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Clare’s classy Cleary cuts Laois apart as league campaign off to a dreadful start

Laois 0-12 Clare 1-16
National Football League Division 2 South Round 1

Laois are staring a relegation playoff square in the face following a disappointing defeat against Clare in Ennis this afternoon.

Mike Quirke’s charges were one point winners at this venue last year but they were well beaten by their hosts this time – who were inspired by centre forward Eoin Cleary.

He finished the game with a ten points – and ended with a classy sideline as his side win by seven in the end.

Laois now face games at home to Cork and Kildare in the next two weeks – and they must now in all likelihood win both of them to avoid a relegation playoff.

Clare played with the aid of the breeze in the first half and they raced into a three point lead in the opening seven minutes with Eoin Cleary, Kealan Sexton and Cathal O’Connor all on target.

Laois struggled to build attacking momentum but they finally opened their account when Evan O’Carroll set up the returning Donie Kingston to score on the run.

The sides traded points from there to the water break with Evan O’Carroll and Kingston both scoring for Laois in between a Cleary free and a screamer from wing back Daniel Walsh to leave it 0-5 to 0-3.

Clare tore into Laois at the start of the second quarter and threatened to run away with the game.

Cleary raised two more white flags before a Clare break resulted in the aforementioned Walsh caressing a shot in off the post following some good work by Gavin Cooney.

They almost had a second straight away when Niall Corbet’s resulting kickout went badly wrong and Darragh Bonham got in one on one but the Clonaslee man redeemed himself with a brilliant double save. Eoin Cleary landed the resulting 45 and Clare led 1-8 to 0-3 after 25 minutes.

In fairness to Laois, they regained their composure and ended the half with frees from Donie Kingston and Corbet to reduce the gap to six at half time.

Laois now had the breeze at their backs but it was Eoin Cleary who extended Clare’s lead and although Paul Kingston responded, sub David Tubridy brought the advantage to seven after 40 minutes.

And things didn’t get any better for Laois as Daniel Walsh and Cleary scored again for Clare but they did hit back through subs Gary Walsh and Brian Byrne to leave it 1-12 to 0-8 after 50 minutes.

But Clare had the last say before the water break through Pearse Lillis and they took a 1-13 to 0-8 lead into the final quarter.

Laois needed a huge final 15 and they made a good start with a Gary Walsh free after Paul Kingston was fouled – but Cleary instantly replied with a free, a mark and a sideline to kill the game.

Laois now face Cork next Saturday evening in O’Moore Park in what is now a must win game.

SCORERS – Laois: Donie Kingston 0-4 (two frees), Gary Walsh 0-3 (two frees), Evan O’Carroll 0-1 (one mark), Paul Kingston 0-1, Niall Corbet 0-1 (one free), Brian Byrne 0-1, Colm Begley 0-1 Clare: Eoin Cleary 0-10 (six frees, one mark, one sideline), Daniel Walsh 1-2, David Tubridy 0-1 (one free), Kealan Sexton 0-1 (one mark), Cathal O’Connor 0-1, Pearse Lillis 0-1

LAOIS: Niall Corbett; Robbie Pigott, Mark Timmons, Gareth Dillon; Trevor Collins, Colm Begley, Paddy O’Sullivan; Kieran Lillis, John O’Loughlin; Eoin Lowry, Paul Kingston, Danny O’Reilly; Mark Barry, Donie Kingston, Evan O’Carroll. Subs: Gary Walsh for O’Reilly (ht), Brian Byrne for Lowry (45), Mick Keogh for Barry and Brian Daly for Lillis (both 58), Eoin Buggie for Collins (62), Ross Munnelly for P Kingston and Shane Bolger for Timmons (both 66)

Clare: Stephen Ryan; Eoghan Collins, Cillian Brennan, Ciaran Russell; Cian O’Dea, Sean Collins, Daniel Walsh; Cathal O’Connor, Darren O’Neil; Darragh Bohannon, Eoin Cleary, Pearse Lillis; Gavin Cooney, Jamie Malone, Kealan Sexton. Subs: Joe McGann for Malone (9, inj), David Tubridy for Sexton (ht), Alan Sweeney for Eoghan Collins and Emmet McMahon for Darren O’Neill (both 58), Aaron Griffin for Cooney (63), Ikem Uguraru for O’Dea and Cormac Murray for Lillis (both 66)

Referee: Sean Lonergan (Tipperary)

SEE ALSO – New to the Area: We’re looking to talk to people who have recently moved to Laois

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.