Match Report: NFL Division 3 Final
By Larry Cooney
Clare staged a dramatic finale to win the NFL Division 3 title by a single point against Kildare. Clare corner forward Eoin Cleary held his nerve to kick the winning point to earn the win. Arguably the pick of the four finals last weekend saw end to end action as 14-man Clare came out on top against 13-man Kildare.
Clare’s Graham Kelly saw red for the Banner men, while Kevin Feely and Ryan Houlihan were dismissed on second yellows. But it was by no means a nasty game and was played in a sporting manner which saw Clare battle back from a poor start.
The winners looked down and out when Paul Cribbin kicked two in a row to put Kildare three points ahead with two minutes remaining, but the Munster men battled back and Eoin Cleary proved the hero of the hour with a well taken free five minutes into injury time.
In the opening half Clare went in front thanks to a Jamie Malone’s point, but that was as good as it got for the next ten minutes as Kildare took control. Flynn and Moolick pointed from play before the aforementioned Flynn broke in along the end line, cut inside and fired the ball to the roof of the net.
Flynn and Adam Tyrrell both pointed frees, with Flynn’s effort from all of 50 metres and off the ground to leave the score 1-5 to 0-2 after ten minutes. Clare looked in trouble even at this early stage, but they outscored Kildare by 0-04 to 0-01 over the next few minutes as a fine solo effort by Pearse Lillis was followed by two Tubridy frees and an Eoghan O’Flaherty fisted point, with a Tyrrell free the only reply.
The impressive Keelan Sexton had earned a couple of frees before kicking a fine score himself to make it 1-6 to 0-6 after 23 minutes. Two points by Clare’s Cleary, one from a free and one from play left the minimum between the sides and then Malone surged forward again and looked to have goaled for Clare but his shot came off the post. However, the ref pulled play back and gave a free which Tubridy converted. Kildare’s response was swift with a fine Alan Smith effort.
Tubridy then kicked his fifth free of the day, before Flynn responded from a placed ball at the other end.Then in the 35th minute, Tubridy got the allimportant goal to send the Clare supporters into raptures as the short whistle was blown. That late goal gave Clare real belief and although it was an even second half the Munster men never gave up.
The second half started with a little controversy as Cleary’s free looked to have been given but after a delay hawkeye was called in and ruled it out. A free by Tyrrell levelled matters in the 39th minute, before Malone got his second point of the match. Tyrrell and Cleary took over the scoring exploits for their respective teams as between them they scored the next five points, three for Tyrrell and two for the Clare forward.
By the end of this, it was 1-13 each before a Flynn free broke their scoring sequence in the 48th minute. Fergal Conway surged forward and could have had a goal but he blasted over.
The first sending off saw Feely leave the field in the 57th minute, but they did manage to score next as O’Flaherty was on target. Clare sub Shane Mc- Grath made it 1-16 to 1-15 as Kildare still lead, but two excellent points by Paul Cribbin in the 66th and 68th minute put the Lilywhites in the driving seat. It looked ominous for the brave underdogs but the switching of midfielder and man of the match Gary Brennan to full forward proved to be a master stroke.
After winning a great ball on the edge of the square and laid off to centre back Dean Ryan who palmed the ball into an empty net. With seven minutes of injury time to be played, substitute Enda Coughlan was quickest to react when the ball came back off the post and he fisted over the bar in the 72nd minute.