*Clare’s Alan Sweeney. 

CLARE’s senior footballers suffered a one point loss to Westmeath having let a six point half-time lead slip on Sunday afternoon.

Westmeath 1-11
Clare 0-13
Venue: TEG Cusack Park, Mullingar

Strong support play and a high work-ethic were clear in Clare’s display for Mark Fitzgerald’s charges but they were unable to counter a strong Westmeath comeback in the final quarter which included the concession of five points without reply. They also finished the contest with fourteen men as Dermot Coughlan was shown a second yellow card.

Among the most pleasing aspects was how Clare players who under-performed in the opening round really led the way this time round, midfielder Brian McNamara really growing in the role at midfield for what was his second start at senior level.

Playing with the aid of a strong breeze, Clare were able to carve out a six point advantage by the sounding of the half-time whistle and every score was needed. Unfortunately it proved that this lead was not enough with Westmeath producing a strong rally in the second half.

For the first four minutes only Brian McNamara from the throw-in touched the ball as Westmeath dominated possession. Indeed the hosts, struck for a fortunate goal in this spell with wing-back Conor Dillon’s shot taking a deflection but they were allowed weave the ball too easily beyond the Clare defence in the build-up to this goal.

A response was needed and it was immediate with Dermot Coughlan opening Clare’s account straight from the kickout. Ciaran Downes then added a 45 before Daniel Walsh read an opposing kickout then linked up with Shane Griffin and steadied himself to level matters on ten minutes.

Dermot Coughlan’s second score added to the lead, Alan Sweeney breaking forward to tee up the Kilmurry Ibrickane man. From a distance of 65m, goalkeeper Stephen Ryan added to Clare’s lead with Coughlan then making it 0-6 1-0 with twenty three minutes played.

Ronan Wallace replied for Westmeath before Clare kicked the final four scores of the half to build up the six point half-time lead.

Scores were always going to dry up for Clare in the second half, the most controversial aspect being when Cormac Murray’s goal was disallowed, he palmed the ball to the net after Éinne O’Connor bore down on goal.

Aaron Griffin kicked an excellent score on forty seven minutes while Westmeath had scores at either side of this from Ronan O’Toole and Luke Loughlin. Loughlin and Alan Sweeney then swapped scores, Sweeney cutting through the middle after a well-worked move.

Dessie Dolan’s side then hit their five points on the bounce before Brian McNamara levelled matters. The winning score then was from Ronan O’Toole who fisted the ball between the posts and an opportunity for Clare to level never materialised.

Without question this was a case of Clare leaving points behind them and the hope is that this will not come back to bite them in a bid for promotion back to Division 2. Game management was poor when Westmeath were beginning to turn the screw, given the conditions a comeback was inevitable and efforts to quell this were not strong enough from the Banner perspective.

Brian McNamara, Alan Sweeney and Ciaran Downes all of whom would not have been overly happy with their performance in the first round gave much improved displays and were among Clare’s standout players. Cillian Rouine’s introduction at half-time was a lift but it proved to be far too short of a spell with the Ennistymon man retiring with a hamstring injury that has kept him out of action, twelve minutes later.

Westmeath will be in buoyant form having recorded successive wins. They had a strong Clare connection with Senan Baker, son of two-time All-Ireland winner Ollie lining out in their attack. Key players came to the fore for the hosts when they needed to push and in this regard Ray Connellan, Sam McCartan, Kieran Martin and Ronan O’Toole excelled.

Scorers Westmeath: R O’Toole (0-3), C Dillon (1-0), L Loughlin (0-2 2f), S McCartan (0-2), R Wallace (0-1), R Forde (0-1), K Martin (0-1 1M), R Connellan (0-1).

Scorers Clare: D Coughlan (0-3), C Downes (0-3 1’45), E McMahon (0-2 2f), D Walsh (0-1), S Ryan (0-1), A Griffin (0-1), A Sweeney (0-1), B McNamara (0-1)

Westmeath:
1: Jason Daly (St Loman’s Mullingar)

2: James Dolan (Garrycastle)
3: Charlie Drumm (The Downs)
4: Jamie Gounoud (Tyrrellspass)

5: Sam McCartan (St Loman’s Mullingar)
6: Ronan Wallace (Multyfarnham)
7: Conor Dillon (St Loman’s Mullingar)

8: Ray Connellan (Athlone)
9: Andy McCormack (Rosemount)

12: Jonathan Lynam (The Downs)
15: Lorcan Dolan (Castledaly)
10: David Lynch (St Malachy’s)

14: Senan Baker (Caulry)
11: Ronan O’Toole (St Loman’s Mullingar)
13: Luke Loughlin (The Downs)

Subs:
24: Jack Smith (Skerries Harps) for Dolan (42)
20: Eoin Mulvihil (Garrycastle) for Dillon (47)
22: Robbie Forde (Moate All Whites) for Baker (52)
18: Kieran Martin (Maryland) for Dolan (52)
19: Matthew Whitaker (Tubberclair) for Lynam (60)

Clare
1: Stephen Ryan (Kilrush Shamrocks)

2: Manus Doherty (Éire Óg)
3: Ronan Lanigan (Éire Óg)
4: Micheál Garry (Cooraclare)

5: Ikem Ugwueru (Éire Óg)
6: Alan Sweeney (St Breckan’s)
7: Daniel Walsh (Kilmurry Ibrickane)

8: Gavin Murray (Éire Óg)
9: Brian McNamara (Cooraclare)

10: Dermot Coughlan (Kilmurry Ibrickane)
11: Emmet McMahon (Kildysart)
12: Ciaran Downes (Kilmihil)

13: Mark McInerney (Éire Óg)
14: Aaron Griffin (Lissycasey)
15: Shane Griffin (Lissycasey)

Subs:
20: Cillian Rouine (Ennistymon) for McInerney (HT)
17: Éinne O’Connor (Éire Óg) for Rouine (48) (inj)
19: Cormac Murray (St Joseph’s Miltown) for S Griffin (61)
21: Fergal Guinnane (Kildysart) for Ugwueru (69)

Referee: David Murnane (Cork)

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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