2008 Suzuki National League Final preview

2008 Suzuki National League Final preview

Clare .v. Donegal

Date: Sunday May 4th
Venue: Cusack Park Ennis
Time: 2.30pm

The sense of anticipation is palpable within Clare ladies football circles at present as all associated with the game eagerly await Sunday’s Suzuki National league final. After their dramatic win over fancied Down in the semi-final the Clare team would have travelled to Timbuktu for this final.

Playing in Cusack Park will however pose its own problems for Deirdre Murphy’s team and the added anxiety to perform well in front of their supporters will no doubt add some pressure. Thankfully this team has a determined leader in team captain Louise Henchy and the Ennis based accountant is sure to have all her sums done in preparation for the game.

Louise will certainly be hoping that star forwards such as Eimear Considine, Áine Kelly, Majella Griffin and Marie Kelly will make the figures add up on the scoreboard on Sunday and that the Banner county girls emerge with a surplus account on the day. This will be no easy task as Donegal were most impressive in their semi-final win over Waterford. It is worth reminding that Waterford defeated Clare by 1-13 to 2-4 in the qualifying stages of this competition. Thus while playing at home should confer an advantage on Clare the results to date clearly put Donegal in the driving seat.

Donegal also secured a very good away draw in their qualifying round against Down against whom Clare were distinctly lucky to overcome last time out. Therefore despite playing at home Clare must be on high alert and afford no complacency ahead of Sunday’s game.

Donegal are a strong physical side and it was this strength throughout the field that saw them through against Waterford to qualify for Sunday’s decider. Clare are without doubt though the more skilful side and despite having the lack of natural ball winners in the midfield area their work rate and eagerness in this pivotal position makes up for any lack of physical presence.

Captain Louise Henchy is a Trojan worker at midfield and has recently struck of a great playing relationship with either Sandra Malone or Fiona Lafferty. Ideally Henchy should be at centre forward but with Tammy Hehir still struggling to regain full fitness she is likely to again command the central role on Sunday.

Defensively Clare has searched all year for the right combination. The loss of Coolmeen’s Grace Lynch to London for this year’s league was major blow, yet the recent return to county training of her club mate Sinéad Eustace is a big boost for the panel. While Sinéad may or may not start on Sunday she will definitely play some part in proceedings. Sinéad Kelly of West Clare Gaels is also a player who is maturing into a serious inter county star. Sinéad relishes the battle and gained much experience from her club’s progress to the All Ireland final last year. She is sure to play a big game this weekend and won’t lack in confidence or experience. Lorraine Kelly of Fergus Rovers is also another player who won’t be overawed by the occasion. Although sometimes a slow starter Lorraine has the uncanny knack of getting the better of her opponent as games go on. If she gets into the game from the start in the final she could be pivotal to Clare’s chances of success.

Up front though is where Clare will be expected to do most damage. Young player of the year Eimear Considine of Kilmihil is having an outstanding tournament to date. The Kilmihil ace, newly graduated from last year’s All Ireland U-16 B winning team, has contributed an incredible 6 – 5 to Clare’s total in this year’s league campaign. The aplomb in which she took some of these scores belied her tender years and she is the perfect compliment up front for such established players as Niamh Keane (Banner Ladies) and Áine Kelly (Fergus Rovers). Áine Kelly is no slouch either and has clocked up a formidable 3 – 11 in the Suzuki league to date so hopefully this strike rate will continue on Sunday. The key however to success on Sunday could be the performances of the West Clare Gael’s duo of Marie Kelly and Majella Griffin. Marie is a workaholic forward and often both creates and finishes her scores. Majella on the other hand is the ‘Maurice Fitzgerald’ of Clare ladies football. Often anonymous, but when in possession exudes class and has an uncanny accuracy when it comes to scoring. Her kicking and fielding technique is a joy to watch and she is without doubt the most accomplished footballer that will be on view next Sunday (and that includes the Cork and Kerry match).

Sunday’s game will be tough however. On form Donegal are the favourites but Clare are quietly going about their business in preparation for this game. Expect a high octane titanic struggle with hopefully the girls in saffron and blue lifting the Suzuki league trophy come 4.00pm on Sunday.

Again an appeal to all Gaels in Clare to come out and support the ladies on Sunday.

Possible Clare starting fifteen: Denise Walshe, Carmel Considine, Lorraine Kelly Aifric O’Neill, Úna Downes, Sinéad Kelly, Michelle Delaney Louise Henchy, Sandra Malone, Marie Kelly, Majella Griffin, Niamh Keane, Aine Kelly, Fiona Lafferty, Eimear Considine.

Footnote: The Banner Ladies Football Club will be holding a collection in aid of their participation to represent Clare at Féile Peil na nÓg in Cavan on the way into Cusack park on Sunday. Please support generously.

Dr. Paul McKenna,
PRO Clare Ladies Football


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