Clare Ladies suffer defeat at penultimate stage


Clare Ladies suffer defeat at penultimate stage


TG4 All Ireland Ladies Intermediate Football Semi-Final

Venue: Kingspan Breffni Park Cavan

Date: Saturday September 1st

Referee: Eileen Jones (Tyrone) Clare 2 – 9 Leitrim 3 – 7

In a game of breathtaking intensity and excitement Clare suffered
a heartbreaking defeat at the penultimate stage of the All Ireland
Championship for the second year running. Sporting results can
not alone deliver some moments of exquisite pleasure in our simple
lives, but also some instances of gut wrenching devastation that
sends your very soul into a deep depression, as you ponder the
how’s and why’s that the good lady of luck failed to shine her
benevolent beam upon you at the second time of asking. Thus it
was for the Clare Ladies football team last Saturday in Cavan
as they strove with every sinew of pride and skill to reach the
Holy Grail of an All Ireland Football Final appearance for the
Saffron and Blue. When the dust settles and the heartache eases
Clare will recognise that the best team on the day won.

That is not to say that Leitrim are a better team than Clare but
rather that on the day they brought their experience at this level
of competition to bear and, rather like Kerry against Dublin in
the previous week’s men’s semi-final, they possessed the killing
instinct just when they needed it most and retained their composure
when the storming Clare comeback threatened to blow their second
Croke Park appearance in a row right back to the waters of Carrick-on-Shannon
and beyond. Just as Stephen Cluxton had made an error of judgement
a week previously for the resurgent Dubs so too did Bernie Kelly
for Clare when she chose to pt for a quick free from close in
three minutes from time instead of leaving the kick to her team’s
sharpshooter Majella Griffin. Kelly’s quick delivery to the inrushing
Sinéad Kelly was inches off target and the grasping hands of the
West Clare Gaels lass failed to gather a ball which eventually
went over the end line for a Leitrim kick out. Had Sinéad gained
possession a certain match winning goal could have ensued but
alas such a scenario is now consigned to the locker of the ‘what
might have been’ nostalgists as they shorten the winter with football
debates into the wee hours.

Fortune should favour the brave but alas no such luck accompanied
our girls in this Cavan epic. Clare started brightly and were
in front after three minutes through a Majella Griffin point.
In a dogged opening quarter Clare could not extend their lead
and were overhauled by three unanswered Leitrim points. Two of
these points were frees from the boot of the evergreen Ann Marie
Cox while full forward Eileen Donoghue added the third from play.
Majella Griffin pulled a point back for Clare on fourteen minutes
to leave the score at three points to two on the quarter hour.
In fairness this score flattered Clare as Leitrim had already
shot five scorable wides including an eleventh minute penalty
when Carmel Considine was adjudged to have fouled a Leitrim attacker
in the square.. Cox added another pointed free for Leitrim on
seventeen minutes before Clare enjoyed their best period since
the opening minutes. With Louise Henchy now winning more ball
around the middle Clare launched forward and had three unanswered
points from team captain Griffin, Niamh Keane and Áine Kelly.
Áine Kelly played a storming game in the closing minutes of this
first half, and indeed in the early minutes of the second period,
and was very hard done by some poor referring decisions during
this period when she appeared to be constantly fouled by her marker
yet the vital decisions went against her. Still Clare went in
at the break with a 0-5 to 0-4 lead. Given that Leitrim, and especially
their mid-fielder Aisling Brennan, had dominated much of the early
exchanges this was a very acceptable position for the Banneretes
to be in (particularly as they would have the wind advantage in
the second period).

All seemed right for Clare on the resumption when Áine Kelly scored
a great point from play two minutes after the restart. Leitrim’s
response was quick however and ultimately devastating. Michelle
Reynolds, who had been giving Ciara Cleary a torrid time, brushed
past her marker to plant a low pile-driver to the corner of the
Clare net on thirty four minutes. In fairness Clare responded
with a very good fisted point from Fiona Lafferty a minute later
to level the match but then, due possible to injury, Clare had
to withdraw their centre back Jane Kennedy on thirty eight minutes.
With Jane’s forced departure gaps appeared up the middle of the
Banner’s defence and Leitrim punished Clare’s defensive confusion
with two goals in the forty fifth minute just after Majella Griffin
had put Clare back in command with a sublime goal a minute earlier.
Leitrim’s goals came from the boot of Michelle Reynolds and Eileen
O’ Donoghue (who was first to react to a crossbar rebound when
a Saragh McLaughlin shot thundered off the woodwork). Reynolds,
an experienced veteran age thirty three was at this stage leading
poor Ciara Cleary a merry dance and one could question why Ciara
was not switched off Reynolds by now.

At this stage Clare’s other corner back Lorraine Kelly was playing
her best game ever in the county jersey and should have at least
been moved over earlier in an attempt to curtail Reynolds. Clare
were now 3-6 to 1- 7 in arrears and looked in deep trouble. Credit
their spirit however as the heads never dropped. Rather the threat
of impending defeat made them take the game fairly and squarely
to Leitrim. Louise Henchy, with the introduction of Leona Murphy
excelled, and the Kelly sisters (Marie and Sinéad) suddenly found
their form. Marie had a great point on forty eight minutes to
narrow the gap and, while this was cancelled out by a Cox free
four minutes later, when she found the Leitrim net with an exquisite
score on fifty six minutes the whole complexion of the game changed-
as Majella Griffin had tagged on a point for Clare a minute earlier.
Suddenly there was just one point between the teams and Leitrim
were reeling and struggling to hang on. Then came the quick free
incident and Leitrim seemed to gain in confidence and composure
from this let off. Clare did have one final chance to tie the
game but a crowded and determined Leitrim defence won the day.

Leitrim got the ball deep in Clare territory for the final minute
and try as they could a brave Clare attempt could not get the
ball to the danger area before the final hooter sounded. Rather
like Shakespeare’s bell toll that one was advised to ‘hear not’
as it ‘summonded us to heaven or to hell’, the final hooter on
Saturday certainly consigned our brave Clare ladies to a winter
of perdition they scarcely deserved. Credit the fifteen starters
who donned the Saffron and Blue on Saturday and the many substitutes
who were introduced not only on the day but throughout the season.
They all did their county proud. Credit also the Clare management
and backroom team who gave so much in pursuit of success for the
county – they deserved better also and they achieved the best
they could with the players available to them. All involved can
hold their heads on high and all in Clare are proud of them. The
same cannot be said of players who refused to answer their county’s
call throughout the year and it is ultimately their loss that
what is a big community of sporting females in Clare are not now
celebrating a double appearance in Croke Park this week (given
the Camogie team’s success).

Hopefully 2008 will see some players and some clubs seeing the
light that it is a great honour to represent your county and that
as such is a responsibility that should not be scorned nor treated
lightly. To all players and mentors who participated this year
and last “thanks for the memories” – many of us enjoyed every
second of it.

Clare: Denise Walsh, Lorraine Kelly, carmel Considine, Ciara Cleary,
Sinéad Kelly, Jane Kennedy, Grace Lynch, Louise Henchy, Úna Downes,
Niamh Keane (0-1), Majella Griffin (1-4, 1f), Marie Kelly (1-1),
Áine Kelly (0-2), Fíona Lafferty (0-1), Helen Quinn. Subs: Bernie
Kelly, Leona Murphy, Michelle Delaney. Leitrim: Louise Loughlin,
Catherine Holohan, Sinéad Brennen, Mary McKeon, Charlene Tyrell,
Lorraine Brennan, Teresa Mylott, Maeve Quinn, Aisling Brennan,
Anne Conlan, Sarah McLoughlin, Eimear McGlade, Ann Marie Cox (0-6,
4f) Eileen Donoghue (1-1), Michelle Reynolds (2-0). Subs: Clare
Plunkett, Sinéad Quinn.


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