REFEREES’ blowing up prematurely figure prominently in the Offaly versus Clare rivalry, most famously in 1998 when Galway whistler Jimmy Cooney was shrouded in controversy after he called a halt to the All-Ireland semi-final replay two minutes shy of regulation time with Clare leading by three points and Offaly pushing hard to gain parity.
Infuriated ‘Faithful’ fans staged a sit down protest at GAA headquarters and acknowledging an injustice had been perpetrated, officialdom ordered a re-fixture which Offaly subsequently won at Semple Stadium.
Current Offaly boss Joe Dooley clipped over five memorable points during that epic final instalment of the Offaly-Clare trilogy and on Saturday evening, at the official opening of Crinkill GAA grounds, it was his son Shane that racked up 1-10 and rifled home the equalising goal from a 68th minute 21m free.
Clare sub ‘keeper Donal Tuohy delivered his puck-out and with an overcast evening sky (that earlier witnessed a light aircraft fly over and four parachutists landing on the pitch) blocking out the sun, referee Declan Cooke opted to call time on proceedings. And unlike 13 years ago, there wasn’t a word of dissent and no sit-in by irate fans!
Both counties will look upon this encounter as a useful work out however the dreaded spectre of injury problems did rear their ugly head.
Offaly’s Michael Verney departed the fray after 23 minutes with a nasty looking finger injury, while Clare centre back Brendan Bugler went off the in 41st minute, requiring assistance from the pitch with a leg injury. Joe Brady, after undergoing an operation earlier in the season, made his return, getting a run during the closing ten minutes and after Bugler’s forced departure, Clare manager Ger O’Loughlin sprung Corofin’s Gerry Quinn.
Tipperary U-21 manager Ken Hogan was among the attendance no doubt keeping notes for Tipp senior boss Declan Ryan, as on June 19 the reigning All-Ireland champions face the ‘Banner’ men in the Munster SHC semi-final. He will have noticed how Clare deployed John Conlon as a 4th half back during the opening ten minutes and this tactic provided them with the platform to dominate and indeed after 18 minutes purposeful and bustling Clare, beaten by Limerick in the NHL Division 2 Final, enjoyed a 0-8 to 0-1 cushion.
Conlon picked up a lot of loose breaking ball and delivered much quality ball inside to Cormac O’Donovan who impressed as did the very lively and busy Jonathan Clancy at mid-field. Clancy registered five points from play and looked particularly sharp.
When Clare reverted back to a more orthodox formation, with Conlon going to right half forward and O’Donovan into the corner, Offaly did get to grips a bit better but even so the wind assisted ‘Banner’ led by 0-14 to 0-6 at half time.
Offaly, still minus the services of James Rigney, Paul Cleary, David Franks, Rory Hanniffy and Brendan Murphy, started without three of the side that began against Dublin in the Leinster quarter-final the previous Sunday – Brian Carroll, Stephen Egan & Joe Bergin were replaced by the Mulrooney brothers James & Brian with Cathal Parlon also figuring from the start.
Daniel Currams and Conor Mahon were Offaly’s only scorers during the opening 19 minutes, 0-2 to 0-8, and who else but Shane Dooley supplied the remaining four points, split equally between frees and play, registered prior to half time. With Clare deploying Conlon as an extra defender, Offaly struggled to make attacking inroads and they reshuffled this sector continuously in an effort to get players into the game.
Both counties made plenty of substitutions for the second half and with David Kenny (after his switch to centre back) and Dylan Hayden enjoying aerial supremacy, Offaly began to dominate with an iron fist.
Indeed, the ‘Faithful’ encouragingly hit eight unanswered points by the 49th minute, thereby levelling proceedings at 0-14 apiece. Dooley (4 – a ’65, 2 frees and one from play), Daniel Currams (2), Derek Molloy and sub Tomas Carroll hoisted over the points.
Within seconds of Offaly equalising, Clare half back Pat Donnellan landed a brilliant long range point. Cathal Parlon tied matters again, 0-15 all before Clare regained the initiative with Donnellan and his half back colleague Pat O’Connor (free) dispatching the points.
Clare looked on course to secure the win when they seemed to have weathered the Offaly revival and led by 0-22 to 0-18 after 63 minutes. The ‘Faithful’ refused to fling in the white towel though and they were duly rewarded as Dooley hit 1-1 from frees to earn a draw.
Inside seven days Offaly have tallied 2-39 (1-20 v Dublin & 1-19 v Clare) and of that total Dooley has amassed 2-23 (1-13 v Dublin & 1-10 v Clare). That contribution speaks for itself.
Daniel Currams and Tomas Carroll impressed at different stages as did Kenny & Hayden, while the Offaly management quartet of Joe Dooley, Brendan Kelly, Francis Forde and Pat McLoughney sprung other fresh faces in the guise of Chris McDonald, Mark Morkan and Bryan Lonergan.
Offaly: Shane Dooley (1-10, 1-6 frees & 0-1 ’65), Daniel Currams (0-3), Tomas Carroll (0-2), Cathal Parlon (0-1), Conor Mahon (0-1), Derek Molloy (0-1), James Mulrooney (0-1).
Clare: Jonathan Clancy (0-5), Pat Donnellan (0-3), Colin Ryan (0-3 frees), Cormac O’Donovan (0-3), John Conlon (0-2), Pat O’Connor (0-2 frees), Mark Earley (0-1), Cathal Chaplin (0-1), Fergal Lynch (0-1), Pat Kelly (0-1).
Offaly 14 (10 1st half)
Clare 10 (5 1st half)
OFFALY: James Dempsey; Michael Verney, David Kenny, Brian Mulrooney; Dylan Hayden, Eanna Murphy, Derek Morkan; James Mulrooney, Daniel Currams; Derek Molloy, Conor Mahon, Colin Egan; Shane Dooley, Ger Healion, Cathal Parlon. Subs.: Stephen Egan for M Verney inj (23 mins), Eoin Kelly for J Dempsey, Mark Morkan for D Morkan, Bryan Lonergan for C Egan, Tomas Carroll for G Healion (all half time), Peter Healion for E Murphy, Chris McDonald for B Mulrooney (both 42 mins), Joe Brady for C Parlon (57 mins), E Murphy for C Mahon (58 mins).
CLARE: Philip Brennan; Pat Vaughan, James McInerney, Conor Cooney; Pat O’Connor, Brendan Bugler, Pat Donnellan; Jonathan Clancy, Mark Earley; Cormac O’Donovan, Cathal Chaplin, Fergal Lynch; John Conlon, Caiman Morey, Colin Ryan. Subs.: Eamonn Glynn for P Vaughan, Cian Dillon for M Earley (both half time), Jerry Quinn for B Bugler inj (41 mins), Brian Donnellan for J Conlon (52 mins), James Gunning for C Cooney, Pat Kelly for F Lynch, Donal Tuohy for P Brennan (all 54 mins).
REFEREE: Declan Cooke, Crinkill.