PREVIEWS: Time to crown the 2023 All-Ireland Club Champions

THE 2023 All-Ireland Club champions will be crowned over the coming weekend.

In each of the three Finals, a club from Connacht will take on Munster opposition in the quest for silverware.

There’s a double-header at Croke Park on Saturday, with Ballinamore Sean O’Heslins from Leitrim meeting Cork’s Glanmire in the Intermediate Final at 3pm, followed by the Senior Final pairing of Waterford’s Ballymacarbry and the holders, Kilkerrin-Clonberne from Galway, at 5pm.

Attention switches on Sunday to Parnell Park in the capital, as Cork’s O’Donovan Rossa take on Mayo’s Claremorris in the Junior Final at 2pm.

The 2023 All-Ireland Intermediate and Senior Club Finals will be live on TG4. You can watch on TV or online by clicking here. 
The 2023 All-Ireland Junior Final will be free to view on the LGFA Facebook Page and YouTube channels.
Click here for Facebook and click here for YouTube.

Saturday December 16 

2023 All-Ireland Intermediate Club Final 

Ballinamore Sean O’Heslins (Leitrim) v Glanmire (Cork); Croke Park, 3pm

GLANMIRE and Ballinamore Sean O’Heslins get proceedings underway at Croke Park on Saturday in the 2023 All-Ireland Intermediate Club Championship Final.

Both teams are appearing in their first Intermediate deciders but Cork club Glanmire know what it’s like to win an All-Ireland title, having been crowned Junior winners in 2018.

That 1-22 to 3-11 victory over Sligo’s Tourlestrane was a memorable day in Glanmire’s history and five years on, now they have the chance to win the Intermediate crown and on the hallowed Croke Park sod.

Ballinamore Sean O’Heslins will fly the flag for Leitrim – and they’re just the second club from the county to contest an All-Ireland decider.

Back in 1997, Aughawillan appeared in a Junior Final but Kerry’s Beaufort got the better of them on the day.

While Cork clubs have won Junior, Intermediate and Senior All-Ireland club titles, victory for Ballinamore Sean O’Heslins would be history in the making for Leitrim.

An intriguing fixture lies in store between two clubs who had to battle hard in their respective semi-finals.

Ballinamore needed a late, late show, including a dramatic winning goal from Aoibheann Flynn, to secure a 1-10 to 1-8 victory over Derry’s Steelstown Brian Ógs, who were left heartbroken at the finish.

In their semi-final, Glanmire secured a 1-7 to 0-6 victory over Meath opponents Na Fianna to book their place in the Final, with Orlaith Roche leading the way in the scoring charts with a 1-2 haul.

The last Cork club to contest an All-Ireland Intermediate Final was Kinsale back in 2017, who lost out to Dunboyne, while you have to go back to 2007 to find the last Cork team to win this competition, when Mourneabbey defeated Derry side Glen in the Final.

Mourneabbey, of course, went on to achieve huge success too at Senior level and that is the potential pathway that can open up for clubs successful in the Junior and Intermediate ranks who make the step up.

Other Cork winners of the Intermediate title were Inch Rovers (2006), Naomh Abán (2003), Rockbán (2002) and Rockchapel in 2000.

In what is the first of two Munster v Connacht All-Ireland Finals on Saturday, and with another to follow on Sunday, Ballinamore Sean O’Heslins will aim to bring the Intermediate crown back to the Western province for the first time since Galway’s Annaghdown were victorious in 2016.

Ballinamore captured the county Senior B title with victory over St Mary’s and then progressed successfully through Connacht, defeating Mayo’s MacHale Rovers before getting the better of Sligo’s Eoghan Rua in the Final, with Róisín McHugh, The Croke Park/LGFA Player of the Month award winner for November, claiming the Player of the Match award.

McHugh was in excellent scoring form again in the All-Ireland semi-final, notching 0-8, but it was Flynn’s late heroics that made national headlines.

Glanmire, meanwhile, defeated Naomh Abán in the Cork Final before they landed the Munster title with a gritty Final victory over Limerick opponents Monagea, following on from a win against Tipperary’s Boherlahan-Dualla at the semi-final stage.

They had to work hard in London against Tir Chonaill Gaels in the All-Ireland quarter-final, before latterly seeing off Na Fianna in Mallow.

Ballinamore Sean O’Heslins: L Flynn; D McGourty, A Sweeney, E Honeyman; L Maguire, M Murphy, G Prior (capt.); M McGovern, C O’Dowd, L O’Dowd, R McHugh, L Moran; A Flynn, S McLoughlin, L Murphy.

Glanmire: A Carey; E Dillon, M Barry, K O’Connor; C O’Donovan, Ellen Twomey (capt.), A Fitzgerald; A M’Mahony, E Murphy; A McCarthy, N McAllen, A McCarthy; Evie Twomey, O Roche, M Dullea.

2023 All-Ireland Senior Club Final 

Ballymacarbry (Waterford) v Kilkerrin-Clonberne (Galway); Croke Park, 5pm

THE most storied club in the history of the All-ireland Ladies Senior Club Football Championship meets the current holders chasing three-in-a-row.

That’s the backdrop ahead of Saturday’s eagerly-anticipated All-Ireland Senior decider between ten-time winners Ballymacarbry and Kilkerrin-Clonberne, who won the 2021 and 2022 competitions.

Ballymacarbry achieved the last of their ten All-Ireland Senior titles in 1998 and they’re back on Saturday for their first Senior decider since then.

For Kilkerrin-Clonberne, this is more familiar territory as they prepare for a fourth successive All-Ireland Final.

Having suffered pre-Covid heartbreak against Mourneabbey in 2018 and 2019, Kilkerrin-Clonberne got the better of their Cork rivals in the 2021 Final, before following up with a successful retention of their crown at Croke Park against Monaghan opponents Donaghmoyne 12 months ago.

Now, a third successive win is in Kilkerrin-Clonberne’s sights but they face formidable opposition in Ballymacarbry, with the club preparing for a 13th Final in its history.

Down through the years, Ballymac have played All-Ireland Finals in Cashel, Tullamore, Callan, Athy, Thurles, Carlow, Dungarvan, New Ross and Birr and now they find themselves at Croke Park for the very first time.

It’s history in the making in what is a novel Final pairing, even though the clubs did meet at the semi-final stage last year, with Kilkerrin-Clonberne running out very comfortable 2-10 to 0-2 winners.

Perhaps it was a case for Ballymac that the euphoria of winning a first Munster crown since 2000 had an impact as they produced an untypically lacklustre display on the day.

Fast forward to 2023 and after nailing a 42nd successive county title, Ballymac have kicked on to win back-to-back Munster crowns before refocusing for the All-Ireland series.

On paper, a trip to Armagh to play newly-crowned Ulster champions Clann Éireann was a formidable task but Ballymac produced a controlled display to win by 1-10 to 0-5, with the hosts restricted to just two points from play.

Captain Aileen Wall scored the goal and Bríd McMaugh chipped in with four points for Ballymac as they made the long trip a winning one.

Kilkerrin-Clonberne, meanwhile, fresh from landing six-in-a-row in Connacht, were made to sweat in their All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin’s Kilmacud Crokes.

The sides were inseparable after normal time and extra-time was required before Kilkerrin-Clonberne progressed to a fourth Final in-a-row, on a 0-15 to 1-10 scoreline.

Eva Noone was in good scoring form with 0-6, including five frees, with Olivia Divilly landing two of her three points from frees.

Operating in the half-forward line, tireless captain Louise Ward was another key influence, with two points from play.

This was a stern test for Kilkerrin-Clonberne and it’s one that could well stand them in good stead.

If there was any hint of complacency in their camp, that was well and truly eradicated by the challenge of Kilmacud Crokes.

Ballymacarbry: L Fitzpatrick; G Nugent, M McGrath, M Ryan; K McGrath, L Ryan, B McMaugh; K Hogan, A Barron; A Wall (capt.), S Peters, M Boyce; S Hallinan, C Walsh, R Browne.

Kilkerrin-Clonberne: L Murphy; C Costello, S Gormally, C Dunleavy; K Mee, N Ward, L Finnegan; S Divilly, H Noone; O Divilly, L Ward (capt.), L Noone; E Noone, C Miskell, N Divilly.

Sunday December 17 

2023 All-Ireland Junior Club Final 

Claremorris (Mayo) v O’Donovan Rossa (Cork); Parnell Park, 2pm

Mayo club Claremorris pit their wits against Cork opponents O’Donovan Rossa for the 2023 All-Ireland Junior club title – and a cracking game lies in store.

Having suffered relegation last year, Claremorris were anxious to bounce back to the Intermediate ranks in Mayo at the first attempt, and that’s exactly what they did by winning the county title.

And the journey didn’t end there for Claremorris, with the local community getting very much behind this team as they progressed through the Connacht Championship and beyond.

Claremorris survived a tough test against Sligo’s CT Gaels (Tubbercurry) in the provincial semi-final before defeating an excellent St Brigid’s from Leitrim in the Connacht Final.

With home advantage for their recent All-Ireland semi-final, the blue and gold flags were waving proudly in the town as Claremorris geared up for a clash with visitors Lavey from Derry.

On the day, goals proved crucial for Claremorris in a 5-4 to 2-11 win, with Nina Wallace (two), Bree Hession, Ashleagh Sammon and captain Laura Kelly finding the net.

Now, Claremorris will aim to become Mayo’s first All-Ireland Junior club champions.

MacHale Rovers (2019) and Knockmore (2008) both fell short but hopes are high that Claremorris can end the county’s junior drought.

Standing in their way are O’Donovan Rossa – and the Cork club will present formidable opposition.

O’Donovan Rossa are no stranger to adversity themselves, having recovered from losing the 2022 Cork Junior A Final to win the title in 2023.

Their 2022 conquerors, Naomh Abán, went all the way to last year’s All-Ireland Final, where they lost out to Galway’s Salthill-Knocknacarra, and O’Donovan Rossa will be hoping to go one better.

In 13 previous seasons, Cork clubs have appeared in an All-Ireland Junior club Final, with success achieved in 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2009 and in three successive years from 2017-2019, when Aghada, Glanmire (Intermediate Finalists in 2023) and latterly Donoughmore were successful.

It’s a rich Cork pedigree and O’Donovan Rossa will be looking to add to it by landing the national prize.

And O’Donovan Rossa’s form is good coming into this one. Having moved on successfully through Munster with victories against Tipperary’s Loughmore-Castleiney, Clare’s Newmarket-on-Fergus and Clounmacon/Moyvane of Kerry, the Skibbereen-based club beat Glasgow Gaels in Scotland before playing host to Wexford’s Gusserane at the All-Ireland semi-final stage.

O’Donovan Rossa scored a 2-12 to 0-6 victory over Gusserane, with six points from Éabha O’Donovan and goals from Fionnuala O’Driscoll and Triona Murphy proving decisive.

Claremorris: C Keane; I Phillips, E Maguire, Aisling Cummins, Amy Cummins, S McNulty, S Hughes; A Fitzpatrick, J Regan; M Cawley, R Kean, B Hession; A Sammon, N Wallace, L Kelly (capt.).

O’Donovan Rossa: C Fitzgerald; M Donnellan, E McCarthy, A Tobin; F Leonard, S Hurley, L Harte (capt.); L O’Mahony, T Murphy; J Beechinor, E Hurley, K O’Connell; É O’Donovan, K O’Donovan, F O’Driscoll.

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