Banner Return to Munster Club Final

Banner Ladies     5 – 6                     Ballymacarbry    2 – 12


The Banner Ladies bandwagon rolled on to a second successive Munster A final following victory over Waterford champions Ballymacarbry in a thrilling B final encounter in TipperaryTown on Saturday.  The time honoured adage that goals win matches ran true for the Ennis side but more importantly for the Clare champions it was the timing of their major scores that really broke the hearts of their Waterford opponents.


Goals on either side of half time from Niamh O’Dea and Sue Higgins were pivotal scores in the game and a second O’Dea goal twelve minutes into the second half, when Ballymacarbry had clawed their way back into the contest, were crucial to the winning of a hugely entertaining and high standard game of football.  The small but vocal Banner Ladies supporters in attendance got full value for their entry ticket as the Ennis based team gave their all to overcome the pre-match favourites and add another illustrious scalp to the list of high ranking clubs that the Clare club has overcome down through the years.


As has been their wont in all games this year the Banner started in whirlwind fashion and inside the first ten minutes had created two goal chances that brought out the best from the Waterford side’s keeper Rebecca Doocey in keeping out shots from Aoife Keane and Aoibheann Malone.  However there was nothing the Ballymacarbry net-minder could do when Malone was put through on goal in the eleventh minute, following a sweet Niamh Keane pass, and the sixteen year old emphatically raised her side’s first green flag of the day.  This score added to a Niamh O’Dea point in the opening minute and a Sue Higgins white flag for the winners seven minutes later.  These scores were badly needed however as the Waterford side also set out their stall with matching intent. Two early points from the Déise side’s Marian Ryan and Danielle Hallahan were added to by a Hallahan goal on six minutes to leave the sides level at 1 – 2 apiece after just twelve minutes.


Gráinne Nolan then kicked the Ennis side ahead with a well executed point from play before the Banner Ladies had a lucky escape when Linda Wall saw her scorching goal-bound shot cannon off the upright with goalkeeper Emma O’Driscoll well beaten.  Wall had a similar effort come off the post ten minutes later and such small margins were major moments in a tie that was on a knife edge right up to the final whistle.


Following their escape from Wall’s upright effort the Clare champions had a good point from Naomi Carroll who was put through by Aoife Keane and in the eighteenth minute it was Keane herself who turned scorer when finding the net following a great attacking move involving the excellent Orlaith Lynch, Sue Higgins and Niamh O’Dea. Points were then exchanged between Aoibheann Malone and Linda Wall before the Waterford side had two unanswered points from Aileen Wall and Marian Ryan to leave the score 2 – 5 to 1 – 5 with half time fast approaching.  Then came a vital score for the winners as Niamh O’Dea fielded a high ball delivered into the danger area, rounded full back McGrath, and calmly planted the ball in the net.  This was a major tonic for the Ennis side just before the break.  Michelle Ryan did have the final score for the Waterford side with a point just on half time but the Ennis girls retired to the dressing room with a 3 – 5 to 1 – 6 advantage.


The second half started in great fashion for the Ennis girls with Sue Higgins finding the net in the opening minute.  This was a huge sore for her side as it suddenly gave the Banner Ladies a seven point cushion and rocked the Waterford champions who must themselves have been hoping for a good start to the second period. Slowly but surely however the Déise team clawed themselves back into the game and had points from Marian Ryan (2) and Aileen Wall to negate Higgins’ goal by the forty second minute.


Then came another Banner sucker punch when directly from the kick-out from Wall’s score the ball was moved downfield through Louise Woods, Niamh O’Dea and Gráinne Nolan and O’Dea was on hand to take the return pass from Nolan to get through on goal and raise her second green flag of the game.  This score really hurt the Waterford side as all their previous hard work in getting back into the game had suddenly been undone.  More heartbreak was to come in the shape of Banner keeper Emma O’Driscoll pulling off a magnificent save from Aileen Wall a minute later when the quicksilver Waterford wing forward seemed destined to give an immediate major riposte to O’Dea’s score.  O’Driscoll was brilliant in saving and although Marian Ryan did get a point from the subsequent passage of play it was advantage to the Banner Ladies in not having conceded a goal at this stage.


Fitness was coming into play now though and the Waterford side seemed to be lasting the blistering pace the better but were being constantly rebuffed by a resolute Banner ladies defence for whom Orlaith Lynch, Eva O’Dea and Louise Woods were particularly impressive.  Laurie Ryan was also solid even though she had quite a handful in dealing with Michelle Ryan who was a good eight inches taller than the Turnpike starlet.  Unanswered points from Marian Ryan (2) and Michelle Ryan left the score at 5 – 5 to 1 – 12 with five minutes remaining.  The game suddenly took a new twist when second half substitute Becky Hogan found the Banner net with three minutes of normal time remaining to leave just two points between the sides.


The tension was now palpable both on and off the field and possession was now vital.  To their great credit some of the younger Banner players now showed maturity beyond their years by securing and retaining possession in these closing minutes.  Gráinne Nolan and Aoife Kean particularly stood out in these closing moments as did the ever dependant Louise Henchy (who put in a tremendous shift all through for the winners at midfield). True to her status as a former All-Star nominee team captain Niamh O’Dea had the final say in the game when popping over an insurance point for her side with the clock running down.  The Waterford side did launch a final minute assault on the Banner defence in a last gasp effort to gain an equalizing goal but credit to the winner’s rearguard who stood tall and firm and comfortably rebuffed the onslaught to ensure a merited victory and book their place in the Munster club final proper where they will face Cork champions St. Val’s.


For years this tremendous Ennis club has punched well above it’s weight in representing Clare ladies football and has secured Division 1 and Division 2  National Féile titles as well as underage and senior All Ireland and Munster Seven’s accolades conquering illustrious teams such as Kerry’s Southern Gaels, Dublin’s Foxrock/Cabinteely, Ballyboden St. Enda’s & Kilmacud Crokes, Galway’s Corofin & Salthill/Knocknacarra, Cork’s  Fermoy  & Aghada and many, many more footballing big named clubs. They have overcome St. Val’s previously at Munster Seven’s level so should hold no fear in facing their much vaunted Cork opponents.  Hopefully another Rebel scalp can be annexed by a Clare side in this tremendous year for Gaelic sport in the county.


Banner Ladies: Emma O’Driscoll, Eva O’Dea, Laurie Ryan, Niamh Cavanagh, Louise Woods, Sinéad Quinn, Orlaith Lynch, Louise henchy, Niamh Keane, Gráinne Nolan (0 – 1), Aoibheann Malone (1 – 1), Naomi Carroll (0 – 1), Aoife Keane (1 – 0), Niamh O’Dea (2 – 2), Sue Higgins (1 – 1).


Subs Used: Karen Roche, Sinéad O’Keeffe.


Ballymacarbry: Rebecca Doocey, Breda Cooney, Karen McGrath, Siobhán Ryan, Laura Mulcahy, Eibhlís Cooney (capt), Mairéad Wall, Michelle McGrath, Louise Ryan, Linda Wall (0 – 1), Michelle Ryan (0 – 2), Aileen Wall (0 – 2), Danielle Hallahan (1 – 1), Marian Ryan (0 – 6), Lauren Guiry.


Sub:    Becky Hogan (1 – 0)


Referee:          Mike Duffy (Tipperary)

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