*Cormac Murray’s goal was disallowed in injury time for Clare’s footballers. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
A CONTROVERSIAL decision by Cork referee David Murnane to disallow Cormac Murray’s additional goal added to a “rollercoaster” of emotions for Clare manager Mark Fitzgerald during their second round loss to Westmeath.
Éinne O’Connor made a brilliant weaving run through the Westmeath defence to fist the ball across the danger area and it was palmed to the back of the net by Cormac Murray with seventy three minutes played in the second round of the Allianz National Football League.
Murray’s involvement looked like it had helped Clare on their way to record a successive league win, the Banner having led by six points at half-time with the aid of the breeze in Cusack Park, Mullingar.
However Murnane consulted with his umpires and a decision was made to disallow the green flag for an apparent green flag. Footage which was shared online by ex Clare footballer and selector, Enda Coughlan has highlighted that in real-time the officials made the wrong call.
At this juncture, the sides were level but three more minutes of additional time had to be played. Ray Connellan had a wide for Westmeath before Ronan O’Toole fisted the ball between the posts to give the hosts a one-point win.
Speaking to The Clare Echo following the defeat, Clare boss Mark Fitzgerald said members of his backroom team who had watched the decision back were adamant the wrong call had been made by the referee.
Such a decision was frustration but Fitzgerald felt Clare needed to be further ahead when playing with the aid of the elements in the opening half. “We are gutted, we definitely deserved something out of it and the lads are adamant it wasn’t a square ball, it adds to the frustration but we should have been more ahead at half-time and we probably left a couple of bad set pieces behind us, the lads gave a huge effort, we should have managed it a small bit more but it was frantic to be fair. We had the ball a couple of times and we could have done better with it, I understand the lads we trying to get the ball up the field, I thought he could have given us a chance towards the end, a couple of their frees were very handy coming down the stretch”.
Westmeath’s run in hitting five points in a row towards the final stretch was a likely scenario given the conditions, Fitzgerald felt. “They were always going to have a purple patch and it was how we weathered it and we did to a certain extent, we got a couple of scores but again we’ve a lot of new lads and lads that haven’t played over the last couple of years so it is a learning curve, the effort and some of the scores we got were fantastic but we’re just going away disappointed”.
Leaving Mullingar without even a draw made the result more frustrating, he admitted. “We definitely deserved a point, it was like a rollercoaster with the elation of the goal going in to it being disallowed”.
Brian McNamara from Cree was among Clare’s best players in the second round, having been taken off in round one. “People have to remember that Brian didn’t play for three or four months last year and is now in the middle of playing midfield for UL in the Sigerson Cup and midfield for us so people have to remember that but Brian has been fantastic for us,” Fitzgerald said when asked about the midfielder’s performance.
An overlap with players lining out in the third level competition is being managed, the Tralee native outlined. “We just don’t train them if they are tired. At the end of the day we have to mind the players because they are not machines”.