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Clare ladies football coach Evan Talty at home in Caherush, Quilty. Photograph by John Kelly

Clare need to plug defensive holes in crunch match

Ivan Smyth speaks to Clare ladies football coach Evan Talty ahead of today’s crucial clash with Westmeath

AFTER conceding 16 goals in their five games across the league and Championship so far this year, Clare manager Evan Talty is keenly aware of the need to address his side’s defensive issues.

When Clare travel down to Tuam Stadium on Sunday afternoon to face Westmeath (throw in 2pm), they will need to produce their best defensive display to have any hopes of reaching the semi finals of the All-Ireland Intermediate Championship.

After holding Wexford to 1-8 in an opening round league win, Clare have since shipped 4-13 to Kerry, 4-18 to Meath (both league games), 4-7 in an opening round Championship defeat to Leitrim and 3-6 in their final round group win against Fermanagh.

Talty admits that the defensive displays have “not been good enough.”

“It’s not been good enough from us defensively this year. You cannot win football games conceding three, four goals a game. A lot of the goal have come from basic errors.

“We are working on it in training so we know we cannot make this mistakes against Westmeath because we will be in trouble if we do.”

The nine time county champion with Kilmurry Ibrickane admits the Leitrim defeat was a blow to his side’s Championship prospects with the cut throat nature of the competition meaning they had to beat Fermanagh to qualify for the knockout stages.

“We had watched Leitrim a lot before we played them. This year a lot of teams who have been fancied to win are not doing so or are being made to fight hard for it.

“We were six points up after 20 minutes, three up after 40 (minutes). We just switched off a bit and you’re your opponent has momentum, it’s a hard thing to shake.”

“After the defeat we took stock of things. We know there is no consequences of losing a challenge game so although we prepared well, you cannot replicate the pressure.

“Not getting the performance against Leitrim was the most disappointing thing so we knew against Fermanagh that we needed to win to get through. The performance went out the window. We needed a result.”

They got the desired win against Fermanagh in what was a knockout game with the loser out of the running in the All-Ireland series. However, concentration lapses led them to cough up three goals as Talty admits his side mixed the good and the bad in their most recent outing.

“We played our best football in the 15 minutes leading up to the first water break. We were going at them and we told the players to keep doing what they were doing.

“We were 12 points up but the human mindset can tell someone that they can relax a touch or they can sit back and protect a lead instead of going for more.”

“They got it back to five or six (points) and I think we fell asleep a bit. You can’t do that in knockout football. We were happy with parts of our performance but we have loads to work on.”

Clare come up against a fancied Westmeath team that reached the All-Ireland final last year. Jack Cooney’s side topped their group having won both their group games, although Sligo got within two points of them in their opening round game.

Talty is aware that his side face a big challenge on Sunday afternoon.

“We are up against the All-Ireland favourites so we know we have a massive challenge on our hands. Sligo gave them a game but they beat Wexford well so they are hitting form. They are a serious unit and we need to bring our A game to have any chance of beating them.”

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