EIGHT points ahead at half-time after playing with the wind in Tubber last Friday night, a goal from John O’Hara straight after the break put Clara on course for a comfortable win over Ballycumber in their championship opener.
Tullamore Court Hotel Offaly Senior Football Championship
Last year’s beaten finalists were the stronger team on the night and they played with a pace to their game that at times Ballycumber simply could not match.
Had they been more accurate in the opening 30 minutes and had they kept the pace to their game throughout, they would have won the game by a considerably larger margin.
With a team showing six changes from last year’s County Final, including the absent Joe Quinn and Thomas Deehan, Clara were well on top on the first-half but they only lead by a point after 22 minutes due largely to their profligacy in front of goal.
In the first-half alone they hit nine wides with six of those coming inside the first 20 minutes.
They almost made the dream start when a long ball forward fell to John Reynolds but his shot was well saved by John O’Brien.
Scott Brady put the first point of the 2012 championship after four minutes when he slotted the ball over after he was allowed to run through the defence. A point from Barry Cushen followed soon after but despite the fact that Clara were working the ball forward well, scores were at a premium.
A point from a free from Colm Quinn opened Ballycumber’s account after eight minutes but that was cancelled out by John Reynolds.
Rory Guinan responded with a well taken score for and with 18 minutes on the clock and Ballycumber were just a point adrift despite the fact that they were playing against the wind and were spending the majority of the time camped inside their own half.
A point apiece was exchanged with Stephen Deehan pointing a free for Clara and Rory Guinan doing likewise for Ballycumber.
That left the score at 0-4 to 0-3 in favour of Clara and with 23 minutes on the clock it looked as if they were not going to take full advantage of the wind blowing behind them.
However in the final seven minutes of the half they eventually found their range and rattled off seven points to give themselves a healthy advantage.
Throughout the half early ball forward to the full-forward line of Cushen, Reynolds and O’Hara had created chances and that was the supply line that proved fruitful as they steadily built their lead.
A long range point from Ross Brady started the scoring run and Enda Dunne followed with another after a well worked free.
In the final five minutes of the half they added another five points with Graham Guilfoyle (2), John Reynolds, Barry Cushen and Enda Dunne all on the mark to leave them 0-10 to 0-3 at the break.
Going in at half-time only one Clara midfielder or forward hadn’t got his name on the scoresheet but John O’Hara put that right within 20 seconds of the restart when John Reynolds and Scott Brady combined to put him through and the corner-forward made no mistake.
With the wind behind them Ballycumber hit back with four of the next five points, three from Colm Quinn and one from Fergal Daly with Stephen Deehan scoring for Clara.
Unfortunately for Ballycumber they lost Rory Guinan to an ankle injury but they continued to chip away and three points in as many minutes, two from Conrad Casey and one from the veteran Quinn reduced the gap to a nervous six points going into the last four minutes.
However Ballycumber never looked like getting a goal as Kevin Meehan was untroubled throughout in the Clara goal. Having taken their foot right off the pedal, Clara added two of the last three points to round off the win with Matthew Mitchell and John Reynolds finding the mark to round off a very comfortable and impressive opening win.
Clara: Kevin Meehan; Deasun Baggott, Gary Collins, Paul Mitchell; John Flattery, John Ledwith, Lorcan Hiney; Scott Brady (0-1), Ross Brady (0-1f); Graham Guilfoyle (0-2), Stephen Deehan (0-2f), Enda Dunne (0-2); John O’Hara (1-1), John Reynolds (0-3), Barry Cushen (0-2). Subs: Matthew Mitchell (0-1) for Stephen Deehan (54mins)
Ballycumber: John O’Brien; Declan Daly, John Egan, Niall Quinn; Chris McDonald, Karl Daly, Richie Dunne; Ger Egan, Diarmuid Daly; Rory Guinan (0-2, 0-1f), Fergal Daly (0-1), Ethan Keena; Colm Quinn (0-5, 0-3f), Eamon McCabe (0-1), Conrad Casey (0-2). Subs: Colin Daly for Rory Guinan (35mins) (inj), Gary Larkin for Ethan Keena (48mins), Brian Halligan for Conrad Casey (50mins)
Referee: Damien Brazil
First point: Scott Brady (6 minutes)
First goal: John O’Hara (20 secs into second half)
First yellow card: Ross Brady (16 minutes)
Origianlly named amongst the substitutes, John Flattery came in to the starting 15 due to the absence of Joe Quinn and he had a fine game at wing-back and was arguably the best performer in white on the night. Also to the fore were the full-forward line of John O’Hara, John Reynolds and Barry Cushen who gave the Ballycumber full-back line a tough time from start to finish.
Clara were cruising at half-time with a 0-11 to 0-3 wind after playing with the wind. Ballycumber would have felt coming out after the break that they were still in the hunt but just 20 seconds after the restart John O’Hara blasted home a goal for Clara which all but ended the game as a contest