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There is a huge amount at stake this afternoon at O’Moore Park as Meath and Clare prepare to battle it out for the one remaining Super 8s spot this summer.

Today’s winner will take their place in Group 1 alongside Munster champions Kerry, Ulster winners Donegal and also Mayo, who prevailed in a tantalising encounter against Galway yesterday.

Andy McEntee’s men suffered a demoralising 1-17 to 0-4 Leinster final defeat at the hands of All-Ireland champions Dublin a fortnight ago but will hope to bounce back in Portlaoise today.

The Royals take on a Clare side who overcame Waterford in Munster, but exited at the semi-final stage to perennial provincial winners Kerry.

The Banner responded with an impressive 3-17 to 0-17 defeat of Leitrim and a one-point win over Westmeath in round three of the qualifiers in Mullingar.

Throw-in is coming up in just under an hour’s time at 2pm, with today’s game live on RTÉ One if you happen to be near a TV set.

O’Moore Park is the setting for today’s Round 4 qualifier.

A view of O'Moore Park Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

A quick reminder of today’s teams…

Meath:

1. Andrew Colgan

2. Seamus Lavin
3. Conor McGill
4. Shane Gallagher

5. Donal Keogan
6. Padraic Harnan;
7. Gavin McCoy

8. Bryan Menton
9. Shane McEntee

10. Ben Brennan
11. Bryan McMahon
12. Graham Reilly

13. Cillian O’Sullivan
14. Michael Newman
15. James Conlon

Clare:

1. Stephen Ryan

2. Dean Ryan
3. Cillian Brennan
4. Gordon Kelly

5. Kevin Harnett
6. Aaron Fitzgerald
7. Sean Collins

8. Gary Brennan
9. Cathal O’Connor

10. Sean O’Donoghue
11. Eoin Cleary
12. Jamie Malone

13. Gavin Cooney
14. David Tubridy
15. Cian O’Dea

Colm Collins makes just one change from his side’s win against Westmeath in the qualifiers last time around.

With Conaill O hAinifein ruled out through injury, Kevin Harnett takes his place in the half-back line.

For Meath, Andy McEntee has opted for a number of changes from last month’s Leinster final defeat to Dublin at Croke Park.

Ronan Ryan  and James McEntee are both absent from the starting XV, with Padraic Harnan returning at centre-back and Gavin McCoy restored to the half-back line.

As is to be expected there have been a couple of late switches ahead of throw-in. Ethan Devine and Thomas McGovern come into the Meath attack for Ben Brennan and Graham Reilly.

2Mins

Meath 0-1 Clare 0-0

A foul on Bryan McMahon by Aaron Fitzgerald gives Meath a free within kickable distance. Mickey Newman is the man tasked with kicking the opening score from comfortable range, and he makes no mistake.

4Mins

Meath 0-1 Clare 0-1

Jamie Malone with a superb score to level proceedings. He dodges men in green left and right before rifling his right boot up towards the sky where the ball comes back down to earth between the posts.

Ethan Devine and Gordon Kelly Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

5Mins

Meath 0-2 Clare 0-1

Mickey Newman with his second free of the afternoon to bring Meath back ahead. This time the 29-year-old opts to kick off the ground and it’s a flawless kick over the bar.

6Mins

Meath 0-2 Clare 0-2

Some great, quick feet from James Conlon sees the young forward sprint into dangerous territory. The attack peters away, however, and down the other end Cathal O’Connor kicks a superb point from distance to draw us level again.

7Mins

Meath 0-2 Clare 0-3

Newman with his third free of the afternoon, but this time his kick drops short and into the arms of Stephen Ryan. The Clare goalkeeper gets his side going from defence into attack and Gary Brennan caps the move off by fisting the ball over the bar. Clare lead.

8Mins

Meath 0-2 Clare 0-3

Shane Gallagher needlessly shoves Gavin Cooney in the back, giving Clare an easy free. “There’s no need for it,” admonishes Kevin McStay in commentary. Meath are let off though, as Eoin Cleary kicks wide of the target.

Colm Collins Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

10Mins

Meath 0-3 Clare 0-3

Bryan McMahon levels us again at three scores apiece. He takes possession from a neat hand-pass following a superb high catch and while there may have been a goal chance on, McMahon is content to take his point.

12Mins

Meath 0-3 Clare 0-4

Eoin Cleary makes no mistake with his second free of the afternoon. From a tricky enough angle he fires between the posts. Clare have the chance to extend their lead, but Gary Brennan slices his shot well wide.

14Mins

Meath 0-3 Clare 0-5

David Tubridy kicks a neat, pinpoint free to extend Clare’s lead to two points. Rather than put his laces through it, Tubridy looked like he nearly chipped that effort over brilliantly with the deftest of touches.

15Mins

Meath 0-4 Clare 0-5

James Conlon with his first point of the afternoon. He takes possession via a hand-pass from Sean O’Donoghue right in front of goal and sizes up a decent strike which sails high and over.

Andy McEntee Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

17Mins

Meath 0-4 Clare 0-6

Cian O’Dea responds with a score down the other end. An accurate kick, O’Dea did really well to outmuscle his marker, stay balanced and in control of the ball and then kick over the bar. Still two points in it now.

20Mins

Meath 0-5 Clare 0-6

Mickey Newman with his third score of the game, all from frees. It’s right in front of goal and he makes no mistake. A tit-for-tat game at the moment, with Clare struggling to build on these two-point leads, allowing Meath back into the game and firing some sloppy wides too.

22Mins

Meath 0-6 Clare 0-6

Superb score from Mickey Newman to level us at six scores apiece. Some sloppy play at the back from Clare allows James Conlon in, he pops a pass to Newman and the corner forward does the damage.

23Mins

Meath 0-6 Clare 0-7

David Tubridy fires over his second point. He finds time and space 30 yards out from goal, twists onto his stronger right boot and caresses the ball over the bar. Lovely score from the 30-year-old from Doonbeg.

James Conlon and Cillian Brennan Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

24Mins

Meath 0-7 Clare 0-7

Thomas McGovern levels proceedings again. A late addition to Andy McEntee’s starting XV, he justifies his inclusion with a powerful drive from the half-forward line which precedes a pinpoint kick.

25Mins

Meath 0-7 Clare 0-8

A ruck of bodies just outside the Meath penalty area sees the Royals concede another fairly needless free. David Tubridy sticks the ball down on the ground, takes a few paces back and chips over the bar to bring it back to a one-point game.

27Mins

Meath 0-8 Clare 0-8

Superb play from James Conlon. The young forward, making just his fifth championship appearance for Meath, weaves in-between a host of challenges before scooping the ball over. Excellent score and we’re level again, the sixth time so far.

29Mins

Meath 0-9 Clare 0-8

Inches away from a goal for Meath. Padraic Harnan finds Mickey Newman racing clean through on goal with a popped hand-pass. Newman bears down on goal with momentum and kicks a powerful low effort which rises at the last second over the bar.

Thomas McGovern with Cian O'Dea and Kevin Harnett Source: Ryan Byrne; ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne/INPHO

31Mins

Meath 0-9 Clare 0-8

Five minutes to go before half-time as play slows down just a little bit. It was non-stop scoring, tit-for-tat stuff for the guts of the opening half an hour. But both sides appear to be taking a short breather to go at it again. Meath still lead by one.

33Mins

Meath 0-9 Clare 0-9

Jamie Malone with a tremendous score from some distance on his right boot, his second point of the game so far. It’s the seventh time these sides have been level as we approach half-time.

34Mins

Meath 0-9 Clare 0-10

Oh what a score. Jamie Malone follows up that initial score with an even better one. Positioned along the left flank he fires what looks like a Hail Mary effort way up into the clouds. But he watches it all the way as the ball licks the inside of the post and pings over.

34Mins

Meath 1-9 Clare 0-10

GOAL! Meath with a massive score which could be instrumental. Donal Keogan dashes forward to join the attack, takes a dummy close to goal and slips an accurate low effort underneath Stephen Ryan. The ball is blocked on the line, but Bryan Menton fires the rebound into the back of the net.

35Mins

Meath 1-9 Clare 0-12

Clare respond down the other end with two vital points, raging against the dying of the light after that setback from Menton’s killer goal. Cian O’Dea with the first score and then Jamie Malone levels proceedings dramatically. What an end to the half!

Flag 35Mins

HALF-TIME: MEATH 1-9 CLARE 0-12

An absolutely brilliant end to the first half of a brilliant game. For long stretches it was tit-for-tat between Meath and Clare, Mickey Newman and James Conlon the leading men at one end and Jamie Malone and David Tubridy at the other.

Just when Clare looked like peeling away, Bryan Menton fired a crucial goal into the back of the net via a re-bound. Collins’ men wouldn’t be cowed, though, with two rallying scores from Cian O’Dea and Malone levelling proceedings right at the death.

A captivating affair so far in Portlaoise as these sides slug it out for that final Super 8s spot. More action to come shortly!

37Mins

Meath 1-10 Clare 0-12

Mickey Newman with his first free of the second half, it’s his sixth point of the game so far. Meath put their noses in front ahead of what promises to be a hard-fought second half as both these sides seek to book their place in the Super 8s.

38Mins

Meath 1-11 Clare 0-12

James Conlon cuts inside following some patient movement and scores. His third point of the afternoon and Meath edge two points in front. A strong start to the second half from the Royals here.

39Mins

Meath 1-11 Clare 1-12

GOAL! A long, high kick into the air from Cian O’Dea comes back down to earth close to goal and Gavin Cooney is there to win the aerial duel and push the ball into the back of the net. Horrendous defending from the Royals.

40Mins

Meath 2-11 Clare 1-12

GOAL! Another goal. A brilliant attacking move from Meath sees Mickey Newman exchange a neat one-two inside the penalty area before pushing the ball into an empty net with Stephen Ryan taken out of the equation. A ferocious start to this second half.

41Mins

Meath 2-11 Clare 1-12

There’s a pause in play at O’Moore Park as Mikey Newman went down after scoring that goal. The star forward pushed the ball into an empty net but collided with the post moments later. He is taken off as a temporary blood sub.

42Mins

Meath 2-12 Clare 1-12

As smashing side-step from Donal Keogan beats Aaron Fitzgerald brilliantly, before the Meath half-back sizes up a shot on goal and makes no mistake with a pinpoint strike which sails over. Meath lead by three.

44Mins

Meath 2-13 Clare 1-12

Another score for Meath, who are pulling away here with huge momentum. Ethan Devine, a late addition to Andy McEntee’s side, is the man that does the damage close to goal. An excellent spell for the Royals here.

48Mins

Meath 2-13 Clare 1-12

Gary Brennan storms forward in electrifying fashion, the midfielder showing brilliant leadership to earn his side an important free. David Tubridy takes command of the free, but to the shock of the Clare supporters in the stand he misses the target. Meath continue to lead by four.

51Mins

Meath 2-13 Clare 1-13

Cathal O’Connor with a superb score just when it was needed. He brushes past Padraic Harnan like he isn’t even there, pokes his head up sizing up a potential shot and fires a brilliant effort right between the posts. Three-point game now.

52Mins

Meath 2-13 Clare 1-13

Jamie Malone almost makes it back-to-back scores for Clare, but he fails to hit the target. Amazingly, it’s Clare’s seventh wide so far this afternoon. They have been electric at stages in this game, but very inconsistent in front of goal. Far too many wides at crucial stages.

55Mins

Meath 2-13 Clare 1-13

A yellow card for Donal Keogan for a foul on Sean Collins, who is currently lying on the ground receiving treatment. The Clare defender seemed to take a loose hand to the face there, but he has since gotten to his feet as play resumes.

58Mins

Meath 2-13 Clare 1-14

Patience pays off for Clare, who had not scored in 10 minutes. David Tubridy snatches possession, side-steps his marker and fizzes a low effort over the bar on his left boot. Only two points in it now.

59Mins

Meath 2-13 Clare 1-14

Another wide for Clare, again from Jamie Malone. He did well to peel away from his marker into space but Malone’s shot was not up to scratch. Eight wides for the Banner in this game. 

60Mins

Meath 2-14 Clare 1-14

There’s a free for Meath and Gordon Kelly is shown a black card for hauling down Cian O’Dea. Shane Walsh takes command of the free and is accurate from the spot, firing over the bar for his first score since arriving off the bench.

64Mins

Meath 2-14 Clare 1-15

Clare earn their own free down the other end. Eoin Cleary clips a fine score just inside the post which rises a roar from the Banner supporters in Portlaoise. Two-point game now with just five minutes plus stoppage time remaining.

66Mins

Meath 2-14 Clare 1-15

Off the post! Padraic Harnan almost puts this game to bed. He bears down on goal and has the beating of Stephen Ryan between the sticks for Clare, but Harnan’s low strike hits the woodwork and back out. He scored a goal against Offaly earlier this summer but can’t match the feat here.

67Mins

Meath 2-15 Clare 1-15

Cillian O’Sullivan delivers his first score of the afternoon and it could prove to be a crucial one. Meath take full advantage of a poor Clare kick-out from Ryan, with O’Sullivan doing the damage close to goal.

69Mins

Meath 2-15 Clare 1-16

Clare just won’t let this go. David Tubridy with a crucial point which cuts it back to a two-point game. A goal would send Clare into the Super 8s here, but Meath look dogged at the back hoping to hang on and put this to bed. A minute left plus stoppage time!

70Mins

Meath 2-16 Clare 1-16

There will be six minutes of stoppage time to come at the end of the second half as Clare seek a goal to extend their championship adventure this summer. But there’s a sucker punch down the other end as Ben Brennan extends Meath’s lead to three points.

70Mins

Meath 2-16 Clare 1-16

Meath doing really well to hang on here. Andy McEntee’s side are in possession with plenty of men behind the ball, easily handpassing the ball left and right trying to tire out their opponents and wear down the clock. Two minutes left.

70Mins

Meath 2-16 Clare 1-16

A second black card of the hame, this time it’s for Meath’s Bryan McMahon. The Banner supporters are desperately urging their side on here right at the death, but this goose looks cooked bar a dramatic piece of heroism from a man in yellow.

70Mins

Meath 2-16 Clare 1-17

Clare earn a late, late free right in front of goal following a powerful attack. David Tubridy thinks for going for goal for a moment but takes his point instead hoping referee Derek O’Mahony gives his side one more chance. Two-point game.

70Mins

Meath 2-16 Clare 1-18

Another score for Clare and there’s only one point in it now! Couglan arrows over a pinpoint strike in front of goal, but it doesn’t look like there will be enough time left on the clock to go again. Andrew Colgan’s kick-out could be the last kick of the game here.

70Mins

It’s all over! Meath prevail in a thoroughly entertaining affair at O’Moore Park and the Royals now book their place in the Super 8s.

They will join Kerry, Donegal and Mayo in Group 1 and unfortunately for Clare this means the end of their championship summer.

Andy McEntee’s men were just that bit more accurate in front of goal through Mickey Newman and James Conlon and Bryan McMahon, with Clare’s high number of sloppy wides proving costly.

Thanks a million for joining us this evening. You can read Fintan O’Toole’s on-the-whistle report from Portlaoise here. Cya soon!

About the author:

Aaron Gallagher

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