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Clare finish strong to come out on top of Croke Park thriller

Clare are through to only their second All-Ireland SFC quarter-final after edging out Roscommon.

Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Clare 2-15 

Roscommon 1-17 

Kevin Egan reports from Croke Park 

IT WAS A game of two halves, but with a twist in the tale, at Croke Park this afternoon. Roscommon appeared to show up at national headquarters with a hangover from their Connacht final defeat to Galway, and for the first 35 minutes – or 33, at least – they were completely outpaced and outclassed by the Banner County.

1-10 to 1-8 at the interval was the very least that Clare deserved, even allowing for the greater number of missed chances at the opposite end of the field.

The second half was a different story, as Anthony Cunningham’s side found their form, upped the aggression, and overpowered Clare to move five points clear going into the closing minutes.

cathal-oconnor-and-darren-oneill-celebrate Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

That should have been enough, but instead, Clare tacked on a free from Eoin Cleary, won a penalty which was converted by Keelan Sexton, and then kept the momentum going to snatch the win with two late points.

A Diarmuid Murtagh goal in the sixth minute represented a dream start for the favourites, but all it did was briefly stem the incessant tide of early Clare pressure, with Cathal O’Connor, Ciarán Russell and Eoin Cleary all very influential in central positions for Colm Collins’ men.

Ciaráin Murtagh’s sharpshooting kept Roscommon in the game throughout the half, while there were occasionally good cameo moments from Ultan Harney, Eddie Nolan, Conor Hussey, Brian Stack and Cian McKeon, but in general Roscommon’s attacking play was far slower than that of the Clare men.

When Keelan Sexton scrambles the ball over the line after 19 minutes, Clare took a lead that they wouldn’t relinquish until well into the second half.

Points from Diarmuid Murtagh and Niall Kilroy just before half-time halved the gap and gave the Rossies a bit of momentum that they carried into the second 35 minutes.

Clare opened the scoring with just 30 seconds gone after the restart through a 45 metre free from Keelan Sexton, but from then on Roscommon went on an 0-9 to 0-1 run over the next 32 minutes, including six points in a row.

Donie Smith, Richard Hughes and Keith Doyle all chipped in with points from play off the bench as Roscommon pushed up, forced mistakes and turnovers on the Clare side, and generally took control of the game.

When Ciaráin Murtagh clipped over his fifth point, and his only free of the day, to make it 1-17 to 1-12, that looked like it should have been enough. Instead Clare hung on, earned a penalty, and once Keelan Sexton slotted that home, they had all the momentum going into the closing moments.

A clutch 50 metre free from Sexton levelled the game, and after Clare held possession for two minutes, Jamie Malone stepped forward to deliver a decisive finish from 40 metres.

Scorers for Clare: Keelan Sexton 2-6 (1-0 pen, 0-5f), Emmet McMahon 0-2, Cathal O’Connor 0-2, Eoin Cleary 0-2f, Pádraic Collins 0-1, Cillian Rouine 0-1, Jamie Malone 0-1.

Scorers for Roscommon: Diarmuid Murtagh 1-2 (0-2f), Ciaráin Murtagh 0-5 (0-1f), Ronan Daly 0-2, Donie Smith 0-2 (0-1f), Cian McKeon 0-1, Conor Cox 0-1f, Niall Kilroy 0-1, Conor Daly 0-1, Richard Hughes 0-1, Keith Doyle 0-1.


1             Tristan O’Callaghan         (St. Breckan’s)


5             Cian O’Dea          (Kilfenora

2             Manus Doherty (Éire Óg)

4             Cillian Rouine     (Ennistymon)


7             Jamie Malone    (Corofin)

6             Ciarán Russell     (Éire Óg)

25           Alan Sweeney     (St. Breckan’s)


8             Darren O’Neill    (Éire Óg)

9             Cathal O’Connor         (Coolmeen)


10           Pearse Lillis         (Cooraclare)

11           Eoin Cleary         (St. Joseph’s Miltown-Malbay)

12           Emmet McMahon            (Kildysart)


18           Pádraic Collins   (Cratloe)

15           Aaron Griffin      (Lissycasey)

24           Keelan Sexton    (Kilmurry-Ibrickane)

 Subs:  Brendan Rouine (Ennistymon) for Sweeney (53), David Tubridy (Doonbeg) for Griffin (54), Gavin Cooney (Éire Óg) for Collins (61), Conor Jordan (Austin Stacks, Kerry) for McMahon (66).


 1             Colm Lavin          (Éire Óg)


2             David Murray     (Pádraig Pearses)

3             Brian Stack          (St. Brigid’s)

4             Conor Daly          (Pádraig Pearses)


5             Conor Hussey     (Michael Glaveys)

7             Ronan Daly         (Pádraig Pearses)

6             Niall Daly             (Pádraig Pearses)


8             Ultan Harney     (Clann na nGael)

9             Eddie Nolan        (St. Brigid’s)


14           Niall Kilroy          (Fuerty)

10           Ciaráin Murtagh               (St. Faithleach’s)

11           Enda Smith          (Boyle)


13           Cian McKeon      (Boyle)

15           Conor Cox           (Éire Óg)

21           Diarmuid Murtagh           (St. Faithleach’s)

Subs:  Richard Hughes (Roscommon Gaels) for Hussey (41), Donie Smith (Boyle) for Cox (46), Keith Doyle (St. Dominic’s) for Kilroy (58), Andy Glennon (Michael Glaveys) for D Murtagh (64), Eoin McCormack (St. Dominic’s) for McKeon (68).

About the author:

Kevin Egan

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