A tally of 0-8 for David Tubridy was not enough for Clare to overcome Westmeath in their National Football League Division Two opener with the Leinster outfit coming out on top by 2-9 to 1-11 in TEG Cusack Park.
Clare had the wind in the opening period but trailed 1-5 to 1-3 as they headed for the dressing rooms. It had been a bright opening, with the visitors to Mullingar ahead by 1-2 to 0-1 after the opening 10 minutes.
The Clare goal came from Gavin Cooney who pounced on a breaking ball after Dermot Coughlan’s initial shot was blocked, and he slid a cool finish to the net. That was quickly followed by a David Tubridy free, but another 27 minutes would pass before another Clare score materialised.
Anthony McGivney rattled the net for Westmeath after good work from the impressive Ray Connellan, and they built on that to open up a two point lead.
David Tubridy broke Clare’s scoreless spell with another free but the Westmeath response was immediate as Kevin Maguire stormed through before seeing his rising shot just clear the crossbar. Dermot Coughlan was black-carded for an incident in the lead up to that score and would spend the opening ten minutes of the second period in the sin-bin.
Clare had five poor wides in the opening period from scoring chances with potshots from distance by Gavin Cooney, Ciaran Russell, Keelan Sexton and two Eoin Cleary frees going astray with the wind in their favour.
By the time Coughlan returned, Clare trailed 1-7 to 1-4 with two in a row from Westmeath being answered by one from Tubridy after 45 minutes of action. The temperature was rising with cards flashed all over, but Tubridy was ice cool to slot another free to cut the gap to two.
A sucker punch arrived moments later when Jack Smith raided from corner back to drift into space before slotting a tidy finish to the net and sent Westmeath 2-7 to 1-5 clear with 50 minutes on the clock.
Tubridy kept the scoreboard ticking from placed balls and two in a row for Clare through Cleary (f) and Sexton cut the gap to one. Alan Sweeney was shown a straight red just minutes after being introduced from the bench with Westmeath also reduced to 14 men for the last few minutes from the same incident.
There was time for more drama as Dermot Coughlan lashed over to level the game with 37 minutes on the clock after patient build up to create the opening, but a late free from John Heslin broke Clare hearts to edge a one point win.
Clare: Stephen Ryan (Kilrush Shamrocks); Kevin Harnett (Meelick), Cillian Brennan (Clondegad), Gordon Kelly (Miltown St Joseph’s); Sean Collins (Cratloe), Pearse Lillis (Cooraclare), Dean Ryan (Na Fianna); Ciaran Russell (Kilmacud Crokes), Cathal O’Connor (Coolmeen); Cian O’Dea (Kilfenora), Eoin Cleary (Miltown, St Joseph’s, c), Dermot Coughlan (Kilmurry Ibrickane); Gavin Cooney (Éire Óg), David Tubridy (Doonbeg), Keelan Sexton (Kilmurry Ibrickane)
Subs: Alan Sweeney (St Breckan’s) for Ryan , Cormac Murray (Miltown St Joseph’s) for Cooney, Eoghan Collins (Ballyhaunis) for Collins , Ciaran Downes (Kilmihil) for O’Connor, Dale Masterson (St Breckan’s) for Russell.
Scorers: David Tubridy (0-8, 7f), Gavin Cooney (1-0), Keelan Sexton and Dermot Coughlan (0-1 each), Eoin Cleary (0-1, 1f).