Venue: McSharry Park.
Clare booked their spot in the semi-finals of the Oscar Traynor Cup after dispatching of the Sligo/Leitrim challenge last night.
It is the fifth time these sides have met in recent seasons with Clare having the upper hand on each occasion including last year’s win at the same stage of the competition. Both sides were without a number of key players for the tie. The Sligo/Leitrim duo of Colin Jinks and Ross McLoughlin were absent through injury and suspension respectively.
Newmarket Celtic duo David McCarthy and Stephen Kelly were unavailable to make the journey to Sligo while their clubmate Eoin Hayes failed to make the starting eleven due to injury.
With eighteen minutes on the clock, Clare took the lead through Tulla United’s Darragh Corry. A free from Paddy O’Malley met the head of the unmarked Corry who headed past Martin Ward in the Sligo/Leitrim net.
Following the concession of the opening goal, the host side increased the intensity of their performance with Clive Brennan and Christopher Kelly in particular leading their quest to find an equaliser. However the Clare defence of Eoin O’Brien, Paddy Purcell, Sean O’Callaghan and Darren Cullinan snuffed out most goal chances.
Shannon Olympic’s Garry Higgins doubled Clare’s advantage with forty three minutes played in the first half. A through ball from Colin Smyth fell perfectly to Higgins and he made no mistake in slotting past Ward.
Trailing by two goals, Sligo/Leitrim showed great fight upon the resumption. Their hard work paid off with forty nine minutes played when former Irish Junior International Keith Nibbs beat Bridge United’s John Mulready in the Clare net.
Sligo/Leitrim were dealt a huge blow when experienced midfielder Damien Shannon was forced off with what appeared to be a serious knee injury. His departure proved to be a blow to the John Loftus managed outfit as it took the wind out of their sails when they were beginning to put a foothold on proceedings.
Things went from bad to worse for the hosts as netminder Martin Ward was red-carded with ninety minutes on the clock after he took down Colin Smyth on the edge of the box. The resulting free went narrowly wide just before referee Terence Byrne blew for the full-time whistle.
Next up for Mick Shiel and his Clare charges is a last four clash where they will face either Limerick, Dublin AUL, Inishowen or Kerry/Wexford. For their next outing Shiel will hope to have his full squad available and will need a stronger performance.
Clare: John Mulready (Bridge Utd), Eoin O’Brien (Newmarket Celtic), Sean O’Callaghan (Ennis Town), Paddy Purcell (Newmarket Celtic), Darren Cullinan (Newmarket Celtic), Darragh Corry (Tulla United), Darryl Eade (Ennis Town), Colin Smyth (Newmarket Celtic), Paddy O’Malley (Avenue United), Evan Talty (Burren United), Garry Higgins (Shannon Olympic). Sub: Ian Collins (Newmarket Celtic) for Talty (63).
Sligo/Leitrim: Martin Ward, Niall McKenna, Patrick Woulfe, Jake McCrann, Damien Shannon, Mark McGoldrick, Clive Brennan, Conor O’Grady, Christopher Kelly, Keith Nibbs, Niall Brennan. Subs: Michael Casey for Shannon (Inj), Paul McTernan for Nibbs, Graham Lee for Brennan.
Referee: Terence Byrne (Roscommon).