Jamie Malone kicked a late winner for Clare in their Allianz Football League Division 2 victory over Louth.
Jamie Malone kicked a late winner for Clare in their Allianz Football League Division 2 victory over Louth. 

Allianz FL D2: Late Clare surge stuns Louth

Allianz Football League Division 2 Round 1

CLARE 0-13 LOUTH 1-9

By Eoin Brennan at Cusack Park

An opening weekend feat of escapology from Clare who kicked four injury-time points to snatch victory at the death over Division 2 newcomers Louth in Cusack Park, Ennis.

In a rare clash between two of the code’s most experienced managers Mickey Harte and Colm Collins, the spoils appeared to be heading back to the North East when a later Ciaran Downey goal followed almost immediately by a Sam Mulroy point powered Louth 1-9 to 0-9 clear of their hosts by the 68th minute.

Crucially however, Clare never reached for the panic button as Emmet McMahon and substitutes Gavin Cooney and Daniel Walsh levelled the tie by the 76th minute before Jamie Malone competed a memorable finale from the restart.

It was cruel on the Leinster side who had led for the majority, only to be floored with the last kick of the contest. The Division 3 champions had a sizeable wind advantage for the opening period and once talisman Sam Mulroy opened the scoring in the seventh minute, Louth would hold the whip hand for the entire half.

Indeed, the visitors would kick the first four points in a dramatic first twenty minutes as braces for Mulroy and Conor Grimes were offset by a black card for Liam Jackson and the premature retirement of midfielder Ciaran Byrne on a stretcher.

Clare meanwhile were slow to settle, coming off the wrong side of the upright on two occasions before springing to life with quickfire points through Eoin Cleary and Keelan Sexton in the 25th minute to finally open the home account.

Sexton would double his bounty to lower the arrears to the minimum before having to succumb to a hamstring injury. However, it was Mickey Harte’s side that finished the half on the frontfoot with two further Mulroy points to take a double scores 0-6 to 0-3 cushion into the dressing rooms.

Clare expectedly were the dominant force with the conditions at their back for the second period but their profligacy in front of the posts prevented the home side from initially demonstrating that on the scoreboard.

They did kick the first three points of the new half through placed balls from Emmet McMahon (2) and Eoin Cleary by the 48th minute at 0-6 to 0-6. However, ten wides would hamper any further home progress as instead Daire McConnon and Dermot Campbell would nudge Louth back into the ascendancy at 0-8 to 0-6 by the turn of the final quarter.

Clare finally homed their radar with three successive points through Éire Óg replacements Mark McInerney and Gavin Cooney along with Jamie Malone to inch in front for the very first time at 0-9 to 0-8 by the 66th minute.

However, that lead would only last a matters of seconds as from the kick-out Conor Grimes teed up Downey for the only goal of the game.

It should have been the catalyst for a famous Louth triumph but instead it was Clare, in their seventh successive season in Division 2, that demonstrated their greater experience and resilience.

Scorers for Clare: Emmet McMahon (0-3, 2f); Eoin Cleary (2f), Keelan Sexton, Gavin Cooney (1m), Jamie Malone (0-2 each); Mark McInerney (’45), Daniel Walsh (0-1 each)

Scorers for Louth: Sam Mulroy (0-5, 3f); Ciaran Downey (1-0); Conor Early (0-2); Daire McConnon (f), Dermot Campbell (0-1 each)

CLARE: David Sexton; Ronan Lanigan, Cillian Brennan, Manus Doherty; Jamie Malone, Cian O’Dea, Alan Sweeney; Cathal O’Connor, Darren O’Neill; Emmet McMahon, Pearse Lillis, Dermot Coughlan; Keelan Sexton, Eoin Cleary, Podge Collins. Subs: Mark McInerney for Sexton (33, inj), Ciaran Downes for Coughlan (47), Darragh Bohannon for O’Connor (51), Daniel Walsh for Sweeney (54), Gavin Cooney for Collins (62)

LOUTH: Declan Byrne; Dan Corcoran, Peter Lynch, Dermot Campbell; Leonard Grey, Donal McKenny, Ciaran Murphy; Conor Early, Ciaran Byrne; Conall McKeever, Conor Grimes, Liam Jackson; Daire McConnon, Sam Mulroy, Ciaran Downey. Subs: Tommy Durnin for C. Byrne (12, inj), Niall Sharkey for Lynch (38), Alan Connor for McKenny (45), Tom Jackson for McKeever (47), Craig Lennon for L. Jackson (47), Ryan Burns for Durnin (68, inj)

Referee: Sean Lonergan (Tipperary)