2024 TG4 All-Ireland Finals tickets

Clare .v. Sligo, All Ireland Junior Semi-Final match report

Clare .v. Sligo, All Ireland Junior Semi-Final match report

Venue: O’Connor Park, Tullamore.

Clare 1 – 14 Sligo 2 – 12


Clare’s hopes of an All Ireland Junior title were
dashed by a determined Sligo in this thrilling contest in Tullamore
on Saturday. Lady luck ran out on the Banner ladies as early first
half injuries to Louise Henchy and captain Majella Griffin deprived
Clare of two of their most influential players. The loss of this
duo had a big influence on the result as Clare were left chasing
the game at midfield following Henchy’s departure and a reshuffled
attack following Griffin’s substitution meant that Clare were left
without an established place kicker. 

Clare started the game in whirlwind fashion and Myra Daly crashed
the ball to the Sligo net on ninety seconds after a Niamh Keane
shot had rebounded off the crossbar. Stephanie O’Reilly opened
Sligo’s account with a point on four minutes before Daly was again
on target for Clare a minute later. Sligo then struck for the
first of their two goals when Therese Marren was at the end of
s slick movement to crash a left footed rocket to the corner of
the Clare net. Marren added another point on eight minutes as
Sligo continued to exert pressure on the Clare defence. A Majella
Griffin free levelled matters for Clare on thirteen minutes but
straight from the kickout Sligo launched forward an following
a goalmouth scramble corner forward Stephanie O’Reilly reacted
quickest to blast the ball past the hapless Emma O’Driscoll in
the Clare goal.

Clare in fairness reacted well to this setback and had quick
points from TG4 player of the match Áine Kelly and Grace
Lynch to cut the margin to a single point after a quarter of an
hour. It was at this point that Louise Henchy had to depart the
scene and Sligo took advantage in the shape of two quick points
from substitute Imelda McNulty. Clare pulled a point back thanks
to a Majella Griffin free on twenty two minutes but this was to
be Griffin’s final contribution for Clare as she limped to the
sideline shortly afterwards with a recurrence of a hamstring problem
that had dogged her all year. Áine Kelly and Noelle Gormley
traded points before half time to leave the interval score Clare
1 – 6 to Sligo’s 2 – 5.

Sligo had enjoyed a significant wind advantage in the first half
so despite the setbacks of losing Henchy and Griffin Clare were
still hopeful that the Yeats county girls could be pegged back
in the second half. Clare again had the better of the early second
half exchanges and were level on thirty two minutes following
points from Sonia Maher and Eithne Morrissey. Sligo again upped
the tempo and with Bernice Byrne winning good ball at midfield
they exerted a period of intense pressure on the Clare defence
which was rewarded by points from Gormley and Angela Doohan. Áine
Kelly replied with a pointed free for Clare before Therese Marren
and Stephanie O’Reilly(2) added further Sligo points. Clare were
now four points adrift but in fairness they refused to buckle
and when Áine Kelly pointed an excellent free from near
the touchline on forty four minutes they were back in the game
again. A Niamh Keane point sandwiched between two further Kelly
points had Clare back to level pegging on fifty minutes and Clare
were decidedly unlucky to have an Áine Kelly shot cleared
off the line with Sligo goalkeeper Katrina Connolly beaten. Sligo
took advantage of this let off to add points on fifty one and
fifty eight minutes. Clare rallied again and a Myra Daly point
had them just one adrift entering the final seconds. However a
Clare free just seconds from the hooter through Clare a lifeline
of a possible draw. Everybody in the ground held their breath
as Áine Kelly stepped up to take the pressure kick. From
a difficult angle the otherwise brilliant Lissycasey player saw
her kick drift agonisingly inches wide of the far post. With that
went Clare’s last chance in a thrilling encounter that neither
of the two participating teams deserved to lose. A draw would
certainly have been a fair result but sadly for Clare this was
not to be. Clare were served by very good performances from Sinéad
Eustace, Grace Lynch and Lorraine Kelly in defence. Eithne Morrissey
had her usual sound game and was most unfortunate to be sin –
binned late on for what appeared to be an innocuous challenge.
Up front Áine Kelly was the star of the Clare attack and
Myra Daly also did well.

While naturally very disappointed to have fallen just short of
a Croke Park appearance Clare have much to be proud of from the
season just past. A Suzuki National league title and a Munster
championship trophy is no mean achievement when one considers
that a year previously Clare could not field a team for some competitive
games. Hopefully this year’s performance will be a stepping stone
to greater things next year now that pride has been restored in
the Clare ladies football jersey. Let’s hope the Banner will be
back with a bang again in 2007 and in the meantime all in Clare
wish Sligo well in their All Ireland final and hopefully it will
be third time lucky for them.

Dr. Paul McKenna,

Press Officer Clare Ladies Junior Football Team.



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