Clare 1-12 1-13 Down FT
Down just about edged out Clare in a close encounter in Ennis, thanks to a point fisted over the bar by Paul Comiskey in injury time.
Clare came agonisingly close to winning the game with a goal in the closing minutes when Down forward Conor Laverty was forced to clear off the line but Comiskey’s point turned out to be enough for the Mourne men to advance to the next round.
Last year’s All-Ireland finalists Down got off to a great start with a goal from Laverty inside the first five minutes and were leading by five points before Clare got their first point on the scoreboard, courtesy of Matt Tubridy, to make it 1-2 to 0-01 within the first 10 minutes.
Clare battled back from their deficit at the start of the game to get take the lead over Down thanks to three consecutive points from Tubridy, Alan Clohessy and Ger Quinlan before Timmy Ryan put the Banner County ahead with a goal in the 18th minute.
Comiskey levelled the scores on the 20th minute and then Down were unlucky not to get another goal when Benny Coulter’s shot was saved well by Clare keeper Joe Hayes.
The two teams then traded points as Martin Clarke scored a point only for Down only for the impressive Gary Brennan in midfield to draw the scores level once again.
Brennan and Quinlan had both stood strong for Clare in midfield in the first half as they went in for half-time only one point down due to Quinlan’s late point for Clare after Down’s Conor Laverty notched up most of the points on the board; the scores at half time 1-6 to 1-5 in Down’s favour.
Down manager James McCartan must have had an inspiring team talk during half time as Down came flying out of the traps for the second period and scored five points unanswered as Caolan Mooney, Mark Poland, McComiskey and Coulter, who also hit the bar in the 40th minute, were amongst the point scorers.
Clare battled back however thanks to points from David Tubridy and Joe Dowling, whose two consecutive points in the 57th minute and more points from Tubridy who levelled the scores in the 67th minute from a 20-metre after some heroic play by Clare, in both attack and defence.
Benny Coulter’s hard work proved decisive as the Down forward won possession and made the match-winning point for McComiskey with just two minutes of stoppage time remaining.
Despite Clare’s efforts, Laverty’s tracking back clearance off the line in final minute put a stop to a major upset by Clare and Down will need to improve vastly to ensure their championship campaign lasts as long as it did in 2010.
Full time, Great play from Clare and they nearly won it in injury time.
70+3 Looked to be a goal for Clare, but its saved on the line.
70+1 Down win a free on half way. Paul McComiskey fists it over.
69min Three minutes of injury time announced.
68min David Tubridy levels the match.
67min Free in from 20m out, Tubridy should kick this.
65min Some great defending by Clare, they win a free out.
63min Wide for Down, they needed that.
61min Great point from play for Clare, the have the momentum now.
59min David Tubridy kicks the free over.
58min Free in for Clare, they could get back to within two.
57min Clare get it back to four with Joe Dowling, he kicks another.. Only three in it.
54min Next score will be vital. Down get it.
52min Nice free from David Tubridy, Clare now only four down.
49min David Tubridy kicks a nice point for Clare
48min Benny Coulter kicks a nice point for Down.
47min David Tubridy hits a wide for Clare, they needed that.
45min Mark Poland hits a wide after some great play by Down.
43min Bredan McArdle the defender kicks a nice point from play.
42min Paul McComiskey hits a free over for Down.
41min The breeze is building up in favour of Down.
40min Benny Coulter hits the crossbar, Poland hits the rebound over the bar.
38min Point for Down by Mooney
37min Should be a great second half, Clare are playing some nice football.
36min Second half underway.
35+1 Half time
33min Nice point from Ger Quinlan to leave them one down.
29min Nice point for Down puts them ahead, Conor Laverty extends the lead to two for Down.
26min Benny Coulter is fouled, should be an easy point for Down. Shocking wide from Mark Poland.
24min Gary Brennan levels it for Clare.
22min Martin Clarke gives Down the lead from a free.
21min Great save by Clare keeper from a Benny Coulter shot.
20min P McComiskey levels it for Down.
18min Timmy Ryan gets a goal for Clare.
17min Ger Quinlan makes it four in a row for Clare
13min Poor wide from David Tubridy form a Clare free.
10min Alan Clohessy gets Clares second point.
9min Matt Tubridy gets Clare off the mark.
8min Nice point for Down to leave them five up.
5min Conor Lafferty gets Downs first goal
3min Slight breeze favouring Clare in first half.
2min Point from play for Down.
1min Game underway.
Clare (SF v Down): J Hayes; K Hartnett, B Duggan, L Healy; M McMahon, J Hayes, M Tubridy; G Brennan (captain), G Quinlan; A Clohessy, D Tubridy, C O’Connor;
Down (SFC v Clare) – B McVeigh; A Branagan, D Gordon, B McArdle; D Rooney, K McKernan, K Duffin; P Fitzpatrick, K King; D Hughes, M Clarke, M Poland; P McComiskey, B Coulter, C Laverty.
Last year’s beaten finalists Down will play Clare in Saturday’s All-Ireland Senior Football Championship in Ennis, throw-in at 3pm.
This game represents a tough test for last year’s runners-up Down, who got knocked out in the quarter finals of the Ulster Championship to Armagh at the end of May.
Down’s opponents were knocked out by Cork, Down’s conquerors in the All-Ireland final last year; Cork gave Clare a convincing beating on the day running out with a 1-23 to 0-11 in Pairc Ui Caoimh.
Clare will feel they were beaten by the best and fancy their chances against a Down side that looks like it will be without star player Danny Hughes, who looks likely be ruled out of the game in Cusack Park in Ennis due to a hamstring injury he picked up in training on Tuesday night.
Down manager James McCartan may also be without forwards Benny Coulter and Conor Maginn, who are also struggling with hamstring injuries; although there are still hopes that the pair will make it to the starting line-up for Saturday’s game.
The doubts over Maginn and Coulter add to the injury woes of the Down panel as Damien Rafferty, Gerard McCartan, Conor Garver and Darren O’Hagan have all been ruled out from the game against the Banner County; Garver also seems to have a hamstring injury and is in good company with Hughes and co.
Add Ambrose Rogers’ long term knee injury and the sudden retirement of John Clarke after the defeat at the hands of Armagh and Down manager McCartan has some unwanted selection problems to fill the gaps in his team.
Clare manager Michael McDermott has dipped into the Clare Under-21 team to include Stephen Tierney and Sean O’Driscoll in his squad to play Down.
Clare’s loss to Cork in the first match of the Munster Championship will look to be forgotten as last year’s beaten Munster finalists who went out at the same stage last year to Offaly.
Down will be out and out favourites, having reached the final last year and the three divisions difference between them in the league speaks for itself.