WITH just three fixtures left to play in division 3 of the NFL, Clare took a huge stride towards promotion with a comprehensive win over Westmeath in Ennis on Sunday.
They now sit joint second in the table, along with Tipperary. The Munster teams are two points behind Kildare, who have won all four of their games to date. Clare travel to O’Connor Park in Tullamore next Sunday, where they play Offaly who are currently on four points.
Clare blitzed Westmeath who were completely off the pace, particularly in the first half. Such was Clare’s dominance they led 0-7 to 0-0 after 23 minutes with David Tubridy, Eoin Cleary, Pearse Lillis and Cathal O’Connor putting over those early points.
Westmeath, who reached the 2015 Leinster final and were expected to at least contend for promotion, didn’t kick their first point until eight minutes before half time when substitute Shane Dempsey scored. They did come within four points of Clare, four minutes before the interval but a trio of points from two Cleary frees and a fisted Seán Collins effort, left Clare 0-10 to 0-3 ahead after 35 minutes.
Playing much slicker football than Westmeath and patiently holding onto the ball, until an opportunity opened up, Clare remained in control throughout the second half, extending their lead, 0-15 to 0-9, eight minutes from time. Two minutes later Jamie Malone put away his second goal of the campaign, holding off Denis Corroon and Frank Boyle before firing home a superb goal.
Malone, Cleary and Seán Haugh added three further points in the closing minutes.
Clare: Joe Hayes; Seánie Malone, Kevin Harnett, Martin McMahon; Cian O’Dea, Gordon Kelly, Jamie Malone; Gary Brennan (captain), Cathal O’Connor; Seán Collins, Eoin Cleary, Shane McGrath, Enda Coughlan, David Tubridy, Pearse Lillis.
Subs: Keelan Sexton for Shane McGrath (half-time), Dean Ryan for Cian O’Dea (52), Pat Burke for Enda Coughlan (53), Graham Kelly for Seánie Malone (65), Seán Haugh for Pearse Lillis (66), Alan O’Neill for Seán Collins (69).
Scorers: Eoin Cleary (0-6, 0-4f), David Tubridy (0-5, 0-1f, 0-1 45), Jamie Malone (1-1), Pearse Lillis, Cathal O’Connor, Seán Collins, Gordon Kelly, Enda Coughlan, Seán Haugh (0-1 each).
Westmeath: Darren Quinn; Killian Daly, Frank Boyle, Kevin Maguire; Jamie Gonoud, Kieran Martin, Alan Stone; Denis Corroon, Ray Connellan’ James Dolan, Callum McCormack, Paul Sharry; John Connellan, John Heslin, John Egan.
Subs: Shane Dempsey for Alan Stone (20), Paddy Holloway for Ray Connellan (22), Paul Greville for Callum McCormack (44), Shane Flanagan for Jamie Gonoud (48), Ronan Foley for Shane Dempsey (59).
Scorers: John Heslin (0-6, 0-5f), Shane Dempsey, Ronan Foley, Kieran Martin, John Connellan (0-1 each).
Yellow cards: Callum McCormack, Paul Sharry, Denis Corroon, John Connellan.