*Ian Galvin. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
CLARE’s senior hurlers hit the ground running in the first round of the Allianz National Hurling League romping to a twenty five point win over Westmeath.
Venue: Cusack Park, Ennis
Clare protected their year long winning home record with an all-too facile victory over Westmeath as they commenced their National Hurling League Division 1 in ideal fashion on Sunday afternoon.
In front of an attendance of 3,523 in Cusack Park Ennis, the Banner comfortably led from start to finish but crucially didn’t let their foot off the gas at any stage.
Arguably due to the heightened competition for places in Brian Lohan’s 41 strong panel, Clare were much sharper and more efficient than expected for the opening stanza of a hectic National League schedule.
The major pluses were hugely impressive National League debuts for Adam Hogan who was authoritative in the full-back line and Jack Kirwan who unselfishly set up both second half goals for Ian Galvin and Aron Shanagher.
Fellow newcomers Brandon O’Connell and sub Gearoid O’Grady also got in on the scoring action as Clare raided for 4-22 from play through ten different scorers.
Add in welcome returns for Aidan McCarthy (0-10), Davy Conroy (0-5) and Seadna Morey (0-1) who combined for 16 points and it was a very encouraging opening afternoon for the hosts.
On the flip side, despite a rousing finish to last year’s Leinster Championship, Division 2A Westmeath appeared out of the depth and struggled to gain a foothold in the tie at any stage. A plethora of wides (14 in all) certainly didn’t aid their cause as they over-relied on All-Star nominee Killian Doyle for inspiration and scores.
Clare could only beat what was put in front of them though, with a quartet of Aidan McCarthy points catapulting the home side 0-8 to 0-4 in front by the turn of the second quarter. It would take a brilliant brace of Mark Rodgers goals just before the break to finally ignite Clare’s challenge though as first Diarmuid Ryan, Ian Galvin and David Fitzgerald combined to play in the Scariff starlet in to finish from an acute angle in the 26th minute before unleashing a bullet second in a superb opportunist strike just six minutes later to power his side into a 2-10 to 0-7 half-time cushion.
With Westmeath’s radar increasingly on the blink, a determined Banner finished the job on the restart as McCarthy (3), Conroy (2) and Galvin (2) did the bulk of the third quarter damage before Jack Kirwan picked out the latter to fire to the bottom right corner of the net in the 50th minute to soar 19 clear at 3-19 to 0-9.
It was a decisive blow that Westmeath never recovered from as Clare embarked on another 1-7 unanswered rally before the finish that saw Kirwan tee up substitute Aron Shanagher for a fourth major in the 67th minute.
All in all, a more than satisfactory start but the real tests begin next Saturday when traveling to All-Ireland champions Limerick for the first unmissable Shannonside derby of the season.
Scorers for Clare: Aidan McCarthy (0-10, 5f); Mark Rodgers (2-2); Ian Galvin (1-3); Davy Conroy (0-5); David Fitzgerald (0-3); Aron Shanagher (1-0); Brandon O’Connell, Diarmuid Ryan, Gearoid O’Grady, Seadna Morey (0-1 each)
Scorers for Westmeath: Killian Doyle (0-8, 4f, 1’65); Ciaran Doyle (0-2); Joseph Boyle, Jack Galvin (s/l), Robbie Greville, Davy Glennon (0-1 each)
1: Eibhear Quilligan (Feakle)
4: Seadna Morey (Sixmilebridge)
3: Conor Cleary (St Joseph’s Miltown)
2: Adam Hogan (Feakle)
5: Diarmuid Ryan (Cratloe)
6: David McInerney (Tulla)
19. Brandon O’Connell (Ballyea)
8. Cathal Malone (Sixmilebridge) (Captain)
9. Jack Kirwan (Parteen-Meelick)
10. David Fitzgerald (Inagh-Kilnamona)
11. Davy Conroy (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield)
14. Peter Duggan (Clooney-Quin)
15. Aidan McCarthy (Inagh-Kilnamona)
13. Mark Rodgers (Scariff)
12: Ian Galvin (Clonlara)
25: Gearoid O’Grady (Kilmihil) for Rodgers (48)
17: Cian Nolan (Smith O’Brien’s) for Hogan (50)
26: Cian Galvin (Clarecastle) for Ryan (55)
18: Keith Smyth (Killanena) for Duggan (57)
20: Aron Shanagher (Wolfe Tones) for Galvin (60)
1: Noel Conaty (Lough Lene Gaels)
3: Conor Shaw (Brownstown)
2: Darragh Egerton (Clonkill)
6: Tommy Doyle (Lough Lene Gaels)
4: Jack Galvin (Cullion)
7: Kevin Regan (Cullion)
5: Aaron Craig (Oliver Plunketts)
8: Shane McGovern (Crookedwood)
12: Shane Clavin (Castletown Geoghegan)
10: Joseph Boyle (Raharney)
11: Niall O’Brien (Castletown Geoghegan)
9: Robbie Greville (Raharney)
13: Eoin McCabe (Fr. Dalton’s)
14: Killian Doyle (Raharney)
17: Davy Glennon (Mullagh, Galway)
22: Eoin Keyes (Raharney) for Clavin (HT)
21: Ciaran Doyle (Raharney) for McCabe (46)
23: Mark Cunningham (Ringtown) for McGovern (52)
20: Johnny Bermingham (Castletown Geoghegan) for Shaw (52)
20: Jack Gillen (Cullion) for O’Brien (60)
Referee: Paud O’Dwyer (Carlow)