Cavan's hopes of bouncing back to the top flight at the first time of asking took a bashing while Clare’s chances of surviving for a fifth season in Allianz Football League Division 2 were boosted considerably following this upset at Kingspan Breffni.
In freezing conditions, the visitors fully deserved their win. They were the more cohesive side and used the ball better, hurting Cavan on the break time and again.
And in Eoin Cleary and David Tubridy, they had a cutting edge up front which powered them over the line.
Clare's win was built on a tremendous first-half performance against opposition who started the day top of the table.
At half-time, the visitors were leading by six, 1-8 to 0-5, and full value for it. Against the wind, Cavan had started fairly brightly and were full of running early on but, playing for the third week in a row, they seemed to run out of steam by the end of the first quarter.
The hosts opened the scoring with a free from Oisin Pierson but Clare levelled in the eighth minute with a super long-range effort from Eoin Cleary.
Cavan nudged in front again with a 40-metre free from Bryan Magee but the Munster men put some daylight between them when Joe McGann spotted a gap and raced through before burying the ball to the bottom corner of Ray Galligan’s net for a lead which Colm Collins’s side would not subsequently relinquish.
They could have extended that advantage but for a great save from Galligan, who denied Dermot Coughlan, but they kicked three points in a row regardless from Cleary (two frees) and a neat effort from Ciaran Russell.
Pierson responded with a free for Cavan but Laois were picking them off at ease on the break and the energetic Cian O’Dea, who had a fine game, sent overt to make it 1-6 to 0-3.
Clare’s next score summed up Cavan’s malaise; a cheap turnover by the Banner defence was immediately punished with a swift break, Tubridy kicking an excellent point.
Pierson and Tubridy traded frees before Cavan’s only score from play of the first half arrived on 35 minutes when centre-back Ciaran Brady strode forward for a trademark effort.
Cavan’s best spell arrived immediately after the break. A point from James Smith – which should have been a goal, really – got them going and they pinned Clare back.
Oisin Kiernan, sub Stephen Murray and Oisin Pierson also landed quality scores from play and then Pierson knocked over a free. Less than three minutes after the resumption, it was a one-point game again.
Clare settled the ship with a point from O’Dea after a well-worked move and when Cleary added another classy effort, it became obvious that the Banner had regained their composure.
Ciaran Brady and Ciaran Russell exchanged points, as did Russell and Gearoid McKiernan, but Clare, working hard to create turnovers, landed two crucial efforts in succession, a free from Cleary and a lovely effort from Tubridy, to leave four in it.
The home side eked out two long-range scores from Pierson and Martin Reilly as the crowd came to life and when Pierson converted his fifth free in injury time, it appeared as if Mickey Graham’s men might get something from this one.
But Clare have been around the block and they didn’t panic. After a good move, Tubridy pointed via the upright and when Cavan once more coughed up possession in the dying seconds, their race was run.
Scorers - Cavan: Oisin Pierson 0-7 (5f), Ciaran Brady 0-2, Bryan Magee 0-1f, James Smith 0-1, Martin Reilly 0-1, Gearoid McKiernan 0-1, Stephen Murray 0-1 Clare: Eoin Cleary 0-6 (4f), David Tubridy 0-4 (1f), Joe McGann 1-0, Cian O’Dea 0-2, Ciaran Russell 0-2
Cavan: Raymond Galligan, Conor Madden, Padraig Faulkner, Killian Brady, Gerard Smith, Ciaran Brady, Oisin Kiernan, Thomas Galligan, Christopher Conroy, Evan Doughty, Gearoid McKiernan, Martin Reilly, Oisin Pierson, James Smith, Bryan Magee
Subs: Stephen Murray for K Brady (30 mins), Cormac O’Reilly for Doughty (ht), Benjamin Kelly for Reilly (temp, 48), Ryan Connolly for J Smith (55), Kelly for Magee (63), Conor Brady for Conroy (69)
Clare: Stephen Ryan, Kevin Harnett, Cillian Brennan, Gordon Kelly, Sean Collins, Pearse Lillis, Alan Sweeney, Ciaran Russell, Cathal O’Connor, Cian O’Dea, Keelan Sexton, Dermot Coughlan, Eoin Claery, David Tubridy, Joe McGann
Subs: Gearoid O’Brien for Coughlan (59 mins), Conall O hAinifein for Sweeney (62), Ciaran Downes for McGann (70)
Referee: Jerome Henry (Mayo)