Clare 1 - 15 Longford 3 - 7

Match Report All Ireland Intermediate Championship Semi-Final

Venue: O’Connor Park, Tullamore
Referee: Declan Corcoran (Mayo)

Clare 1 – 15 Longford 3 – 7

What a wonderful result following a tremendously exciting All Ireland semi-final played in ideal conditions in O’Connor Park, Tullamore. Clare were deserving winners but the nail-biting finish was played out in a welter of excitement and frayed nerves as Longford launched a major late offensive in a last ditch effort to wrest the game from Clare. That Clare finally prevailed to gain a place in the Croke Park decider on September 28th is poetic justice given that they had failed by the narrowest of margins in this penultimate stage in the past two seasons.

On reflection Clare will thank their full forward line for today’s win. The trio of Áine Kelly, Majella Griffin and the superb Eimear Considine contributed 1 – 10 of the team’s final tally. Considine in particular was exquisite in her fetching, distribution and score taking. Her switch to the midfield area during Louise Henchy’s harsh sin binning early in the second half also negated any numerical advantage that the Longford side accrued.

Clare had a nightmare start to the game and found themselves a goal down within a minute when Longford sliced open their defence and wing forward Michelle Ross finished to the net with aplomb. Another Longford point soon followed and Clare had to wait until the sixth minute before the industrious Úna Downes opened their account with a well taken point. Marie Considine slotted over Clare’s second score three minutes later before Clare’s defensive frailties were again exposed when Longford corner forward Mary Kiernan was left totally unmarked an the Ballymore girl had the simplest of tasks in slotting the ball past a hapless Denise Walsh in the Clare goals. Majella Griffin from a free, and Alison Smith then swapped points before the momentum began to swing in Clare’s favour. Poor defensive clearances from the Longford rearguard led to sustained pressure on their goals and Clare were rewarded with a fifteenth minute goal when Majella Griffin split the midlander’s rearguard to force an excellent save from goalkeeper Michelle Kilkenny. Dynamic corner forward Áine Kelly was in the right place to gather the rebound and scrambled the ball over the Longford goal-line. This was the tonic Clare needed and from here to the interval they were totally dominant. A succession of points followed from Majella Griffin (4), Eimear Considine (2) and Marie Kelly to give Clare a commanding advantage. Longford’s singular reply was a pointed free on twenty eight minutes from their best player Denise Murtagh. Clare went to their half-time dressing room with a 1-10 to 2-3 advantage and were good value for their four point advantage.

Clare would have wind advantage in the second period and the expectation was that they would push on early in the second half. The Longford ladies had other ideas however and completely dictated the early second half passages of play. Clare rode their luck during this period and Longford were guilty of some atrocious shooting in front of goals. The Leinster side had but a single thirty fifth minute point from Murtagh to show for all their endeavour. Clare finally opened their second half account with a point from Áine Kelly on forty two minutes and when Majella Griffin added another a minute later things seemed to be swinging Clare’s way again. Longford responded with a point on forty five minutes but then Marie Kelly and Áine Kelly slotted over Clare points in the fifty first minute to put six between the sides and a Clare victory looked assured.

Longford were not done for however and just after Murtagh and Marie Kelly had swapped points they swooped for thrilling goal from midfielder Siobhán McGowan. This goal had been coming for a considerable time as the Clare defensive unit had been under considerable pressure and were at sixes and sevens in closing down their Longford opponents. Longford suddenly grew further in confidence and Edel Quin slotted over a point from play to leave just two points between the sides with as many minutes remaining. Clare were visibly rattled at this stage and Longford launched forward in search of a match winning goal. With just a minute left on the clock McGowan again prised open the Clare defence and dispatched a pass to an inside forward who was through on goal – to Clare’s relief (and to Longford’s horror) referee Declan Corcoran blew for a free out to Clare deeming McGowan to have over-carried the ball. This was a huge and controversial call by the Mayo official but Clare accepted it gratefully. Longford still managed to launch one further attack but the Clare defence thwarted this final effort and the final hooter was music to the ears of all Clare players and supporters.

That Clare struggled in the end to win a game they should have safely wrapped up will worry management in the weeks ahead as they prepare for their final clash with Tipperary. However for the present they can bask in the contentment of a job well done and a place in Croke Park secured on September 28th. Clare had solid performances from captain Louise Henchy, Marie Kelly, Sandra Malone, Sinéad Eustace, Úna Downes and Michelle Delaney. Their full forward line of Griffin, Kelly and Considine were superb and young Eimear Considine was a most deserving winner of the ‘Player of the Match’ accolade afterwards.

Congratulations all round are the order of the day however and the next three weeks will be exciting times as the team prepare for their All Ireland showdown with near neighbours and great rivals Tipperary.

Clare: Denise Walsh, Lorraine Kelly, Sinéad Kelly, Michelle Delaney, Grace Lynch, Tammy Hehir, Sinéad Eustace, Sandra Malone, Louise Henchy, Marie Considine (0-1), Marie Kelly (0-3), Úna Downes (0-1), Áine Kelly (1-2), Eimear Considine (0-2), Majella Griffin (0-6).

Subs Used: Niamh Keane, Helen Quinn, Jane Kennedy

Longford: Michelle Kilkenny, Antoinette Brady, Elizabeth Brady, Adriena Melia, Marie Brady, Sharon Teacy, Donna Leavy, Siobhán McGowan (1-0), Alison Smith (0-1), Michelle Ross (1-0), Edel Quin (0-1), Jacinta Brady, Mary Kiernan (1-0), Denise Murtagh (0-5), Michelle McElvaney.

Subs Used: Yvonne Barden, Michelle Mulvey, Ann Marie Bratten.

Dr. Paul McKenna,
PRO Clare Ladies Football

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