A last minute goal by Eoin Hayes of Newmarket Celtic put paid to Dublin’s chances and ensured a home semi-final against Kilkenny as Clare maintain their momentum for a third consecutive Oscar Traynor Cup title.
Surface conditions at Frank Healy Park were excellent unfortunately, a very strong wind created difficulties for both sides as they struggled to keep the ball in play at times.
Kick-off was delayed for around 20 minutes after some confusion over the choice of officials for the game. The Clare League had anticipated Tipperary officials but an hour before the game was made aware that the officials should be appointed by the host league.
Referee Michael Rock took charge at short notice assisted by John Green and Terry Kennedy before a disappointing crowd of fewer than 300 spectators.
Strong contenders for this year’s title, Dublin Athletic Union League won the toss and opted to play against the wind in the first half.
Clare had the first scoring chance in the 6th minute when Dublin’s Anthony McKay was booked for a foul on Colin Ryan. The Newmarket man floated in the free to Stephen Kelly whose shot was just over the bar.
Eoin Hayes was fortunate not to see red when himself and John Rock clashed in the 9th minute and referee Michael Rock booked both players.
David McCarthy shields the ball from Ryan McEvoy.
Both goalkeepers were in action for the next few minutes, first Lee Murphy got his fingertips to David McCarthy’s free-kick before Barry Ryan easily dealt with a shot from Dublin captain John Lester.
The wind continued to play havoc as Dylan Casey’s cross, intended for Derek Fahy at the back post, was carried away by a strong blast.
Dublin had a good scoring chance in the 24th minute when a good move started by Anthony McKay who found Philly Hand and his cross was headed over the bar by John Rock when the centre-forward really should have hit the target.
Clare worked hard to use their wind advantage, in the 38th minute Gary O’Connell’s wells struck shot was blocked by Paul McMillan, shortly after Colin Ryan’s 25-yard drive was well saved by goalkeeper Lee Murphy.
Dublin had a chance to take the lead within two minutes of the interval when John Lester’s pass split the defence but John Rock was ruled narrowly offside with just the keeper to beat.
The game remained scoreless at half-time but it was now time for Clare to defend against the strong wind. From the kick-off, Stephen Donnelly carried the ball through the middle but Barry Ryan pulled off a great save to deny the Dublin man.
Ryan was back in action within seconds when he produced another fine save to deny Paul McMillan at the expense of a corner. In the 6th minute, Clare had another let-off when Darren Doyle cut in from the left wing and shot right across the face of the goal.
Clare worked the ball upfield for David McCarthy to test the goalkeeper with an excellent effort that was palmed out for a corner.
In the 55th minute, McCarthy split the defence to put Eoin Hayes through with only the goalkeeper to beat but Murphy dived at his feet to save.
The home side could have taken the lead in the 58th minute when Tommy McKeown was put through by Derek Fahy but he failed to hit the target with the goal at his mercy.
Just after the hour mark, Clare was awarded a penalty when Darren McDonald brought down David McCarthy inside the box. However, goalkeeper Lee Murphy pulled off an excellent save from Eoin Hayes well-struck spot kick.
Dublin made the first substitution when Glen Reddy came on for Darren Doyle but they were down to ten men after 32 minutes of the second half when Anthony McKay saw red for a foul on David McCarthy.
Gary O’Connell’s shot is blocked by Paul McMillan.
Stephen Donnelly had a great chance for the Dubs three minutes later but missed an open goal. At this point, Ian Collins replaced McCarthy in the Clare side while Dublin brought on Jimmy McHugh for John Rock.
Clare won a free kick just outside the 18-yard box when the Dublin captain John Lester was carded for a bad foul on Eoin Hayes. Dylan Casey tried to create a scoring chance from the free but the Dublin defence was resolute.
With five minutes of normal time remaining, Dublin piled on the pressure in search of a winner and they had Clare pinned down with three corners in quick succession before Barry Ryan lifted the siege when he saved Darren McDonald’s header.
Another corner two minutes from time saw Jimmy McHugh’s header rebound off the base of the post, much to the delight of the Clare support.
The home side broke out of their own half, Derek Fahy carried the ball down the wing before crossing into the box to Ian Collins. There was panic in the Dublin defence when he passed to Eoin Hayes who sidestepped Gavin McDermott’s lunging tackle before calmly slotting the ball through the legs of Darren McDonald and past Lee Murphy all the way to the net for the winning goal.
Dublin went on the attack but Clare goalkeeper Barry Ryan pulled off a great save from Stephen Donnelly in the dying seconds before referee Michael Rock blew the final whistle.
Clare will now have home advantage in the semi-final against Kilkenny which will be played at 2.00pm on Sunday 12th May in Frank Healy Park, Ennis. The winners will host the final against the winners of Carlow v Sligo/Leitrim.
Clare & District League: Barry Ryan (Avenue Utd), Colin Smyth (Newmarket Celtic), Dylan Casey (Avenue Utd), Eoin O’Brien (Newmarket Celtic), Stephen Kelly (Newmarket Celtic), Colin Ryan (Newmarket Celtic), Derek Fahy (Bridge Utd), Gary O’Connell (Newmarket Celtic), Eoin Hayes (Newmarket Celtic), David McCarthy (Newmarket Celtic), Tommy McKeown (Tulla Utd). Subs: Ian Collins (Newmarket Celtic), Colin Scanlon (Shannon Town), Simon Cuddy (Avenue Utd), Ciaran Monaghan (Sporting Ennistymon), Jim Dooley (Mother Celtic), Mark Roche (Avenue Utd), Darren Whelan (Shannon Town).
Dublin AUL: Lee Murphy, Gavin McDermott, Philly Hand, John Lester (c), Darren McDonald, Ryan McEvoy, Paul McMillan, Anthony McKay, John Rock, Stephen Donnelly, Darren Doyle. Subs: Wayne Waldron, Mark Higgins, Willo McAdams, Jimmy McHugh, Glen Reddy, Matthew Kelly, Ernest Lematovic.
Referee: Michael Rock.