By Jack Flynn
Clare 4-19, Westmeath 4-9
Clare and Westmeath were the participants in a wild, high-scoring Senior Hurling contest at Gaelic Park on Sunday. The two sides were level after 40 minutes, but a freak goal led to a Clare deluge that eventually led them to victory, 4-19 to 4-9.
“I thought as a team we played very well,” said Clare wingback and free specialist John Kennedy. “It’s like a lot of games, where a little bit of luck is the difference. If they had gotten the same break, the result probably would have been different.”
The break came in the second half with the score level, 4-7 for Westmeath and 2-13 for Clare. Niall Hayes, who already had 4 points for Clare, rifled a shot that was misplayed by Westmeath keeper Joe Fortune and somehow landed in the goal.
“I think after that, everybody lifted their game and that everybody was on top for the last 20 minutes,” Kennedy said.
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Indeed they were. Clare added a goal and 6 points after Hayes’s score, while Westmeath could only counter with two Brian Daly points.
The match got off to a quick start, as Westmeath ran out to a 2-2 to 0-2 lead in the first 5 minutes of the match. Goals from Fintan Clarke and Brendan McCabe were supplemented with points from Daly to give Westmeath the early advantage.
Meanwhile, it was Hayes that was doing most of the scoring for Clare, picking up four of his side’s first 5 points. Then, with Westmeath holding a 2-3 to 0-5 advantage, Seamus Murphy scored a goal for Clare that narrowed the deficit to a point.
However, Daly quickly countered with a goal of his own to restore the 4-point advantage for Westmeath. Clare answered with points from Murphy and prolific full forward Quinn before Quinn scored a goal to give his team the lead, 2-8 to 3-3.
Daly followed the Quinn goal by putting two balls over the bar to level the score. But two points from Kennedy and one more from Quinn were countered only once by Westmeath, giving Clare a 2-point lead at the break.
In the second half, Quinn’s point, which followed one from substitute Donal Carr, gave Clare a 2-13 to 3-6 lead. But just as it looked like Clare was fixing to run away with things, Clarke came up with his second goal of the afternoon to cut the deficit to 1. A minute later, a Daly point brought the sides level yet again.
But it was here that Hayes came up with the goal that turned the tide of the match. His shot from the left side of the net was mishandled by Fortune, who bobbled the ball for several seconds before letting it drop behind him and over the line. As the Westmeath keeper lay on the pitch in disbelief, Hayes and his Clare teammates celebrated their unexpected good fortune.
The goal would prove devastating for Westmeath. They never seemed to recover from the shock. Kennedy and Daly traded points immediately after, but Clare had the overwhelming majority of the scores the rest of the way.
With the score 3-19 to 4-9 in favor of Clare, Carr struck home a goal that officially killed whatever spirit was still left in Westmeath. Murphy tapped the two last balls over the bar, putting an end to the highest-scoring match of the day.
Clare scorers: Hayes, Murphy and Quinn 1-4; Carr 1-2; Kennedy 0-3; Breen and Egan 0-1.
Westmeath: Clarke 2-1; Daly 1-8; McCabe 1-0.