All Ireland SFC Qualifier: Clare cruise to victory
All Ireland SFC Qualifiers Round 2A
CLARE 2-18 LAOIS 0-14
By Rory Delaney at O'Moore Park, Portlaoise
Clare defeated Laois in Round 2A of the All-Ireland Qualifiers for the second year in a row, claiming a 10 point win at O'Moore Park, on Saturday.
The Banner men cut loose in the second half, taking advantage of Laois being reduced to 14 men to in the 39th minute, John O'Loughlin the man dismissed.
Just a point separated these teams last year, but it is a sign of the respective directions both county's are heading that Clare could ease to such a comprehensive victory 12 months on.
Clare jumped out to an early lead, Keelan Sexton stroking over a free with a little over a minute gone. Laois, who have struggled at the back all year, were committing to a more defensive game plan, funneling men back in a bid to stifle the Clare attack.
It worked at times, but Eoin Cleary still found enough space to kick Clare's second point in the sixth minute. Donie Kingston finally got Laois on the scoreboard with a free, but Clare had the ball in the net moments later. Jamie Malone's joy was soon ended however, when he was deemed to have over-carried the ball, and the goal was chalked off.
Stephen Attride brought Laois back on level terms, but a free from Eoin Cleary quickly restored the Clare advantage. That would prove to be the story of the first half, with Laois forever trying to reel Clare in, and Colm Collins' men finding a way to stay ahead.
Cathal O'Connor's brilliant point pushed Clare three ahead after 24 minutes, but Donie Kingston set up one score and added a free to keep Laois in the hunt.
In a furious 90 seconds of play after that, Jamie Malone saw his second goal chance brilliantly saved by Graham Brody, before the upright denied Laois's Gary Walsh a brilliant goal.
Laois kept themselves within one as half time approached, but the Banner pushed hard before the whistle. Two points from Cleary and one from Gary Brennan drew just one in reply from Laois, a Gary Walsh free, as Clare lead 0-11 to 0-8 at the interval.
Before a score was registered in the second half, Laois found themselves down to 14 men, John O'Loughlin red carded for an off-the-ball incident with Ciaran Russell. Donie Kingston curled over a brilliant free to give Laois hope that they could still get something from the game, but that was soon extinguished.
Clare hit back with points from Cleary and Cathal O'Connor, before Cleary set Jamie Malone through on goal, and with his third attempt, finally raised a green flag.
That was that, even though there was still over 20 minutes to play, as Laois looked a beaten side, and Clare kept tagging on points at their ease. Keelan Sexton added a second goal to seal the deal.
Scorers for Clare: Eoin Cleary 0-9 (3fs, 3 45s), Keelan Sexton 1-2 (1f), Gary Brennan, Cathal O'Connor, Pierce Lillis 0-2 each, Jamie Malone 0-1.
Scorers for Laois: Donie Kingston 0-8 (7fs), Stephen Attride 0-3, Gary Walsh (f), Colm Begley, David Conway 0-1 each.
CLARE: Joe Hayes; Gordon Kelly, Kevin Harnett, Martin McMahon; Pierce Lillis, Ciarán Russell, Dean Ryan; Gary Brennan, Cathal O'Connor; Cian O'Dea, Eoin Cleary, Sean Collins; Keelan Sexton, David Tubridy, Jamie Malone.
Subs: John Hayes for Russell (56 mins), Gearoid O'Brien for Tubridy (56 mins), Seanie Malone for Sexton (61 mins), Darren Nagle for O'Dea (61 mins), Eoghan Collins for Harnett (64 mins), Darragh Bohannon for Lillis (69 mins), Kieran Malone for S Collins (69 mins).
LAOIS: Graham Brody; Darren Strong, Mark Timmons, Trevor Collins; Eoin Buggie, Padraig McMahon, Colm Begley; Brendan Quigley, John O'Loughlin; Alan Farrell, David Conway, Damien O'Connor; Stephen Attride, Donie Kingston, Gary Walsh.
Subs: Niall Donoher for O'Connor (ht), James Kelly for Buggie (49 mins), Paul Kingston for Conway (50 mins), Ross Munnelly for Walsh (50 mins), James Finn for Quigley (55 mins), Brian Daly for Attride (60 mins).
REFEREE: Jerome Henry (Mayo).