynch 6 for Barrett (55), C Galvin 6 for Conor Ryan (59), J Clancy 6 for Collins (63), D Honan 6 for O'Donnell (63).
Galway – C Callanan 7; F Moore 7, K Hynes 7, J Coen 7; D Collins 7, J Cooney 7, N Donoghue 7; I Tannian 7 A Smith 7; D Hayes 7, J Canning 8, T Haran 7; N Healy 7, J Glynn 7, D Glennon 7. Subs: A Harte 6 for Haran (39), B Flaherty 6 for Smith (54), S Moloney 6 for Healy (59).
Ref – C Lyons (Cork).