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Photography by Natasha Barton

FOOTBALL: Clare exorcise Meath ghosts to progress to last 12

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All-Ireland Senior Football Championship Round 1
Clare 1-7 Meath 0-6

THE famine is finally over as Clare exorcised their Meath ghosts to advance to the last 12 of the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship in Cusack Park this evening.
Having suffered five consecutive defeats to the Royal County in as many seasons, Clare certainly made hard work out of their revenge mission as despite holding a four point interval lead with the strong conditions to come, the Banner eventually had to come from behind to cement victory with the last three points.
Add in eight second half wides, three missed goal opportunities including a 63rd minute David Tubridy penalty that was excellently tipped away by goalkeeper Harry Hogan and it understandably had to take immense character for a persistent Clare to get back on track as Eoin Cleary, Keelan Sexton and Manus Doherty provided the finishing touches to a rousing yet relieving opening championship win.
It was all so different in the first half when Clare belied the conditions to soar 1-3 to 0-0 clear by the end of the opening quarter. Pearse Lillis grabbed a perfect opportunist goal to settle the Banner into their stride but would be somehow denied a second by the outstanding Hogan only four minutes later.
It took Meath 18 minutes to open their account but it mattered little as Clare only extended their advantage to seven nearing the half hour mark after successive points through Eoin Cleary, Emmet McMahon and David Tubridy at 1-6 to 0-2.
To their credit, Meath did score four of the last five points to lessen the half-time deficit to four at 1-7 to 0-6 but it was only when Clare resumed with six wides on the restart that the visitors prospered. A foul on half-time substitute Joey Wallace earned a 40th minute penalty that full-back Conor McGill slitted to the net while a Daithi McGowan point there minutes later levelled up the tie at 1-7 to 1-7.
Amazingly, it also took Clare 18 minutes to get off the mark with the wind at their backs in the second half by which time they had actually fallen behind for the first time thanks to a Bryan McMahon free.
Eoin Cleary got the Banner motoring and also pegged back a Cillian O’Sullivan point entering the final ten minutes at 1-9 to 1-9.
Clare had glorious chances to end their Meath hoodoo coming down the final straight but goalkeeper Hogan pulled off minor miracles to deny Tubridy from the penalty spot as well as Keelan Sexton in the 69th minute.
However, the Kilmurry Ibrickane star, who earned the penalty, did convert the resulting ’45 while corner-back Manus Doherty’s mazy run was rewarded with the clinching point to put Clare into the hat for a place to meet a provincial runner-up next weekend.

Clare: Tristan O’Callaghan (St Breckan’s); Manus Doherty (Éire Óg), Cian O’Dea (Kilfenora), Conor Jordan (Austin Stack’s, Kerry); Alan Sweeney (St Breckan’s), Ciaran Russell (Éire Óg), Jamie Malone (Corofin); Darren O’Neill (Éire Óg), Cathal O’Connor (Coolmeen); Pearse Lillis (Cooraclare), Eoin Cleary (St. Joseph’s Miltown), Emmet McMahon (Kildysart); Gavin Cooney (Éire Óg), David Tubridy (Doonbeg), Aaron Griffin (Lissycasey)
Subs: David Sexton (Kilmurry Ibrickane) for O’Callaghan (5-13, Blood Sub), Keelan Sexton (Kilmurry Ibrickane) for Griffin (34, inj), Brendy Rouine (Ennistymon) for McMahon (46), Podge Collins (Cratloe) for Cooney (49), Cillian Rouine (Ennistymon) for Sweeney (67, inj)

Scorers: Eoin Cleary (0-4, 2f); Pearse Lillis (1-0); Emmet McMahon (0-2); Darren O’Neill, David Tubridy (f), Jamie Malone, Keelan Sexton (’45), Manus Doherty (0-1 each)

Harry Hogan (Longwood); Robin Clarke (Duleek/Bellewstown), Conor McGill (Ratoath), Eoin Harkin (Summerhill); Cathal Hickey (Seneschalstown), Pádraic Harnan (Moynalvey), Donal Keogan (Rathkenny); Bryan Menton (Donaghmore/Ashbourne), Daithi McGowan (Ratoath); Jason Scully (Oldcastle), Thomas O’Reilly (Wolfe Tones), Jack O’Connor (Curraha); Mathew Costello (Dunshaughlin), Cillian O’Sullivan (Moynalvey), Bryan McMahon (Ratoath)
Subs: James McEntee (Curraha) for Hickey (24, inj), Eamon Wallace (Ratoath) for O’Connor (HT), Joey Wallace (Ratoath) for Scully (HT), Jordan Morris (Nobber) for McMahon (59), Shane Walsh (Na Fianna) for O’Reilly (67)

Scorers: Conor McGill (1-0, Pen); Cillian O’Sullivan (0-2, 1m); Thomas O’Reilly, Matthew Costello, Jack O’Connor, Jason Scully, Eoin Harkin, Daithi McGowan, Bryan McMahon (f) (0-1 each)

Referee: Brendan Cawley (Kildare)

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