THERE has been little between Clare and Offaly in adult camogie in recent years and this was again the case when the counties met in the opening round of the National League at Meelick on Sunday.
In a game that saw the lead change hands on a number of occasions, a share of the spoils resulted with both sides looking like they could win at different stages of the contest.
Offaly started as if they might score a runaway win but Clare settled down and fought back strongly to lead by the minimum margin at half-time. Offaly edged ahead in the second half and when they held a two-point advantage entering the closing minutes, everything pointed to Joachim Kelly’s side getting their campaign off to a winning start.
A goal from a penalty in the final minute of normal time gave the home side a two-point lead and it looked like they had snatched victory, just as they had done when the sides met in the All-Ireland final a few years ago. However, Offaly weren’t to be denied and they pointed twice in injury time to earn a deserved draw.
With Limerick’s Aidan Ryan taking charge after the appointed referee, Cathal Egan from Cork, travelled to Meelick in Galway for the fixture, the match got underway almost 15 minutes later than scheduled.
Three points in the opening five minutes suggested that the Midlanders might prove too strong. Indeed Clare were fortunate that Offaly’s lead wasn’t greater at this stage as the Clare defence was stretched on a few occasions.
With Ruth Kaiser doing well at midfield, Clare got a grip on proceedings and by the end of the first quarter they had taken a two-point lead after they had hit five unanswered scores through Deirdre Murphy (three), Mairéad Scanlon and Shónagh Enright.
Three points in as many minutes saw Offaly regain the lead but Clare finished the half with points from Deirdre Murphy and Laura Linnane to lead at half-time on a score of 0-7 to 0-6.
Offaly scored first in the second half through Orla Kirwan but Deirdre Murphy quickly had Clare back in front with her fifth point of the afternoon.
Three-in-a-row from Offaly saw them go two ahead early in the final quarter. Another Murphy effort kept Clare in touch but a Siobhán Flannery point had Offaly two clear with just over five minutes remaining.
Chloe Morey cut the margin back to one for Clare before she struck for the game’s only goal. The match was in the final minute of normal time when Linnane was fouled in the square and Morey received instructions from the sideline to go for goal. She was successful and suddenly Clare were two points clear as the game went into injury time.
In typical fashion, Offaly came storming back and points from Róisín Coughlan and Arlene Watkins, in the final minute, sealed a share of the spoils.
Ruth Kaiser, Sinéad O’Loughlin, Kate Lynch, Chloe Morey, Sharon McMahon and top scorer Deirdre Murphy impressed for Clare, while the visitors had good performances from Karen Brady, Tina Hannon, Arlene Watkins, Siobhán Flannery and Orla Kirwan.
Clare: Susan Vaughan (Ogonnelloe); Sinéad Donovan (Wolfe Tones), Kate Lynch (Kilkishen), Anne Marie McMahon (Crusheen); Chloe Morey (Sixmilebridge), Róisín McMahon (Newmarket), Sinéad O’Loughlin (Inagh); Ruth Kaiser (Newmarket), Fiona Lafferty (Inagh); Laura Linnane (Athenry), Sharon McMahon (Newmarket), Shónagh Enright (Kilmaley); Claire McMahon (Kilmaley), Deirdre Murphy (Clooney-Quin), Mairéad Scanlon (Scariff).
Subs: Naomi Carroll (Sixmilebridge) for C McMahon, Áine O’Brien (Newmarket) for Scanlon, Norah Murphy (Kilkishen) for S McMahon and Marian O’Brien (Ogonnelloe) for Enright.
Scorers: Deirdre Murphy (0-6, 2f), Chloe Morey (1-1, both frees), Laura Linnane, Shónagh Enright and Mairéad Scanlon (0-1) each.
Offaly: Pamela Nugent; Debbie Flynn, Fiona Stephens, Karen Brady; Sheila Sullivan, Michela Morkan, Linda Sullivan; Orla Kirwan, Tina Hannon; Marion Crean, Arlene Watkins, Siobhán Flannery; Aoife Kelly, Elaine Demody, Ailsa Hughes.
Sub: Emma Dunne for Hughes.
Scorers: Arlene Watkins and Elaine Dermody (0-3) each, Siobhán Flannery and Orla Kirwan (0-2) each, Michela Morkan, Tina Hannon and Róisín Coughlan (0-1) each.
Referee: Aidan Ryan, Limerick.