Duignan's baptism of fire


Clare 4-24 Meath 1-8:For the second year in a row, Clare opened their league campaign against Meath and once again they were relatively untested in Navan.

Last term, Meath's first outing in top-flight hurling ended in a 13-point drubbing in Ennis, against a stronger Banner side. This time around the margin of defeat was even more emphatic as new manager Michael Duignan's reign began in depressing circumstances.

Duignan's charges trailed by 1-5 to 1-12 at the interval, a deficit that might have been greater had Niall Gilligan made better use of two goal-scoring opportunities.

Tony Carmody did get a goal in the 24th minute when he made contact with a long-range free from Conor Plunkett to leave his side 1-7 to 0-3 ahead.

The hosts looked good to ward off a rout at that early stage when they responded almost immediately with an impressive individual goal from Mickey Cole as pointed frees from Nicky Horan kept them in touch.

However, with Meath finding points from play hard to come by, all of the Clare forwards, by contrast, managed to get off the mark in the first half.

The visitors pressed home their dominance on the restart with three points in as many minutes from Plunkett (free), Gilligan and Carmody before their second goal put the issue beyond doubt. Gilligan and Carmody were involved in the build-up before David Forde scored after 42 minutes.

The visitors underlined their superiority with goals in the closing stages from substitutes Andrew Quinn and Brian Culbert.

CLARE: D Fitzgerald; B Quinn, B Lohan, K Kennedy; D Hoey, C Plunkett (0-1), C Harrison; C Lynch (0-1), J Considine; T Griffin (0-7), O Baker (0-2), J O'Connor (0-4); N Gilligan (0-2), T Carmody (1-4), D Forde (1-2). Subs: G Malone for Forde, G Considine for O'Connor, B Culbert (1-1) for Baker, A Quinn (1-0) for Gilligan, R O'Looney for Quinn.

Meath: M Gannon; R Dorran, B Perry, P Gannon; T Reilly, P Donnelly, A O'Neill; K Dowd, D Fagan; P Coone, C Sheridan, N Horan (0-6); M Cole (1-1), D Dorran (0-1), I McCoemack. Subs: D Tro for Fagan, J Shaw for Coone, J McGuinness for Dowd, D Donnelly for McCormack.

Referee: T McIntyre (Antrim).