*PHOTO: John Mangan
Clare’s footballers have lost in their opening round of the 2020 Allianz National Football League campaign.
Venue: TEG Cusack Park, Mullingar
Shot selection and gaping holes in their defence proved to be Clare’s undoing as Westmeath held on to a one point victory in Mullingar on Sunday afternoon.
Huge emphasis was placed on the encounter from within the Banner camp, this clash was seen as a winnable one and the disappointing outcome will dent confidence. However, there is little time for the heads to drop as they must regroup ahead of next weekend’s tie with Kildare.
Gavin Cooney capped a dream start for the visitors goaling on six minutes. Keelan Sexton sent clubmate Dermot Coughlan through on goal but his shot rebounded in the direction of Cooney and he made no mistake in blasting the ball past Jason Daly. Frees from David Tubridy on either side of this had Clare four points ahead on eight minutes.
Westmeath would go on to control the remainder of the half and kept their opponents scoreless for the next twenty six minutes. Mistakes in the Banner attack coughed up possession which resulted in Anthony McGiviney slotting the ball past Stephen Ryan with Ray Connellan cutting through the centre before offloading the ball.
They regained the lead on twenty seven minutes through Connellan and added to it via Callum McCormack, both scores seeing Westmeath run through Clare’s defence with ease. Tubridy responded with another free with Kevin Maguire finishing off the half’s scoring to give the hosts a two point lead at the break.
Just before the half-time whistle, Dermot Coughlan received a black card making him the first Clare player to be sin-binned in the Allianz Leagues under the new rules. The Kilmurry Ibrickane man had been one of the more impressive performers in the opening half. Westmeath didn’t capitalise fully on Coughlan’s time in the bin, scoring 0-02 with the benefit of an extra man.
Corner back Jason Smith raided for Westmeath’s second goal on forty seven minutes when once again Jack Cooney’s men found it far too easy to get through the Banner defence. Anthony McGiviney provided the assist with Smith nestling the ball in the bottom left corner of Stephen Ryan’s goal.
Tubridy added three of the next four scores as Clare attempted to claw their way back. Eoin Cleary, Keelan Sexton and Dermot Coughlan all opened their accounts in the closing stages to put them on level terms but a late Westmeath free through John Heslin was sufficient to see the men from the Midlands pick up a one point win.
Westmeath didn’t set the world alight but their spread of seven different scorers in comparison to David Tubridy kicking seventy five percent of Clare’s tally was significant. For them, Anthony McGiviney and Ray Connellan were impressive with solid displays from Ronan Wallace and Boidu Sayeh.
A one point loss in late January will only be a footnote when Clare’s 2020 campaign is assessed. However, the concern albeit a negative one is that this could be a crucial result in determining how the men in saffron and blue fare in Division 2. Time is on their side thankfully and an improved outing can lead to more optimistic results. Kevin Harnett, David Tubridy and Dermot Coughlan were best for Clare.
Scorers Westmeath: J Heslin (0-04 3f), A McGiviney (1-00), J Smith (1-00), R Connellan (0-02), C McCormack (0-01), L Dolan (0-01), K Maguire (0-01)
Scorers Clare: D Tubridy (0-08 7f), G Cooney (1-00), E Cleary (0-01 1f), K Sexton (0-01), D Coughlan (0-01).
16: Jason Daly (St Lomans)
6: Kevin Maguire (Caulry)
2: Jack Smith (Skerries Harps)
4: Boidu Sayeh (Rosemount)
5: Killian Daly (Mullingar Shamrocks)
3: Ronan Wallace (Multyfarnham)
10: Anthony McGiviney (Multyfarnham)
21: Ray Connellan (Athlone)
8: Dennis Corroon (Mullingar Shamrocks)
12: David Lynch (St Malachys)
14: John Heslin (St Lomans Mullingar)
7: James Dolan (Garrycastle)
13: Callum McCormack (Maryland)
15: Lorcan Dolan (Castledaly)
11: Ronan O’Toole (St Lomans Mullingar)
19: Conor Slevin (Tyrrellspass) for McGiviney (56)
20: Thomas McDaniel (Castleknock) for McCormack (58)
18: Conor Coughlan (The Downs) for Lynch (67)
24: Luke Loughlin (The Downs) for Dolan (67)
1: Stephen Ryan (Kilrush Shamrocks)
2: Kevin Harnett (Meelick)
3: Cillian Brennan (Clondegad)
4: Gordon Kelly (St Josephs Miltown)
5: Sean Collins (Cratloe)
6: Pearse Lillis (Cooraclare)
7: Dean Ryan (Na Fianna, Dublin)
8: Ciarán Russell (Kilmacud Crokes, Dublin)
9: Cathal O’Connor (Coolmeen)
10: Cian O’Dea (Kilfenora)
11: Eoin Cleary (St Josephs Miltown)
12: Dermot Coughlan (Kilmurry Ibrickane)
15: Keelan Sexton (Kilmurry Ibrickane)
14: David Tubridy (Doonebeg)
13: Gavin Cooney (Éire Óg)
26: Alan Sweeney (St Breckans) for D Ryan (53)
23: Cormac Murray (St Josephs Miltown) for Cooney (53)
17: Eoghan Collins (Ballyhaunis, Mayo) for S Collins (67)
18: Ciaran Downes (Kilmihil) for O’Connor (68)
19: Dale Masterson (St Breckans) for Russell (73)
Referee: Niall Cullen (Fermanagh)