By Mike Fitzpatrick
Clare 3-13, Westmeath 2-7
Brendan Kirby opened the scoring in this senior hurling game with two well-taken points for Westmeath early in the tie, but Clare’s lightening quick forward, Darren Docherty, caused havoc for the Westmeath defence and hit two points from the right wing from seemingly impossible angles.
The blonde bomber Docherty, was to prove to be too much for Westmeath throughout the tie, and each time he gained possession of the ball, his opponents were in trouble. An unstoppable shot from Docherty past John McDonnell in the Westmeath goal gave the Bannermen a three point lead, and from then on they rarely looked like losing it, despite some heavy marking by the Westmeath defense.
Sean Harvey, Barney Breen and Brian Adams all hit further scores for Clare, and even though Shane Dalton and Brian Daly scored points for Westmeath, it became clear that the Banner County were not going to give this lead away without a fight.
By the time the whistle blew for half time, Clare had moved into a seven-point lead, and were looking good for the game points.
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A number of changes in personnel on both sides after the
break made significant differences to the outcome of the game. John McDonnell moved out of the Westmeath goal and played upfront, and immediately ran onto a pass from midfield, caught the ball and slammed it home for his sides first goal.
Minutes later, Brian McCabe hit another for Westmeath, but Clare substitute Mike McCloskey restored his side’s healthy lead with a fine goal midway through the half.
It was Docherty again though who really made the difference, grabbing another great goal for his side, having slipped his marker and really putting the nails into the coffin of Westmeath’s bid to grab something from the game.
Points from Westmeath’s Robbie Kennedy, and Clare’s Donal Moore finished off the game, giving Clare a nine-point win, and surely in the process making the big guns of the senior hurling division sit up and take notice.
Senior hurling this year has proved to be one of the most difficult divisions to predict, with so many strong sides capable of pulling off the winning of the championship crown. Not only do we have the free-scoring Tipperary, the doggedly stubborn Kilkenny, and the fight-till-the-death attitude of Limerick, but then there’s Clare, who having promised so much yet delivered little, but who have begun to look quite an exciting side this year.
Westmeath have dropped a little, having been something of a powerhouse only a couple of years back, but coming into this tie, many felt that they may have been slight favorites coming into this tie.
Clare were disappointed to be held to a draw by an understrength Offaly side last week, and were clearly out to set matters straight with grabbing a win here versus Westmeath.
Clare: Aidan O’Connor, Tony Burns, Noel McGovern, Brian Adams (0-1), Seamus Pender, Marty McGlade, John Kennedy (0-5), Sean Harvey (0-2), Ciaran Corcoran, Barney Breen (0-1), Donal Moore (0-1), Paul O’Donovan, Darren Docherty (2-2). Subs Mike McCloskey (1-1),
Westmeath: Tony McDonnell (2-0), Greg Dixon, Robbie Kennedy (0-1), Enda Lohan, Brian McCabe (0-1), Colm Reilly, Brendan Kirby (0-2), Peter Dalton, Jimmy Hughes, Paddy Corcoran, Shane Dalton (0-1), Brian Daly (0-2), Mossy Dermody. Subs.: Joe Daly.