Clare 1-18 Westmeath 0-10:
By Michael O Connor.
Whilst the Sam Maguire cup may not reside this coming winter in Clare the efforts of the home side on Sunday last in their round 4 win over Westmeath was similar to a side with ambitions of having a fruitful summer. Football pundits where far from confident of Clare having an extended stay in division three when promoted for the 2015 season now after this pivotal mid league win they have all but secured their furture in it for 2017. More so they can now challenge for a place in the division 3 league final. This will take at least two more wins and also on how Tipperary will fare in their remaining games.
It must be acknowledged that Clare as a squad of players have matured both physically and in footballing terms. The ease with which they dismissed the tepid challenge of Westmeath surprised and delighted banner supporters in equal measure. The seven point half time lead on this occasion did scant justice to their chokehold on proceedings especially for the first twenty minutes.
David Tubridy opened the scoring with a 55metre free playing into the town goal after less that two minutes action on a surface that survived the game but cut up nonetheless. The seated stand lay empty as construction work continues on the edges. It is expected to be open for the Clare v Limerick NHL game on Sunday week. Tubridy repeated his opening score feat a minute late converting a 45 conceded by the Westmeat rearguard. Eoin Cleary who looked most impressive and confident in his shooting pointed from play after only five minutes and when Cooraclare centre forward Pearse Lillis sent over a fourth Clare point after seven minutes one could sense that the game was Clare's to lose. Both sides played with extra players back defending and it was Westmeath lack of punch in their forward ranks that ensured Clare were at ease controlling their last third of the field. Westmeath replaced a number of first choice players after 20 minutes in an attempt to kickstart with no success their challenge in Cusack Park.
The Clare support were constantly demanding a fast ball into the Clare forwards but that type of ball is now alien in football as all sides now play with extra defenders. Cathal O Connor was set up the hardworking Enda Coughlan for a fine score after 13 minutes. The rate of scoring diminished as Westmeath managed to curb the threat of scores in front of their own goal. 8 minutes elapsed before the game's next score courtesy of David Tubridy from play in the 21st minute. Eoin Cleary added a seventh Clare score after 23minutes as Westmeath supporters pondered the embarrassing possibility of not registering a first half score. They did not have to fear as the Lakeland county side got off the mark with eight minutes left in the first half as Shane Dempsey struck from 30 metres out. This kickstarted UCD Sigerson hero John Heslin into action and he converted two frees in a minute as Westmeath despite looking second rate were now only four points in arrears. They caused a few troublesome moments for Clare but never threatened Joe Hayes in goal.
The winning of the game was not in the second half but during injury time in the first half as a quickfire salvo of three unanswered points from Clare deconstructed the good work of Westmeath. Eoin Cleary led the way with two scores in the 36th and 37th minutes with Sean Collins rounding off a satisfying opening half with a great point and to leave the home side (0-10) to (0-3) ahead at the break.
Nothing bar a huge collapse on the part of Clare and a possible return of Dessie Dolan in flying form for Westmeath was going to change the result in Cusack Park. David Tubridy started the second half the same way he managed the first with the opening score. John Connellan responded a minute later but his point was neutralised by Enda Coughlan with a well taken point. Westmeath made two substitutions either side of John Heslin kicking his sides fifth score. He kicked a 6th Westmeath point just before Tubridy continued his rich vein of form in the 53rd minute. A marvellous solo effort from Gordon Kelly and a converted free from John Heslin combined with a Ronan Foley effort left five points between the sides after 56 minutes.
The icing on the cake was a stunning field length move from Clare involving 6 players ending with Jamie Malone bursting past two Westmeath defenders to finish past Darren Quinn in the Westmeath goal. Eoin Cleary kicked two frees as Malone added another to go with his goal. Westmeath attempted a consolation goal but Heslins injury time effort was stopped by Joe Hayes as sub Sean Haugh rounded off the scoring to send Clare away with their third league win of the year.
CLARE: Joe Hayes, Sean Malone, Kevin Hartnett, Martin McMahon, Jamie Malone (1-1), Gordon Kelly (0-1), Cian O Dea, Gary Brennan, Cathal O Connor (0-1), Sean Collins (0-1), Pearse Lillis (0-1), Shane McGrath, David Tubridy (0-5), Enda Coughlan (0-1), Eoin Cleary (0-6). Subs: Keelan Sexton for McGrath, Dean Ryan for Cian O Dea, Pat Burke for Coughlan Graham Kelly for Malone, Sean Haugh (0-1) for Lillis, Alan O Neill for Collins,
WESTMEATH: Darren Quinn, Killian Daly, Frank Boyle, Kevin Maguire, Jamie Gonoud, Kieran Martin (0-1), Alan Stone, Dennis Corroon, Paul Sharry, Ray Connellan, Callum McCormack, James Dolan, John Connellan (0-1), John Heslin (0-6), John Egan. Subs: Shane Dempsey (0-1) for Stone, Paul Greville for McCormack, Shane Flanagan for Gonoud Paddy Holloway for Connellan, Ronan Foley (0-1) for Dempsey
Referee: Jerome Henry (Mayo)