Clare 1 - 5 Roscommon 2 - 15

All Ireland Intermediate Championship 1st Round

Date: Sunday July 6th
Venue: Clann na nGael, Athlone
Referee: Brendan Gallagher, Tyrone

Clare 1 – 5 Roscommon 2 – 15

Clare Ladies' Intermediate championship hopes received a major setback on Sunday when they were comprehensively beaten by a much superior Roscommon team. Possibly Clare were suffering a hangover effect following last week's Munster championship title win over Tipperary but Sunday's performance was well below what is expected at this level and the Clare backroom team will have much to do to revive spirits before this Saturday's second round game away to Tipperary.

Clare never got into this game as a physically stronger and more determined Roscommon team dominated affairs from start to finish. Clare were thrown a lifeline of an early second half penalty (which Grace Lynch expertly dispatched) to narrow the gap to five points but Roscommon responded immediately to tack on two great points from play to more or less negate the Clare goal.

The conditions were terrible in Athlone and the persistent downpour and the soggy underfoot conditions did not suit the lighter Clare team. However, even allowing for the poor conditions, some of Clare's ball handling was atrocious on the day and time and again the conceded possession to their opponents. Roscommon dominated in all sectors of the field and especially so in the midfield area where they won an unlimited supply of ball. This they used to good effect giving diagonal ball to their wing and corner forwards and supported this distribution with follow up support through the middle.

By the twelfth minute the Rossies had raced into a five points to no score lead with all but one of their scores coming from play. Clare already looked in trouble. A Majella Griffin free opened Clare's account on fifteen minutes and Áine Kelly added another a minute later. Roscommon bounced back however and landed four more points in succession before Niamh Keane landed the Banner county's final score of the half. At this stage Roscommon were rampant with centre forward Caroline Conway and wing forward Ann Marie Carley wreaking havoc in the Clare defence. Midfielders Martha Conlon and Sinéad Cooney were totally dominant and wing back Louise Tully was also creating major problems for Clare with her aggressive forward runs – indeed Tully kicked a wonderful point in the eighteenth minute. Roscommon added four more points before the break to leave the interval score 0-11 to 0-3 in their favour.

Clare needed a good start to the second period if they were to have any chance and were denies a definite penalty a minute in when Majella Griffin was fouled in the Roscommon square. Referee Brendan Gallagher from Tyrone made amends a couple of minutes later when awarding Clare a very dubious penalty indeed for what seemed a very innocuous challenge on corner forward Áine Kelly. Grace Lynch dispatched a magnificent effort to the top right hand corner and Clare had the opportunity to get right back in the game. Roscommon replied immediately with a point from Michele Carey and Clare were denied two possible goal chances with Marie kelly hitting the woodwork on thirty six minutes and Áine kelly had a wonderful opportunity excellently saved by Roscommon keeper Sarah Finnerty on thirty nine minutes. With these misses went Clare's chances of a comeback and Roscommon powered ahead to close out the game with goals from Carey and full forward Claire Grehan in the forty ninth and fifty fifth minutes. An Áine Kelly point and a similar late score from Majella Griffin was all that Clare could muster in the time remaining and Clare were a dejected outfit when referee Gallagher blew the final whistle.

Clare will point to the conditions not suiting them on the day and also the absence of Fiona Lafferty and Eimear Considine through injury. However their application to the task at hand and their overall lack of aggression and determination in contesting balls are very worrying features indeed. Expect the management to ring the changes for the Tipperary game as another performance like this will see Clare out of the championship before they've realised that it had started.

Goalkeeper Denise Walshe gave an excellent shot stopping performance between the posts but her kick-outs failed to reach a Clare player on the majority of occasions. Her opposite number Sarah Finnerty found a loose player on every occasion as her wing backs and midfielders made practiced runs for her to find them. Both the Clare full back line and half back line were in complete disarray for most of the game with players standing off their opponents and allowing them way too much space. Similarly at midfield Clare did not show the necessary aggression to win the breaking ball (although in fairness Sandra Malone gave it all she could and fielded a number of excellent high balls). Up front both Áine Kelly and Majella Griffin were well shackled by their opponents but in fairness to all the forwards the quality of supply ball they were receiving was terrible.

A major improvement will have to take place if Clare's season is to be turned around following this disastrous and unexpected opening result. Hopefully it will act as a wakeup call to both the players and management as to what is required at this level. Hopefully the team will bounce back next Saturday at Bansha against Tipperary in what has now become a must win game.

Clare: Denise Walshe, Sinéad Eustace, Lorraine Kelly, Michelle Delaney, Grace Lynch (1-0), Jane Kennedy, Sinéad Kelly, Louise Henchy (capt), Sandra Malone, Úna Downes, Marie Kelly, Marie Considine, Áine Kelly (0-2), Majella Griffin (0-2), Niamh Keane (0-1)
Subs: Tammy Hehir for Jane Kennedy 28 minutes, Aifric O'Neill for Sinéad Eustace half-time, Helen Quinn for Marie Considine 47 minutes.

Roscommon: Sarah Finnerty, Jenna Burton, Annette McGeena, Jean McNulty, Lorraine McNulty, Laura Sharkey, Louise Tully (0-1), Martha Conlon, Sinéad Cooney, Ann Marie Carley (0-2), Caroline Conway (0-4), Michelle Carey (1-2), Eimear Casey (0-1), Claire Grehan (1-3), Sarah Sharkey(0-2).

Dr. Paul McKenna, PRO Clare

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