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Fidelma Marrinan of Clare avoids the challenge from Saoirse Wynne of Roscommon during their Ladies’ Football League Division 3 Round 3 clash at Cusack Park. Photograph by Natasha Barton

Seesaw battle ends up all square

Clare 1-7 Roscommon 1-7
A tense seesaw battle arguably ended with the fairest result as Clare and Roscommon had to be content with a share of the spoils in Cusack Park, Ennis on Sunday afternoon.
Having fallen seven points in arrears by half-time following a lacklustre second quarter, the only way was up for a now wind-assisted Banner who soon warmed to their task by chipping away at the deficit until a Fidelma Marrinan goal at the turn of the final quarter finally proved the catalyst to regain full parity by the 47th minute.
With Roscommon also being temporarily reduced to 14 following the sinbinning of Caoimhe Cregg, nothing but a Clare victory seemed on the cards. However, typifying their most erratic performance of the new season to date, Clare somehow failed to get their noses in front and instead a previously besieged Roscommon actually regained confidence in the final ten minutes before managing to inch back in front with a Laura Fleming free in the 59th minute.
A luckless Clare could well have dropped their heads after such an arduous hour but true to form never relented and would finally be rewarded with a 64th minute Marrinan leveller to relievedly get something out of this bizarre contest.
With both sides entering the tie with perfect records, it was a worthy and equally sobering challenge that will only stand to Wayne Freeman and his side going forward. After all, Roscommon did have their homework done and employed shadowers on chief threats Fidelma Marrinan and Chloe Moloney along with possessing plenty of attacking prowess themselves as they successfully ran at the home defence in the second quarter.
Having toiled to earn a second half reprieve, for Clare to think that the tide had turned irrevocably and ease off the gas was again uncharacteristic but overall it’s infinitely better to learn on their feet in the group stages rather than discover any frailties at the business end.
In truth, Clare will be more wary of a resurgent Roscommon if their paths were to cross again in the near future but in essence, the hosts will also know that they were far from at their devastating best.
And yet, even this wake-up call of sorts wasn’t ultimately detrimental as Clare maintained their unbeaten start alongside Roscommon and next opponents Offaly in the early race of two Division 3 Final spots.
Clare actually started much better in both halves but coughed up a needless goal in the 18th minute that would fuel a Roscommon second quarter surge. Early frees from home twin threats Marrinan and Moloney offset any early Roscommon advances with the wind at their backs as Grainne Harvey had to be alert to spoil a Laura Fleming opening minute goal chance.
Aine Keane would also come to Clare’s rescue from another goal sighting for Aisling Feeley before finally conceded a goal in the 18th minute as a clearance was intercepted by Fleming who swiftly countered through Ellen Irwin, Kate Nolan and finally Aisling Hanly who finished to the net on the turn to catapult Roscommon into the lead for the first time at 1-2 to 0-2.
With that, the Rossies grew incrementally in confidence as Feeley (2), Fleming and goalkeeper Hanly kicked the last four points whereas down the other end an utterly frustrated Clare were forcing things to try and stop the rot as the-y slumped to four consecutive wides to trail by 1-6 to 0-2 by the break.
Clare craved a spark but initially with the wind at their backs, they began to successfully pin Roscommon into their own half. Early points from play through Fidelma Marrinan and Chloe Moloney lessened the deficit to five by the two thirds mark while also seeing a goal chance for the former cleared off the line by Irwin.
Completely dominating the Roscommon restarts, an inevitable goal finally arrived in the 43rd minute when Laurie Ryan was fouled at halfway and Ciara McCarthy launched the free towards the square, where Moloney broke it to Marrinan to cooly finish to the far right corner of the net at 1-6 to 1-4.
That relentless pressure, epitomised by an outstanding hour for captain Caoimhe Harvey who consistently carried possession from back to front, saw Clare make a full recovery within four minutes of that goal.
Substitute Teresa Collins was gifted a kick-out to play in Chloe Moloney who earned and converted a free before a Roisin Considine interception teed up Fidelma Marrinan for the equaliser entering the final quarter.
Roscommon’s goose looked cooked but it prematurely turned out to be more a slow cooker than an air-fryer as the numerically disadvantaged visitors somehow picked themselves off the canvas after Clare failed to inch in front.
A Teresa Collins goal chance after good work from fellow replacement Katie Mullen was stopped by goalkeeper Helena Cummins, only to see a rare Roscommon attack pay full dividends when the talismanic Laura Fleming earned and scored a last minute free at 1-7 to 1-6.
Clare didn’t panic but it was difficult to break down a Roscommon defensive wall until a late, late counter-attack unleashed Marrinan to fittingly snatch a draw.
Surprisingly, there would be time for each side to register a further wide each but in the end, the sound of the final whistle was a tonic to both sides who could well clash once more in the final on the first Saturday in April.

Clare: Amy Lenihan (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield); Aine Keane (Miltown Malbay), Siofra Ní Chonaill (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield), Grainne Harvey (West Clare Gaels); Roisin Considine (Tír Chonaill Gaels, London), Joanna Doohan (Kilmurry Ibrickane), Laurie Ryan (Banner Ladies); Caoimhe Harvey (West Clare Gaels), Aisling Reidy (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield); Sinead Considine (Liscannor), Ciara McCarthy (Kilmurry Ibrickane), Fidelma Marrinan (West Clare Gaels); Amy Sexton (Kilmurry Ibrickane), Chloe Moloney (Kilmurry Ibrickane), Megan Downes (Cooraclare)Subs: Teresa Collins (Burren Gaels) for McCarthy 43), Katie Mullen (Kilmihil) for Downes (51), Ciara Hickey (Kilmurry Ibrickane) for Sexton (58), Louise Griffin (Fergus Rovers) for R. Considine (58)

Scorers: Fidelma Marrinan (1-4, 1f); Chloe Moloney (0-3, 2f)

Roscommon: Helena Cummins (Michael Glaveys); Aine McGrath (St Brigid’s), Shauna Fleming (Michael Glaveys), Aisling MacAuliffe (Strokestown); Rachel Fitzmaurice (St Ciaran’s), Saoirse Wynne (Boyle), Ellen Irwin (St Faithleach’s); Laura Fleming (St Ciaran’s), Judy McDermott (Strokestown); Lauren Shanagher (Northern Harps), Kate Nolan (St Brigid’s), Caoimhe Cregg (Boyle); Aisling Hanly (Kilbride), Aisling Feeley (Boyle), Sinead Farrell (Clann na nGael) Subs: Aoife Gavin (St Dominic’s) for Feeley (34, inj), Niamh Feeney (St Mary’s Tulsk) for Farrell (46), Ella Thompson (St Croan’s) for Nolan (51), Aimee O’Connor (St Dominic’s) for Shanagher (51)

Scorers: Aisling Hanly (1-1); Laura Fleming (0-3f); Aisling Feeley (0-2); Lauren Shanagher (0-1)

Referee: Ciaran Groome (Offaly)

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