Clare hold off Westmeath to keep season alive and book place in round four
Westmeath 0-15 Clare 1-13
David Tubridy’s goal proved the difference between the sides as Colm Collins’s Clare won back-to-back qualifiers for just the second time of his six-year tenure in a cracking championship game at TEG Cusack Park.
Clare have never lost to Westmeath in league or championship action and despite conceding four of the last five points as the home side sought to claw back the deficit, Clare held solid to reach Round Four of the qualifiers.
Both teams had two players black-carded in a game littered with frees and cards, but the loss of John Heslin in the fifth minute to black and Ger Egan soon after to injury were both huge blows for the home team.
But with Kieran Martin in excellent form – he kicked six points for his side – Westmeath stayed in touch, however points from Tom Molloy and Joe Halligan were not enough to force extra-time.
With a stiff breeze at their backs in the first-half, Clare dominated the opening ten minutes of the game and claimed a 0-4 to 0-1 lead at that stage. Egan had given Westmeath a second-minute lead, but the outstanding Jamie Malone kicked his first of three first-half point to draw Clare level in the fourth minute.
Wearing number eight, Clare captain Gary Brennan started the game at centre-forward and was tightly man-marked by Kevin Maguire throughout, but their number nine Cathal O’Connor showed he is also a talented marksman with a super point from the right to give Clare the lead.
Westmeath’s hopes took a nosedive in the fifth minute when Heslin was penalised for a third man tackle on Gary Brennan and earned himself a black card, while the loss of their second free-taker Egan in the 16th minute, meant few of those in attendance at TEG Cusack Park gave Westmeath much hope of victory.
But one of those changes saw Tommy McDaniel introduced – he was taken off the team before throw in in favour of Jack Smith – and he claimed the free-taking duties and was successful with two placed balls as his side kicked four in-a-row to reclaim the lead by the 20th minute.
Despite all their woes, Westmeath created plenty of chances in that opening half, but they shot seven wides and dropped another three attempts short of the target in a wasteful half for the midlanders.
With Maguire keeping captain Brennan on a tight leash, Clare went 15 minutes without a score, but O’Connor ended that run in style in the 24th minute, before youngster Gavin Cooney also spilt the posts to give Clare the lead again ten minutes from the break.
Cillian Brennan was excellent at full-back and he had made a couple of strong – but fruitless – runs from deep for Clare, but the score of the game came from the back when corner back Gordon Kelly galloped forward. His run gave Gary Brennan the room to shunt Maguire off his shoulder, and he curled over a brilliant score from the right.
But after McDaniel fisted a point, Kieran Martin matched Brennan at the other end and his point mean the teams were tied at the break.
Gary Brennan briefly returned to midfield for the throw-in for the second-half and ten seconds later he had a second point to his name after a powerful run to give Clare the lead for the fifth time.
Callum McCormack soon had the game level again, but 12 minutes into the half Clare struck the descisive blow. Eoin Cleary pointed a free to give them the lead and after Jamie Malone intercepted the following kick-out, Cooney sent Tubridy in on goal and he found the net with a smart finish.
Scorers – Clare: D Turbidy 1-2 (2f), J Malone 0-3, E Cleary 0-3 (3f), C O’Connor 0-2, G Brennan 0-2, G Cooney 0-1
Westmeath: K Martin 0-6 (3f), T McDaniel 0-3 (2f), C McCormack 0-2, G Egan 0-1 (1f), R O’Toole 0-1, T Molloy 0-1, J Halligan 0-1 (1’45).
Clare: S Ryan; , G Kelly C Brennan, D Ryan; S Collins, A Fitzgerald, C Ó hÁiniféin; C O’Connor, S O’Donoghue; E Cleary, G Brennan (c), J Malone; G Cooney, D Tubridy, C O’Dea.
Subs: E Turbidy for S Ryan (43-47 blood), K Malone for Cooney (47), E Collins for Ó hÁiniféin (51), G O’Brien for C O’Connor (61), E O’Connor for C Brennan (70 bc), A Sweeney for S Collins (72).
Westmeath: E Carberry; R Wallace, J Smith, B Sayeh; J Dolan, K Maguire, K Daly; G Egan, D Corroon; D Lynch, J Heslin, K Martin (c); R O’Toole, J Halligan, C McCormack.
Subs: T McDaniel for Heslin (7, bc), S Duncan for Egan (16), N Mulligan for O’Toole (22, bc), S Pettit for Lynch (58), T Molloy for McDaniel (67), C Slevin for Halligan (68).
Referee: Martin McNally (Monaghan).