*Jamie Malone preprares to get past Shane McEntee. Photograph: Martin Connolly
Clare’s senior footballers have been eliminated from the All-Ireland SFC going down by one point to Meath on Sunday.
Venue: O’Moore Park, Portlaoise
While it looked very possible at stages, Clare will not be partaking in the Super 8s for 2019. They knew it was going to be a step up on the back of wins over Leitrim and Westmeath, despite upping their game, the Banner also coughed up soft frees with five Michael Newman converted frees proving decisive.
On eight occasions in the opening half, the sides were on level terms. Indiscipline and four wides would prevent Clare from pushing ahead while for Meath it was more their failure to track back in numbers as return passes time and time again were setting up chances for Colm Collins’ charges.
Michael Newman opened Meath’s account one minute into the tie but Clare would edge ahead on eight minutes with points from Cathal O’Connor and Gary Brennan. Indeed Clare were the better side for the earlier stages of the half but a drop in concentration would assist an inevitable resurgence from Meath.
Having coughed up the lead, an excellent turn over on Cillian O’Sullivan from Gary Brennan would start a Banner counter-attack superbly finished off by Jamie Malone on thirty four minutes. However, Meath went up the field and Bryan Menton was quickest to react to a rebounded effort and struck for the first goal of the game. To their credit, Clare bounced back with points from Gordon Kelly and Malone’s fourth of the half to equalise and receive a standing ovation from the sizeable Clare support heading in at the interval.
Although Meath hit two consecutive scores on the restart, Éire Óg’s Gavin Cooney got his fingertips to a dropping ball from Cian O’Dea pushing it beyond the hands of Andrew Colgan and over the line.
Their joy was short-lived as in the next attack, the Royal County themselves raided for goal with Padraic Harnan teeing up Newman who palmed to the net and got injured in the process. This would prove to be the killer blow as Meath stay in front for the remainder of the game.
For Andy McEntee’s side, they are only the fifth team to lose a Leinster Final and win their next game in the same year, the first this decade to lose the provincial final and still qualify for the quarter-final. They recovered well from the drubbing to Dublin to secure their spot in the Super 8s. Bryan McMahon, Michael Newman and Padraic Harnan were best for the winners.
Despite such a promising opening half, Clare never scaled such heights in the second half. Once again, their experienced leaders in Gary Brennan, David Tubridy and Gordon Kelly were to the fore and ably assisted by Cian O’Dea and Jamie Malone. Fading in and out of games has been a consistent flaw to their game in 2019 and reared it’s head once again in Portlaoise, they did put in a gallant effort but ultimately this shortcoming along with missed chances and defensive errors would destroy their dreams of competing in the Super 8s.
Scorers for Meath: Mickey Newman 1-6 (5fs), James Conlon 0-3, Bryan Menton 1-0, Donal Keogan, Ethan Devine, Bryan McMahon, Thomas McGovern, Cillian O’Sullivan, Ben Brennan, and Shane Walsh (f) 0-1 each.
Scorers for Clare: David Tubridy 0-6 (3fs), Jamie Malone 0-4, Gavin Cooney 1-0, Cathal O’Connor and Eoin Cleary (2fs) 0-2 each, Cian O’Dea, Gary Brennan, Dermot Coughlan, and Gordon Kelly 0-1 each
1: Stephen Ryan (Kilrush Shamrocks)
4: Dean Ryan (Na Fianna)
3: Cillian Brennan (Clondegad)
2: Gordon Kelly (St Josephs Miltown)
7: Kevin Harnett (Meelick)
6: Aaron Fitzgerald (Éire Óg)
5: Sean Collins (Cratloe)
8: Gary Brennan (Clondegad)
9: Cathal O’Connor (Coolmeen)
10: Sean O’Donoghue (Cooraclare)
11: Eoin Cleary (St Josephs Miltown)
12: Jamie Malone (Corofin)
13: Gavin Cooney (Éire Óg)
14: David Tubridy (Doonbeg)
15: Cian O’Dea (Kilfenora)
21: Kieran Malone (St Josephs Miltown) for O’Donoghue (46)
19: Dermot Coughlan (Kilmurry Ibrickane) for Cooney (53)
24: Éinne O’Connor (Éire Óg) for Kelly (60) (Black Card)
23: Gearoid O’Brien (Kilrush Shamrocks) for Ryan (64)
20: Eimhin Courtney (Éire Óg) for Cleary (71)
1: Andrew Colgan (Donaghmore/Ashbourne)
2: Seamus Lavin (St Peter’s Dunboyne)
3: Conor McGill (Rathoath)
4: Shane Gallagher (Sarsfields Ballerin)
7: Gavin McCoy (St Peter’s Dunboyne)
5: Donal Keogan (Rathkenny)
6: Padraic Harnan (Moynalvey)
9: Shane McEntee (St Peter’s Dunboyne)
8: Bryan Menton (Donaghmore/Ashbourne)
26: Thomas McGovern (Donaghmore/Ashbourne)
10: Ben Brennan (St Colmcilles)
11: Bryan McMahon (Rathoath)
13: Cillian O’Sullivan (Moynalvey)
14: Michael Newman (Kilmainham)
15: James Conlon (St Colmcilles)
17: Thomas O’Reilly (Wolfe Tones) for Newman (42) (Inj)
12: Graham Reilly (St Colmcilles) for McGovern (44)
23: Shane Walsh (Na Fianna) for O’Reilly (53)
21: Seán Curran (Donaghmore/Ashbourne) for Gallagher (59)
10: Ben Brennan (St Colmcilles) for Devine (61)
18: Sean Tobin (Sarsfields Ballerin) for Conlon
T O’Reilly for McMahon (74) (Black)
Referee: Derek O’Mahoney (Tipperary)