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Banner Ladies Are the 2010 Intermediate Sevens all-Ireland Champions

Banner Ladies Are the 2010 Intermediate Sevens all-Ireland Champions


In a major test of strength and endurance the Banner Ladies competed in seven games of high speed seven-a-side football last Saturday and with a clean record throughout the competition secured the All-Ireland Intermediate 7s title for club and county.

For one day only, an environment of total football with eleven hundred lady players that was the All- Ireland 7s competition became the centre of the universe for Ladies Gaelic Football hosted by Naomh Mearnog and St. Sylvetster GAA Clubs in Portmarnock, Dublin.

Banner Ladies started the campaign with matches against Kinnegad, Co. Meath and Garda, Dublin which they secured comfortably, 7-9 to 0-9 and 9-9 to 2-7 respectively, giving an accumulated score difference of plus 44 points after two games . Their third match against Grainne Mhaols of Galway would be the decider of the group winners who would proceed along the coveted Cup route and the runner’s up who would compete for the Shield. A tougher game than previous, scores were harder
to come by but the Banner Ladies only conceded two points in this game and ran out comfortable winners against the Tribeswomen (6-5 to 0-7). The last game in the group against St. Bridgets of Antrim was even tougher as the Glenswomen were playing for pride and executed a very defensive strategy which made it difficult but not impossible for the Ennis side, 4-9 to 2-6. When the Banner Ladies emerged top of Group 5 with a positive score difference of sixty nine points, there was a quiet
resilience and a recognition that the Saffron and Blues were only half way towards their goal.

The quarter final meeting with Group 4 winners, Kilmacud Crokes, and played on their pitch, would be a turning point as the intensity of this game would push the Banner to the limits of their endurance so far. Again the Crokes took a defensive approach and after some bruising tackles in the Dubs end zone with little dividends to show for it, the Banner Ladies changed tack and lobbed the defence to score nine points and only one goal, 1-9 to 0-4. Job done, it was onto the Semi-final and while waiting for a three way shoot out to decide Group 3 winners , it was clear the camaraderie of the Ennis girls would be the cornerstone on which a historic win in this illustrious competition would be achieved.
Railyard of Kilkenny were the semi-final challengers and when the half-time whistle went up, the Banner had weathered some heavy opposition and still had a five point advantage. The Cats were obviously adept with the large ball as well as the small one and in the last five minutes were within a kick of the ball of equalising being only three points in arrears. But a strong finish by the Saffron and Blues rattled the net twice to end the dreams of the Railyard kids.

Pitch 1 was centre stage for the Intermediate All-Ireland Final between Banner Ladies and Cappawhite of Tipperary. Up till now the full panel of 12 Banner Ladies players had ran miles, taken several tough bruisings and wrestled with their own aspirations but now was the time to step up to this gigantic challenge and grab it with both hands. Naomi Carroll, who had been indefatigable all day, opened her account in this final with a goal and this was re-inforced by another from club secretary and captain, Louise Henchy. Cappawhite came back with a goal and a point of their own in quick succession, a wake-up call to the Banner that this win would have to wrestled from the hands of the Tipperary girls. When Sonya Maher buried a quality goal in the Tipp net it seemed that they had weathered the worst of it and Niamh O’Deas point from a distance should have demoralised Cappawhite. Instead the challengers drove wave after wave of pressure down on the Banner defence and when Louise Henchy found herself as the last line of defence against a certain Tipperary goal, she took the only option available to her which resulted in a penalty for the Blue and Whites of Cappawhite. Emma O’Driscoll now found herself in that lonely position with a mountain of pressure on her, as a successful penalty would bring the challengers within two points and the possibility of a strong rally.

As she stretched full length and gathered the ball into her midriff, the sideline erupted in a frenzy, a pivotal turning point in the campaign had been averted. When Niamh Keane goaled from O’Driscoll’s clearance and Naomi Carrol followed suit a minute later to turn what could have been a two point defensive lead, if the penalty went in, to an eleven point cushion two minutes later, there may have been reason to drop the guard and dare to dream. But Niamh O’Dea was not willing to fall asleep on
this watch and pointed for the Banner while club chairperson Sonya Maher crashed through defence to claim her second goal for the cause just before the whistle went up for half time. Banner Ladies 6-3 Cappawhite 1-3.

The arrival of the U14 squad from their sevens competition at the interval was a real tonic for the troops. Cappawhite did stage a major offensive in the second half and opened with a point. Naomi Carroll again rocketed into the net for the Clare side but Tipp responded with two goals in rapid fire.
Mary Tierney pointed for the Banner and the inimitable Niamh O’Dea goaled for the last score of the campaign. With a five goal cushion in the dying minutes of the game, the Banner defence did leak another goal to a tenacious Cappawhite but it mattered not as the whistle heralded in the new champions of the All-Ireland Intermediate Sevens for 2010.

In such an extensive set of matches it is not possible to document all the scores, the bruising challenges, the tears of pain, the chips, the runs, the lobs, the touches, the happiness, the contributions and the commitment of these exceptional 12 girls but suffice it to say that they thought, moved and acted as one unit all day, each contributing to the Banner cause. Their understanding of the game format and their strength and determination in playing the game must be commended. The roles
played by the “back two” defenders Laurie Ryan, Sarah Hoey, Aoife Martin and Niamh Walsh were top drawer stuff. That they only gave away 12 goals in the whole seven games is an indicator of their tenacity and skill. Midfielders and attackers Louise Henchy, Niamh Keane, Niamh O’Dea, Sonya Maher and Naomi Carroll were unrelenting in their hunger to push forward for the kill and to double back when the inevitable counter-attack came directly afterwards. Forward duo Mary Tierney and Meghan Haugh caused endless problems for the opponents in their pincer attacks, splitting defences at will. And we will never forget the heroics of Emma O’Driscoll who inspired her teammates with an All-Ireland penalty save and other great goalkeeping moments.

With seven Senior team-mates, including Roisin Crowe, Emma Glynn and Rachel Grogan travelling with the team to offer encouragement and reassurance and the excellent stewardship of Senior team manager Kevin Greene, Selector Claire Walsh and Alan Copley on the line, the ingredients for success were in place. Special mention to Irene Hehir and Aoife Cavanagh, First Responders and Laura Brennan for her major contribution to the cause.

All-Ireland Intermediate Sevens Winning Panel

Emma O’Driscoll, Laurie Ryan, Sarah Hoey, Aoife Martin, Niamh Walsh, Mary Tierney, Megan Haugh, Louise Henchy (C), Sonya Maher, Naomi Carroll, Niamh Keane, Niamh O’Dea. – Kevin Greene, Claire Walsh and Alan Copley.

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