Allianz HL D1: Clare too good for Laois
Allianz National Hurling League Division 1B
CLARE 2-27 LAOIS 1-17
By Paul Keane at MW Hire O'Moore Park, Portlaoise
A couple of trademark Shane O'Donnell runs yielded two important goals for Clare and ultimately two precious Allianz NHL points as the Banner finally got up and running in Division 1B.
Speedster O'Donnell netted himself in the 10th minute after a lung bursting run through the centre and turned provider in the second-half for substitute Mark Rodgers to volley in Clare's second, a strike that moved them 11 points ahead and within touching distance of victory.
After defeats to Clare and Wexford, it was a timely win for Clare which takes them off the foot of the table with two games to go.
All-Star Tony Kelly was a notable absentee with an apparent dead leg injury though another experienced midfielder, Colm Galvin, did make a welcome return from a long-term groin problem as a second-half sub.
Manager Brian Lohan brought on seven subs in all with Rodgers among those and finishing on 1-2 for the afternoon.
Conditions were difficult and a lengthy hail shower at half-time made things even worse though Clare rose above the elements, outscoring Laois by 1-15 to 1-6 in the second-half.
Free-taker Aidan McCarthy top scored for Clare with 0-13 while captain John Conlon skippered the team from the half-back line and struck a stunning score after just 70 seconds.
That was actually the game's third point as both sides began at a feverish pace as they desperately chased a win.
A total of 20 wides, 13 of which came in the first-half, undermined the efforts of Clare who led by 1-12 to 0-11 at half-time when it probably should have been more.
Laois, beaten by Wexford and Dublin previously, were overwhelmed at times in the second-half and managed just 1-2 from open play, the goal a 52nd minute volleyed effort from Ross King.
Clare had just a point to spare when the sides met in the Championship last November but were more comfortable this time and their second goal all but killed the contest.
It was a beauty too as O'Donnell, Clare's hat-trick hero in the 2013 All-Ireland final replay, took off on another solo run and laid off to Rodgers who had the presence of mind to volley home from close range.
Rodgers added two more points while McCarthy continued to punish indiscipline in the Laois defence with a series of points from frees.
Clare will return to activity on Saturday week against Dublin at Parnell Park while Laois will play Kilkenny away in their penultimate Division 1B outing.
Scorers for Clare: Aidan McCarthy 0-13 (0-12f), Mark Rodgers 1-2, Shane O'Donnell 1-1, Cathal Malone 0-4, Diarmuid Ryan 0-2, Ian Galvin 0-2, John Conlon 0-1, Jason McCarthy 0-1, David Fitzgerald 0-1.
Scorers for Laois: PJ Scully 0-10 (0-8f, 0-1 65), Ross King 1-2, Paddy Purcell 0-2, Colm Stapleton 0-1, James Ryan 0-1, Jack Kelly 0-1.
CLARE: Eibhear Quilligan; Rory Hayes, Conor Cleary, Aaron Fitzgerald; Diarmuid Ryan, John Conlon, Jack Browne; Cathal Malone, Jason McCarthy; Shane Golden, David Reidy, Shane O'Donnell; Aron Shanagher, Ian Galvin, Aidan McCarthy. Subs: Mark Rodgers for Golden h/t, David Fitzgerald for J McCarthy 45, Colm Galvin for Reidy 56, Domhnall McMahon for Galvin & Cian Nolan for Ryan 63, Darragh Lohan for Conlon & Gary Cooney for O'Donnell 68.
LAOIS: Enda Rowland; Diarmuid Conway, Donnchadh Hartnett, Sean Downey; Conor Phelan, Matthew Whelan, Jack Kelly; Fiachra Fennell, Paddy Purcell; James Ryan, Colm Stapleton, Ciaran Collier; PJ Scully, Eoin Gaughan, Ross King. Subs: Ciaran Comerford for Gaughan 47, Lee Cleere for Phelan & Ciaran McEvoy for Whelan 62, Aaron Dunphy for Stapleton 64, Stephen Bergin for Collier 71.
Referee: Patrick Murphy (Carlow).