*Clare’s Jamie Malone. Photograph: Martin Connolly
Clare’s senior footballers made it two wins from two in the qualifiers edging out Westmeath by a single point following a nervy finish in Mullingar on Saturday.
Venue: TEG Cusack Park, Mullingar
A tense final few moments ensued in Cusack Park as Clare held on to secure their place in Monday’s draw for the fourth round of the qualifiers. Once they reflect, they will know it should not have been as tight.
Undoubtedly the strong presence of Clare supporters would have added an extra pep to the step of the players in saffron and blue. This was evident to their strong start, however their inability to sustain this allowed Westmeath back into proceedings.
An early free from Ger Egan was converted with ease to put the hosts in front but Clare would respond the next four scores in the space of five minutes with a Jamie Malone treble and a Cathal O’Connor single. For the next sixteen minutes, the visitors failed to score with Westmeath managing to go back in front with four points in this period.
Setbacks are a given in the heat of championship but Westmeath had to endure three big blows in the opening twenty minutes. Black cards were shown to John Heslin and Ronan O’Toole while Ger Egan had to make way with an injury.
Clare would regain the lead on three further occasions in the opening half but for each instance, Westmeath got back on level terms and would ensure the sides were all square at the sounding of the half-time whistle.
This score and reply nature continued at the beginning of the second half with Gary Brennan and Callum McCormack trading efforts. Eoin Cleary tapped over a close range free on forty five minutes, he was on hand to intercept the subsequent kick-out knocking the ball to Gavin Cooney who spotted a vacant David Tubridy, the Doonbeg attacker was left one on one with Eoin Carberry making no mistake with his finish.
From here, wides became a common occurrence as both outfits were guilty of coughing up scoreable opportunities.
Cillian Brennan and Cathal O’Connor were both dismissed on black cards for the winners. The application of the rules by referee Martin McNally raised eyebrows throughout the contest.
Pressure mounted on the Banner as the game entered the final moments as Westmeath kept clawing away at the deficit. Crucially, Gary Brennan would step up on more than one occasion to make exceptional catches in the air as Clare held possession when it was priceless. He along with Sean O’Donoghue, the hard-working Eoin Cleary, Gordon Kelly, Cian O’Dea, Dean Ryan and Jamie Malone did best for the winners who now play one of the beaten provincial finalists next weekend.
Westmeath’s year is now over, losing three key players in the first half certainly dented their cause. Kieran Martin, Boidu Sayeh and Tommy McDaneil in the first half impressed for the hosts.
Scorers for Westmeath: Kieran Martin 0-6 (3f), Tommy McDaniel 0-3 (2f), McCormacCallumk 0-2,Ger Egan 0-1 (1f), Ronan O’Toole 0-1, Tom Molloy 0-1, Noel Mulligan 0-1 (1 “45”)
Scorers for Clare: D Tubridy 1-2 (2f), Jamie Malone 0-3, Eoin Cleary 0-3 (3f), Gary Brennan 0-2, Cathal O’Connor 0-2, Gavin Cooney 0-1
1: Stephen Ryan (Kilrush Shamrocks)
2: Gordon Kelly (St Josephs Miltown)
3: Cillian Brennan (Clondegad)
4: Dean Ryan (Na Fianna)
5: Sean Collins (Cratloe)
6: Aaron Fitzgerald (Éire Óg)
7: Conall Ó hÁiniféin (Éire Óg)
10: Sean O’Donoghue (Cooraclare)
8: Gary Brennan (Clondegad)
11: Eoin Cleary (St Josephs Miltown)
9: Cathal O’Connor (Coolmeen)
12: Jamie Malone (Corofin)
13: Gavin Cooney (Éire Óg)
14: David Tubridy (Doonbeg)
15: Cian O’Dea (Kilfenora)
Kieran Malone (St Joseph’s Miltown) for Cooney,
Eoghan Collins (Ballyhaunis) for O’hAinifein (inj),
Gearoid O’Brien (Kilrush Shamrocks) for O’Connor (black card),
Einne O’Connor (Eire Óg) for C Brennan (black card),
Alan Sweeney (St Breckan’s) for Collins.
1: Eoin Carberry Rosemount
7: James Dolan (Garrycastle)
19: Jack Smith (Skerries Harps)
4: Boidu Sayeh (Rosemount)
3: Ronan Wallace (Multyfarnham)
2: Kevin Maguire (Caulry)
5: Killian Daly Mullingar (Shamrocks)
11: Ronan O Toole (St. Lomans Mullingar)
9: Denis Corroon (Mullingar Shamrocks)
10: David Lynch (St. Malachys)
12: Ger Egan (Tyrrellspass)
6: Kieran Martin (Maryland)
14: John Heslin (St. Lomans Mullingar)
18: Joe Halligan (Milltown)
15: Callum McCormack (Maryland)
13: Tommy McDaniel (Castleknock) for Heslin (6) (Black Card_
8: Sam Duncan (Milltownpass) for Egan (16) (Inj)
17: Noel Mulligan (Athlone) for O’Toole (21) (Black)
Referee: Martin McNally (Monaghan)