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Banner Ladies 2 - 10 West Clare Gaels 0 - 8

2008 Clare Championship Final

Date: Sunday October 5th
Venue: Cooraclare
Referee: Michael Talty (Kilmurray Ibrekane)

Banner Ladies 2 – 10 West Clare Gaels 0 – 8

This eagerly anticipated final was played in magnificent sunshine in Cooraclare. Senior league champions the Banner Ladies were hot favourites to complete the double over their western rivals and while they duly obliged with a flattering eight point winning margin the town team certainly did not have things all their own way.

Prior to throw in the Gaels were dealt a severe blow with the enforced loss through injury of Clare county star Marie Kelly. As the game unfolded their loss of such an influential player was critical as they were more than a match for the Ennis side in the tense early exchanges and one can only speculate what might have been if Kelly was present as a further driving force for the team.

Both sides were level at two points apiece after fifteen minutes with Louise Henchy and Majella Griffin trading pointed frees. Katie Cahill for the Banner Ladies and Michelle Downes for the Gaels also traded excellent points from play and in general the West Clare side were having the better of the exchanges. The Ennis side looked troubled as they sought to get a foothold through the middle where Deirdre Troy and Downes were bossing affairs. Sinéad Kelly was also in command in the Westerner’s rearguard at this stage and was clinical and decisive in her clearances.

The Banner Ladies side then had a major stroke of good fortune when West Clare goalkeeper Tracey Downes parried a Niamh Keane effort straight to the feet of Irene Hehir. The Lifford Ladies striker made no mistake in coolly slotting the ball home from close range. Majella Griffin and Niamh O’Dea swapped points before Majella again pointed to leave just two between the sides with half time approaching. Disaster again befell the Kilkee peninsula side when Louise Henchy’s speculative effort at a point dropped short and underneath the crossbar for her side’s second goal. The town team thus retired with a half time lead of 2-3 to 0-4. A very flattering lead indeed given that they were dominated by their opponents for long periods of the half.

West Clare Gaels needed a strong start to the second half but they found the going much tougher on the resumption of play. Louise Henchy and Jane Kennedy became more prominent in the midfield exchanges and the balance of the game switched in the town sides favour. Niamh O’Dea had their opening score on thirty four minutes and while this was cancelled out by a Majella Griffin point three minutes later, Majella’s score was to be the Gaels’ last score for nearly twenty minutes however. In the intervening period the Banner Ladies tagged on five unanswered points from O’Dea, Niamh Keane and Henchy to end the game as a contest. Majella Griffin did score three late points for the losers but the final score of the game came from Clare intermediate captain Louise Henchy to herald a deserved first ever senior title for the Ennis side. There were scenes of great jubilation when referee Michael Talty signalled full time but due credit must go to the West Clare Gaels for bringing a right battle to the Banner. Credit also the western side on reaching the county senior final in their first year playing at this level. The question remains that if Maria Kelly had been on the field would things have been different?

Great credit must go to the winners as well. Long the bridesmaids of the game in Clare the town club had stuck rigorously to an excellent underage policy that was sure to pay dividends at some stage. On Sunday they had an excellent blend of youth and experience on the team and senior players Niamh Keane, Sonia Maher, Louise Henchy and Claire Walsh gave excellent displays when it mattered most. Player of the match was undoubtedly the Banner’s wing forward Katie Cahill and she was ably assisted by fine displays from Niamh O’Dea, Laurie Ryan and Niamh Martin. Michelle Downes, Majella Griffin and Sinéad Kelly were excellent for West Clare Gaels and will be back no doubt to fight another day.

History was thus made when Banner Ladies captain Michelle Delaney accepted the championship trophy from the chairman of the Ladies County Board in Clare.

Banner Ladies: Emma O’Driscoll, Niamh Martin, Claire Walsh, Laurie Ryan, Louise Woods, Michelle Delaney, Niamh Cavanagh, Louise Henchy (1-3), Jane Kennedy, Katie Cahill (0-1), Sonia Maher, Niamh Keane (0-1), Irene Hehir (1-0), Niamh O’Dea (0-5), Megan Hough.
Subs: Naomi Carroll, Niamh Walsh, Aoife Cavanagh, Jackie Woods, Rebecca Coughlin.

West Clare Gaels: Tracey Downes, Kathleen Foley, Suzy O’Gorman, Ciara Harvey, Sinéad Kelly, Saoirse McMahon, Michelle Downes (0-1), Rita Boland, Deirdre Troy, Niamh Lardner, Denise Geaney, Lauren McMahon, Leanne Lynch, Majella Griffin (0-7), Katie Geoghan.
Subs: Lisa Harte.

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