Friday 23 March 2018

Fitzgerald: We'd take one-point win next

Clare 1-32 Laois 0-15

Clare’s Shane O'Donnell battles for possession with Darren Maher of Laois in Ennis
Clare’s Shane O'Donnell battles for possession with Darren Maher of Laois in Ennis

Declan Rooney

Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald is expecting a big step-up in class next week when his side meet Wexford in Phase 3 of the qualifiers, but he is hoping not to get caught out with the seven-day turnaround after this straightforward win over Laois.

"Next week will be a tough game. They drew with Dublin and probably should have beaten Dublin in the Leinster championship this year. They'll come out and let go unreal, and we've to do the very same. So we've a very quick turnaround and, last year, the turnaround caught us out," said Fitzgerald, whose side never let up on their flagging opponents on Saturday.

"Six days (off) wasn't enough last year to get ready for a qualifier, so hopefully we can get rested and go again. We want to win this one, trust me, but I honestly believe it'll be good if we can come out of next week winning by a point or two. Next week is going to be massive."

After a bright start, Laois fell away as the Bannermen picked off their scores with ease and the O'Moore boss Seamus 'Cheddar' Plunkett conceded his side couldn't survive with Clare's rapid-fire hurling.

"It was difficult for us as we didn't bring our best game to Ennis. We'll have to go away and look at why that happened, but it seemed as if we couldn't cope with Clare's pace and the speed of their hurling.

"They set up to counteract our game plan and it worked well for them. They took their points well and that was the difference," said Plunkett.

But the former county star would not be drawn on his future as Laois manager next year, instead he enthused over the positives from a great summer. "We have a great platform to build Laois hurling on for the future," he said.


"Laois have taken big trimmings in the past and we have been lower. But now that there is a solid foundation to work from, it is a major positive for us.

"The major issue for us is to consolidate hurling in the county. I must say I have thoroughly enjoyed this year as Laois manager and they are a fantastic bunch of players.

"I'm an extremely proud Laois hurling man and anything I can do to better the game in the county, I will do it. I'll put my shoulder to the wheel. It's an honour for me and would be an honour for any Laois man to manage them."

Plunkett was accurate in his assessment of the state of Laois hurling, which he has helped drag back up from a disappointing 2012. But they found their level on Saturday as Clare dominated.

Nine minutes in, Laois trailed by 0-6 to 0-4 after a bright start. Twelve minutes later any chance of victory had disappeared as Clare hit seven points without reply. By half-time that lead was 0-17 to 0-8 as Clare continued to pile on the scores.

Fitzgerald was thrilled with his side's ruthless streak: "I'm delighted with my lads, they kept doing what we asked them to do no matter what, and I'm delighted with that. They worked very hard out there today, it doesn't matter what opposition you play, it matters how hard you work.

"We were only focused on getting as many scores on the board as we could. For 40 minutes or 50 minutes of that game they sat back off us deep, and we had in our heads that if they did that, we'd just throw over a point," said the former Waterford boss.

The scoring chances continued to arrive easily after the break and Clare obliged, hitting 32 points and just 10 wides throughout. Fifteen different players scored from play for the Banner, including 13 starters. Consequently, when substitute Shane O'Donnell rattled the net in the 68th minute it mattered little.

With wins over Antrim and Carlow and a good showing against Galway, Laois have plenty to build on for next season in Division 1B. Clare will hope their season's post-mortem can be put off for another week. They'll pose stiff opposition to a Wexford team that didn't impress against Carlow.

SCORERS – Clare: C Ryan 0-11 (8fs, 2 '65'), P Duggan 0-4, D Honan, C McGrath 0-3 each, S O'Donnell 1-0, P Collins 0-2, T Kelly, P Donnellan, J Conlon, C Galvin, B Bugler, L Markham, D McEnerney, C Dillon, P O'Connor 0-1 each. Laois: S Maher 0-5 (3fs), Z Keenan 0-4 (1f), W Hyland 0-3, PJ Scully 0-2, J Brophy 0-1.

CLARE – P Kelly 7; D O'Donovan 8, D McInerney 9, C Dillon 8; B Bugler 7, P Donnellan 7, P O'Connor 7; C Ryan 8, C Galvin 8; J Conlon 7, T Kelly 7, P Duggan 8; P Collins 7, D Honan 8, C McGrath 8. Subs: S O'Donnell 7 for Honan (42), A Cunningham 7 for Conlon (53), L Markham 7 for Galvin (56), S Morey 6 for Bugler (58), J Clancy 6 for Ryan (61).

LAOIS – E Reilly 8; B Stapleton 6, D Maher 6, J A Delaney 7; J Fitzpatrick 7, M Whelan 7, G Burke 7; C Healy 7, J Walsh 7; S Maher 8, Z Keenan 8, T Fitzgerald 7; J Brophy 6, W Hyland 7, B Dunne 6. Subs: PJ Scully 7 for Brophy (24), C Dunne 6 for Walsh (34), B Duggan 6 for Dunne (44), B Conroy 6 for T Fitzgerald (60), A Collier 6 for Healy (62).

Ref – C Lyons (Cork).

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