Emphatic win confirms Clare's Division 2 status


Clare 7 – 8                  Westmeath 0 – 8


Clare deservedly retained their Tesco Homegrown National Football League Division 2 status following this decisive victory over Westmeath on Sunday in a game played in blustery conditions at the very well appointed Kilbeggan GAA grounds.  This was a game Clare had to win following Waterford’s surprise win over Kildare the previous afternoon and in fairness to the team they rose magnificently to the challenge to leave the home side somewhat shell shocked at the finish.


Clare had the assistance of a significant wind in the first half but there were few signs of things to come early on as Westmeath were first on the scoreboard with a well taken point from mid-fielder Ruth Kearney after just three minutes.  Clare had to wait until the seventh minute for their opening score but it was worth the wait and involved some individual brilliance from Niamh O’Dea as she carved her way through the Westmeath defence and gave keeper Sarah Keegan no chance with a blistering shot to the net.  The mid-landers continued to pressurize Clare and were guilty of some poor shooting before Sarah Dolan converted a free from a tight angle on eleven minutes.  Clare responded with points from O’Dea, Marie Kelly and Minnie Considine to lead 1 – 3 to 0 – 2 after twenty minutes.  This was a small enough lead considering the significant wind advantage that Clare had at their disposal and the lead was further eroded when Dolan pointed another free on twenty one minutes.


Clare then hit a purple patch which laid the foundation for their victory.  It all started in the 26th minute when a Niamh O’Dea effort for a point from forty yards dipped in under the Westmeath crossbar for a fortunate goal. From the kickout Clare attacked again and Sue Higgins raised a white flag and a minute later Ailish Considine had the ball in the Westmeath net again and followed this up with a point from play a moment later.  Thus Clare scored an unanswered 2 – 2 in the vital minutes before half – time to earn a significant 3 – 5 to 0 – 3 lead at the interval.  This scoring spree rattled the home side and made their task of a second half recovery now a very difficult one.


Clare fought valiantly in the second period and defended staunchly against the wind and by the forty fifth minute had conceded just two points to the mid-landers while adding a point of their own from Marie Kelly.  The game totally swung Clare’s way when Kelly, just off a plane from Dubai earlier on Sunday morning, was at the end of a breakaway counter attack to score a great goal.  This score finally broke Westmeath’s resolve and was quickly followed by a goal and a point from frees from Ailish Considine.  Susan Higgins then got in on the goal-scoring act for Clare and Marie Kelly put the icing on the cake for Clare with their seventh goal in the final minute. A dispirited Westmeath did tag on three other second half points but the spoils of victory were well in the Clare bag long before referee Yvonne Duffy sounded the final whistle.


Thus a league campaign that had been floundering up to the tonic of the victory over Waterford has now been turned around and manager John Burke will be well pleased that his side has retained their Division 2 status.  Two wins on the bounce means that he can now look forward to championship action knowing that the team is on an upward curve and the memories of earlier league defeats are now well and truly discarded.


Niamh O’Dea was outstanding for Clare in this game and apart from her 2 – 1 scoring contribution her overall work rate throughout the game was incredible.  Fiona Lafferty and Niamh Keane again had big games for Clare and Marie Kelly was outstanding considering she had stepped off a twelve hour flight just a few short hours before throw in. Ailish Considine was again dependable in the Clare attack and goalkeeper Emma O’Driscoll made several outstanding saves throughout the hour.  Marie Considine, Niamh Cavanagh and Susan Higgins were others to shine for Clare on the day.  Indeed credit must go to the whole panel for producing such a big team performance when it was needed most.


Clare: Emma O’Driscoll, Niamh Cavanagh, Lorraine Kelly, Marie Foran, kayleigh McCormack, Fíona Lafferty, Sarah Bohannon, Marie Considine (0 – 1), Niamh Keane, Roisín Looney, Niamh O’Dea (2 – 1), Eimear Hillery, Ailish Considine (2 – 3), Marie Kelly (2 – 2), Susan Higgins (1 – 1).


Subs Used: Rebecca Culligan, Amy O’Brien, Katie Connole, Katie Geoghagan.


Westmeath: Sarah Keegan, Aoife Brady, Amie Giles, Carole Finch, Tara Fagan, Tríona Durkan, Laura Brennan, Ruth Kearney (0 – 2), Maud Anne Foley (0 – 2), Johanna Maher (0 – 1), Laura Walsh, Beth McGuire, Sarah Dolan (0 – 2), Fíona Claffey (0 – 1), Vicky McEnery.

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