Match Report Suzuki League Final

Match Report Suzuki League Final

Date: Sunday May 4th
Venue: Cusack Park Ennis
Referee: Keith Tighe (Dublin)

Clare 2 – 10 Donegal 0 – 15

Clare survived a late Donegal revival to scrape over the winning line in a thrilling Suzuki Division Two national League decider in sun drenched Cusack Park. Buoyed on by the home following Clare laid the foundations for their win with two first half goals from Eimear Considine and Áine Kelly. Indeed Kelly's overall performance on the day was immense and she deservedly won the player of the match award in front of a live television audience on TG4.

The opening ten minutes or so were tense and error ridden as both teams settled down to the matters on hand – with so much at stake for both sides this early shadow boxing was understandable. Clare broke the deadlock after five minutes with a Majella griffin pointed free following a foul on corner forward Eimear Considine. Donegal equalised from a free a few minutes later but in the meantime they had been guilty of some glaring wides both from play and from placed balls. Majella griffin and her Donegal counterpart exchanged frees before the first of the Clare goals.

Áine Kelly split the Donegal defence with a magnificent run and laid off a perfect ball to Griffin. Majella's point effort rebounded off the Donegal crossbar and into the lap of Eimear Considine. Cool as you like Considine side stepped her marker and placed a confident shot just inside the right hand post for a brilliant score. Clare were now uplifted and dominant all over the pitch. A few minutes later they were unfortunate not to score another goal when Majella Griffin was again placed in on goal but her rasping shot cannoned to safety off the crossbar and to safety with the Donegal goalkeeper Roisín McCafferty well beaten. However points soon came for Clare with Úna Downes and Áine Kelly landing great scores from play with only a single Donegal point in reply.

Then came Clare's second goal. Áine Kelly dribbled through a ground ball on the right wing and gained possession on the end line before turning outside and unleashing a powerful daisy cutter with her left foot to leave the Donegal defence floundering. Clare were now 2 – 4 to 0-3 to the good and looked to be coasting. Donegal then released Nora Stapleton from her man marking duties on Majella Griffin and back at midfield Stapleton exerted a big influence on the remaining ten minutes or so of the half. They outscored Clare by five points to one during this period as Clare found it difficult to clear their lines. The banner side were guilty of some silly fouling in front of goals during this period of intense pressure and gifted Donegal some soft frees from placed balls. Thus the interval score read Clare 2 – 5 to Donegal's 0-8 and Donegal were probably the happier of the two teams at this juncture considering they had clawed back a seven points deficit to just three in a five minute period.

Clare needed a good start to the second period and who better to lead than the West Clare Gaels duo of Majella Griffin and Marie Kelly. Griffin had two pointed frees and Kelly had an excellent score from play to put Clare in the driving seat once again. Donegal were not done for however and the introduction of Karen Gutherie for Ann Doherty was to cause Clare all sorts of problems. Gutherie scored two great points from play as Donegal gradually clawed their way back into the game Majella Griffin added another free for Clare but Donegal kept the pressure up to score three unanswered points to leave just the minimum between the sides with eight minutes remaining. Griffin again increased Clare's lead to two with a little over six minutes left on the countdown clock but Donegal had it back to the minimum again a minute later.

The final five minutes were played out in a frenzy of excitement and frayed nerves. Fiona Lafferty made a great interception to place Marie Kelly in on the right wing but her point effort went narrowly wide. Seconds later Áine Kelly found her namesake Marie with a wonderful lob but McCafferty in the Donegal goal deflected Kelly's shot up on to the upright and away to safety. The Dunloe County girls launched one last attack but back to thwart their efforts and intercept a possible scoring opportunity pass was the super Áine Kelly. Áine was fouled in possession and the resulting free was played back to goalkeeper Denise Walsh who played a long ball to safety down the left wing. With the enthusiastic crowd counting down the final seconds the hooter sounded and Louise Henchy's ladies were crowned Suzuki league champions.

Clare's ability to score goals at vital junctures served them well throughout this league campaign and this was true again on Sunday when Eimear Considine and Áine Kelly's green flags were vital to their success. Credit also to Majella Griffin's accuracy from placed balls and the work ethic of players such as Lorraine Kelly, Michelle Delaney, Fiona Lafferty Sinéad and Marie Kelly and captain Louise Henchy. Sarah Hoey, Tammy Hehir, Niamh Keane and Sinéad Eustace all did well when introduced as substitutes.

Underdogs all year this was a great victory for Deirdre Murphy and her team. Guaranteed Division One football next year even before Sunday's result the winning of the Suzuki league will surely prove a perfect tonic for the All Ireland Intermediate championship that lies ahead and the possibility of a Croke Park appearance in September. Further improvement will have to take place if this dream is to be realised but time is on Clare's side and they will have an added preparation in the Munster Junior Championship which kicks off next weekend with a home game against Limerick in Cooraclare on Saturday.

Clare: Denise Walsh, Carmel Considine, Lorraine Kelly, Aifric O'Neill, Michelle Delaney, Sinéad Kelly, Niamh Coyne, Sandra Malone, Louise Henchy (capt), Úna Downes (0-1), Marie Kelly (0-1), Fiona Lafferty, Eimear Considine (1-0), Majella Griffin (0-7), Áine Kelly (1-1).

Subs used: Sarah Hoey, Tammy Hehir, Sinéad Eustace, Niamh Keane, Marie Considine.
Dr. Paul McKenna, PRO Clare Ladies Football

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