A disastrous 2nd half performance combined with a majestic Rob Hughes display paved the way for Claregalway to come up 2nd best by a considerable distance in a Division 2 league game on Saturday last in ideal conditions in Lakeview. Having put up a decent show v Corofin the week previous, many felt that this was a game that Claregalway should and would win, alas injuries, work, black cards and the county boards decision to not allow county players play meant that there were wholesale changes from the team who lost out in Tuam Stadium. On the other hand, Menlough came into Saturdays game under new management after Pete Warren was given the P45 after an underwhelming 2017, they struggled over Glenamaddy in the Intermediate first round and fortunes were mixed in the league.
The game started at quite a ferocious pace and although Menlough did get the first score of the game, it was Claregalway who settled the quicker of the 2 sides – with Veg and the impressing Conor Kelly getting the balchies up and running. Unfortunately for Veg, his game was done and dusted after 8 minutes after a sloppy challenge led to Richie McNicholas brandishing the black card with Simon Monaghan introduced quicker than even he had anticipated. With Padraig Kearney nullifying the threat of Hughes at midfield and with Conor Campbell impressing from the half back line, Claregalway did string some impressive passages of play together and had a good spread of scorers with Kelly again, Jizzo, John Evans, Sean and Jack Glynn all forcing Gabriel Kearney to reach for the white flag as Claregalway began to stretch their legs and the scoreboard. Not unlike the Corofin game, Claregalway could be construed as being wasteful once again as they spurned 3 goal chances with Kelly(2) and Evans failing to hit the back of the net from good chances and had we taken all the chances that presented themselves to us, truthfully we could have been well ahead at the break. Claregalway did finish the half the stronger with Jack Glynn scoring one of the finest scores I have seen in some time. It led to some of the Menlough fans referring to him as “El Diablo”…. The Devil. The turning point in the game came 1 minute before the half time whistle was sounded as Padraig Kearney stretched to control a ball, he suffered a nasty hamstring injury and ultimately had to be carried from the pitch. Kearney who gave Claregalway a stranglehold at midfield would prove to be a huge loss as the numbers and physicality were limited, Claregalway were about to find out the hard way, that keeping a dogged team like Menlough in the game is never advisable. The half time score was 0-12 to 0-08 in favour of Claregalway and things were about to get very, very ugly.
Menlough manager Ger Lennon could be heard for miles laying down the gauntlet to his charges in the dressing and it clearly paid dividends as they lead was reduced to a single point after 10 minutes. By now Rob Hughes was the new sheriff in town at midfield and with Claregalway unable to win any primary possession or breaking ball, this allowed Menlough to lay siege on the Claregalway defence and eventually the pressure told. A risky kick out was intercepted by Menlough wing forward Colm O’Brien who could hardly believe his luck as he was 1 on 1 with goalkeeper B’OD 20 yards out from the goal. Claregalway were unable to lay a hand on him never mind pull him down and he blasted the ball to the roof of the net and now the “you know what” had hit the fan. Finally this woke up Claregalway and we managed to register a score from the boot of Sean Moran but this was to be the last score of the game for us as Menlough began to bully and boss the youthful and physically inept Claregalway side. Further scores from Kevin Reilly, Tommy Mannion and the glorious Hughes had Claregalway in major trouble approaching the final 10 minutes, and with some supporters scratching their heads, the management team were left scratching their arse as they looked devoid of ideas. Jack Glynn who was withdrawn at half time due to injury prevention was sent to warm up in a move that reeked of desperation and could not even be masked even by the liberal helping of brut I had applied behind my ears before heading to Lakeview. By now, the damage was done and the momentum was all with the opposition and when Mark Goldrick was heard taking the lords name in vain, it was all over except for the final whistle as Menlough ran out comfortable victors on a 1-18 to 0-13 scoreline and were it not for the work of Cunniffe, Goldrick and Callinan in the full back line – it could have been worse.
Albeit Claregalway were missing Hennessy, (essentially Veg), Rohan, Danny and Le Petit Generale, it was a disappointing showing in the 2nd half and as the injuries begin to mount, the depth of the squad will be tested over the coming weeks and months as Claregalway were landed back to earth.
Team: B O’Donoghue, B Callinan, S Cunniffe, M Goldrick, J Kearney, C Evans, C Campbell, P Kearney, Veg, J Glynn, S Moran, Jizzo, J Evans, C Kelly, Divilly. Subs used- Mono, P Commins, K Grainger, M Kilgannon
It wasn’t all doom and gloom over the weekend as Jerry O Sullivan took his charges to play a Div 5 West Board league game away to Moycullen. Calling on Joe Kearney, Mono, Jizzo and John Evans from the previous day, combined with the experience of the likes of Rob Moran, Tom O;Reilly and Martin Kelly led to Claregalway running out victors on a 1-09 to 3-09 scoreline. Well done lads.