Ladies Football: Super Sunday in Kilrush for marquee ladies finals

Intermediate Championship Final
Cooraclare v St Joseph’s DooraBarefield @ Captain Tubridy Memorial Park Kilrush, Sunday 1.30pm (John McDonagh, Kinvara)
Senior Championship Final
Banner Ladies v Kilmihil @ Captain Tubridy Memorial Park Kilrush, Sunday 3.15pm(Michael Fitzgerald, Fergus Rovers) 
It’s the marquee day in the Clare Ladies Footballing calendar, fittingly decorated by the biggest current rivalry in the county as the Banner Ladies and Kilmihil vie for senior honours for the third final in succession. So far the Banner have come up trumps as they have done consistently to three previous opponents on their way to a historic seven-in-a-row of crowns since 2011.
So can the Ennis-based side become the outright roll-of-honour leaders with a tenth title in 11 years or can Kilmihil make it third time lucky?
Eoin Brennan speaks to both managements ahead of Sunday’s showdown in an exclusive online addition to The Clare People’s five page coverage of the final in this week’s paper that includes a breakdown of every minute of the finalists path to the final.
It’s unlikely that they required any further momentum ahead of Sunday’s final but being a fortnight since their semi-final triumph over West Clare Gaels, the Banner Ladies would receive a timely validation last Saturday when retaining their All-Ireland Seven’s title in Dublin.
It was a particularly special accomplishment considering that being so close to the county final, the Banner were initially conflicted as to whether they should even participate according to joint-manager JJ O’Dea.
“It was a great boost as we were in two minds as to whether we would compete in it or not. In the end, being the holders, we felt that we had to defend our title and things just happened from there. Probably the reason we won it was the there was no pressure on us as we just went up representing the club and the girls just performed. And once we got a bit of a run going, the girls’ competitive spirit really came through so you can’t stop that once it gets going.
“In our first game, we met Claregalway, probably the toughest team in it, and some of our girls had just arrived ten minutes before the throw-in so to get over that challenge was a massive lift as we would go on to overcome teams from Cavan (Crosserlough), Dublin (Na Fianna) and Wexford (Shelmalier) to top the group.
“In the semi-final, we met Milltown of Westmeath who had won all of their group matches as well and just got over them by a point before going nine points down after six minutes against Emyvale of Monaghan in the final.
“Perhaps it was the bit of experience of winning it last year that got us through as the girls never panicked, held the ball well and passed at the right time and by half-time we were only a point down before going onto win it by two goals.
“To be honest, it was great and it was still sinking in on Saturday night.”
Such a welcome shot-in-the-arm isn’t about to distract them from the prize of a county title this Sunday however as they are expecting a significant backlash from Kilmihil following back-to-back final defeats of their West Clare opponents.
“Our biggest worry was not to pick up injuries and luckily we didn’t. Some of the girls were a bit sore afterwards but that was inevitable really. But it’s a great boost for this weekend as no amount of training sessions could equate to that series of really tough competitive matches, getting the blood running through the veins and building up momentum.
“In saying that, a county final is a county final and Kilmihil are not going to hand it over on a plate, no team would hand it on a plate to you so you have to go out, win the dirty ball, make the hard tackles and put the ball over the bar, you still have to work your hardest for the hour.”
Without experienced leaders Niamh Keane, Emma O’Driscoll, Aoife Keane, Naomi Carroll and Sinead Power for the penultimate stage at the beginning of the month, It afforded the likes of Anne-Marie Meenaghan, Ciara Corbett, Tara McInerney, Laoise Ryan, Aoibhin Ryan, Eva Carey, and Alannah McNamara the opportunity to stake a place in the team for the final as the Banner look to the future.
“It was a great break for those girls that had to come in the last day, both from the start and from the bench. Injuries are injuries but they certainly took their opportunity and laid down a marker which will give us a headache to pick the team. So they have now established themselves which is great as a strong squad is a good headache and we’ll pick a team no bother depending on who’s available.”
However, any mention of eight-in-a-row or carving their names in the history books is quickly dismissed by O’Dea who remains steadfast in his sole focus on Sunday’s decider as an isolated entity.
“Pat [Crotty], Joe [Reidy], Martin [Nolan], Cian [O’Dea] and myself would never think beyond the next game at any stage, that’s all we plan for. You can set your sights further afield but you only plan for the next game the whole time. You look at your opposition and pick your team to suit each individual game, that’s the way we have always worked.
“Look, we’re good enough to get over the line on Sunday but it all comes down to the day again. Anything is possible on a particular day and things could go wrong so it’s all down to the day and how you perform. We have the stuff to do it but it’s up to us to play to our potential.”
Banner Ladies Panel Louise Henchy (Captain), Katie Browne, Emily Cahill, Eva Carey, Naomi Carroll, Aoife Cavanagh, Niamh Cavanagh, Ciara Corbett, Derinn Finnerty, Clare Hehir, Aoife Keane, Eabha Keane, Niamh Keane, Orlaith Lynch, Tara McInerney, Aoibheann Malone, Roisin Martin, Siobhán McMahon, Alannah McNamara, Caoimhe Meehan, Anne-Marie Meenaghan, Sarah Ní Cheallaigh, Grainne Nolan, Evan O’Dea, Niamh O’Dea, Emma O’Driscoll, Sinead O’Keeffe, Sonja Petric, Sinead Power, Karen Roche, Michaela Roughan, Aoibhin Ryan, Laoise Ryan, Laurie Ryan, Elena Sanz, Leah Talty, Nicole Talty, Olivia Tuohy, Mary Tierney, Louise Woods
Banner Ladies Management JJ O’Dea, Joe Reidy, Pat Crotty, Martin Nolan, Cian O’Dea
Attempting to topple the perennial champions has proven an elusive task for Kilmihil thus far but with lessons learned from previous finals and an admirable relentless pursuit of the Banner to qualify for a third successive final, manager John Dalton feels his side will relish another crack at the seven-in-a-row winners on Sunday.
“It’s our third final in a row so of course we’re looking forward to the challenge once more. The girls really upped the ante in the semi-final and played very well so we’d be hoping that we could bring some of that on. But we are playing the best team in the county and as of last Saturday the best team in the country.
“A little bit of luck helps on the day but in fairness to the girls, they played very well last time out. In saying that, Cúil Gaels are a fine team but I just felt that we had the tougher run to the semi-final as Newmarket are a flaking side and as good as what’s in the county so that was a really tough battle even to get to the semi-final.”
Sunday’s potential revolt has been hit by the absence of key players but having never been able to field a full strength team this year, Kilmihil have been able to overcome such set-backs throughout their four matches run to the decider.
“Our captain Laura [Egan] picked up a major injury in the semi-final so she’s very doubtful for Sunday, Ailish [Considine] has a AFL trial so she’s out too so we probably won’t have any of our big powers again but we’ll be hoping that others can step up to the mark. They have all been going very well at training and are fighting hard for places as they know that there are places there.
“All we can do is aspire to be the best we can be and if you don’t want to play at the highest level and play in county finals, there’s no point being there. But look, we’re a very small rural parish in West Clare and we’re just doing the very best with what we have.
“The girls have worked awfully hard throughout the year, we started off in January and we had a core of players right through that worked tirelessly and I just hope that they do themselves justice on Sunday.”
Kilmihil Panel Laura Egan (Captain), Emily Anglim, Allana Browne, Sarah Browne, Catriona Callinan, Ailish Considine, Eimear Considine, Ciara Coughlan, Kate Coughlan, Rosie Currane, Caoimhe Dennihy, Rebecca Donoghue, Megan Downes Rigney, Sharon Egan, Micaela Glynn, Alana Hehir, Megan Hehir, Dervla Higgins, Rachel Keating, Megan King, Ellen Lynch, Becky Mahon, Edel McMahon, Aoife McNamara, Eimear McNamara, Emma O’Grady, Katie Mullins, Ellie O’Gorman, Elaine O’Halloran, Niamh Quinlivan, Jennifer Ryan
Kilmihil Management John Dalton (Manager), Enda O’Halloran (Coach), Gerry Mahon, Kevin Callinan (Selectors), Shauna Hehir (Liaison Officer)

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