Clare clinch points in Waterford thriller

Clare ladies grabbed a lifeline to retain Division 2 status for the coming year with the narrowest of victories following a dramatic and nerve wracking conclusion to their TESCO HomeGrown National Football League tie against Waterford.


With the game in injury time and the sides tied 2 – 10 apiece Ailish Considine faced up to a 35 metre free to the left of the Déise posts, this looked to be Clare’s last chance to rescue their league campaign.  Considine’s free was launched goalwards and looked all over a score only to drift in the final seconds and strike the upright and deflect wide.  All eyes now turned to Wexford referee James Flood and the anticipation of a possible final whistle from the kickout. Waterford decided to go short and corner back Mary Foley was immediately bottled up by frantic Clare attackers eager to win back possession.  The Clare girls did this supremely well and the Waterford defender was blown for over-carrying.  A twenty five metre free to Clare ensued directly in front of the posts and cool as you like Niamh O’Dea slotted over the winning score.  The final whistle sounded shortly afterwards and both relief and elation were palpable in the reaction of Clare mentors, players and supporters.  Clare can now travel to Westmeath next Sunday with renewed optimism that they can yet avoid the drop to Division 3.


Played in wild wintry conditions, with a difficult wind and sleeting rain, this game in Fraher Field, Dungarvan, was not for the faint hearted and given the conditions was both entertaining and enthralling right up to the final whistle.  Clare, as has been their pattern in recent matches, started brightly and had two unanswered points on the board in the first three minutes courtesy of Eimear Considine and Niamh Keane.  This was indeed a bright start especially as Clare were playing against a very stiff breeze in the opening half.  Waterford rallied however and were level on eleven minutes thanks to points from Sinéad Ryan and Aileen Wall. Ailish Considine for Clare and Michelle Ryan for Waterford exchanged pointed frees before Ailish blasted Clare into the lead with a well taken goal on the quarter hour.  Waterford battled back however and with wind assistance had points on 19 and 21 minutes before full forward Michelle Ryan found the Clare net in the 23rd minute to give the girls in white a 1 – 5 to 1 – 3 lead with half time approaching.  Clare stuck to their task however and had points from Shauna Keane and Eimear Considine to regain parity and so the teams returned to the dressing rooms tied on 1 – 5 apiece at the short whistle.  This was a solid position for Clare as the elements would be in their favour for the second half but the old adage that the wind never wins a game on its own certainly rang true on Sunday.


Clare again had a good start to the second period and had a point from Eimear Considine inside a minute.  Two minutes later Clare were unlucky not to goal when Shauna Keane forced a superb save from Waterford keeper Aimee Jordan.  Clare were not to be denied however and an excellent move out of defence saw the ball eventually transferred to Eimear Considine who rammed home a great goal to the roof of the Waterford net.  This score should have given Clare the impetus to drive on and press home their advantage but unfortunately almost from the kickout the Clare defence was found guilty of ball watching and allowed corner forward Roisín Tobin to ghost inside their rearguard to plant the ball firmly in the bottom left corner of the net to reduce Clare’s lead to the minimum.


It was nip and tuck from here to the final whistle.  Niamh O’Dea and Michelle Ryan exchanged pointed frees and Ryan added another from play to level the game again before three excellent Clare points from O’Dea ,Ailish Considine and Shauna Keane extended Clare’s lead to three by the fiftieth minute.  Waterford dug deep however and threw everything at Clare as they also fought for their Divisional survival and three unanswered points from full forward Michelle Ryan had the teams level on fifty seven minutes.  The remaining minutes were frantic as Waterford endeavored to cling on to a draw that would probably guarantee their survival in Division 2 and Clare chased an imperative win.  Thus the final moments were played out with O’Dea securing the vital win with her late, late show. Oh the tension and excitement of it all.


For sheer dogged determination alone Clare deserved this win and great credit must go to the players and management for such a rousing display coming off the back of five heavy defeats.  Still Clare must aim to repeat this level of performance in their final game away to Westmeath next weekend and also hope Kildare win at home against Waterford.


All Clare players gave one hundred percent in this do or die battle but special mention must go to the Considine sisters for securing 2 – 5 between them and to Niamh O’Dea for scoring the all important winning point in the dying seconds.  Outstanding for Clare also were Niamh Keane, Fiona Lafferty, Laurie Ryan, Shauna Keane and Rebecca Culligan.  Emma O’Driscoll was again solid in goals and Roisín Looney, Marie Considine and Marie Foran also had good games for the Saffron & Blue ladies.


All involved must now focus on next weekend’s encounter and try to retain the momentum and confidence gained from this vital first win of the season.  A big effort will be required as Westmeath are currently flying high in the division and have already secured a semi-final spot. We wish manager John Burke and the team well on Sunday.


Clare: Emma O’Driscoll, Laurie Ryan, Lorraine Kelly, Marie Foran, Kayleigh McCormack, Roisín Looney, Rebecca Culligan, Marie Considine, Fíona Lafferty, Eimear Considine (1 – 3), Niamh Keane (0 – 1), Emer Hillery, Ailish Considine (1 – 2),  Niamh O’Dea (0 – 3, 2f), Susan Higgins.


Subs Used: Shauna Keane (0 – 2) for Emer Hillery, Katie Connole for Kayleigh McCormack


Waterford: Aimee Jordan, Mary Foley, Ann Dumphy, Nora Dunphy, Louise Ryan, Karen McGrath, Gráinne Enright, Michelle McGrath, Elaine Power, Mairead Wall, Aileen Wall (0 – 1), Linda Wall, Roisín Toibin (1 – 1), Michelle Ryan (1 – 6, 3f), Sinéad Ryan (0 – 2).


Referee:          James Flood (Wexford)

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