Kerry 1-17 – Clare 4-08
Shanahan McNamara Memorial Park, Doonbeg
National League Division 2 Round 1
While they would have gladly have taken a point before Sunday’s encounter, the dramatic narrative of this opener ultimately proved a missed opportunity for Clare to lower the Kingdom.
After all, the runaway favourites to bounce straight back up to the top tier come to Doonbeg expecting a routine victory but were met by a stern home challenge that would soar eight points clear by the break with the aid of the conditions and were still clinging to a minimum advantage entering injury-time, only to be dashed at the death.
The fact that it was Clare who came off the field disappointed while a relieved Kerry were elated told a lot about an eventful first competitive outing for 2019.
All seemed to be going according to the form book when Kerry made the better start and raced three points clear before Grainne Nolan opened the home side’s account when converting a free. Clare duly drew level before Kerry edged in front once more at 0-4 to 0-3, and this was the last time that they led in the tie.
Instead, Clare regained parity by the end of the first quarter and from here until the half-time whistle, the Banner outfit would remarkably outscore their opponents by 3-3 to 0-4.
Operating with a two-person full-forward line of Grainne Nolan and Catriona Callinan, Clare often opted to run the ball rather than kick it into the inside line when they were playing with the aid of the breeze.
Their first goal came from from such a running movement which saw Tara Kelly pass to Caoimhe Harvey who put Fidelma Marrinan through on goal.
Clare’s second goal soon followed when Catriona Callinan won possesion from a poor Kerry kick-out and she passed to Tara Kelly who found the net from an acute angle.
Gráinne Nolan scored Clare’s third goal in style after a short kick-out was sent directly into her arms just outside the 20 metre line. As she bore down on the goalkeeper, the Banner Ladies poacher came almost to a stop, selling a dummy solo with her right before striding past the visitor’s keeper and coolly finishing with her left to an empty net.
Kerry were almost in for a goal twice themselves in the first half but Ciara Harvey came to the home side’s rescue with fine saves while Ellie O’Gorman made a great block to deny another opportunity.
Throughout the first half both free takers, Gráinne Nolan for Clare, and Sarah Houlihan for Kerry, proved their worth. Both were near flawless, with Nolan scoring four from frees and Sarah Houlihan converting three placed balls, each failing to find the target just once.
However, those goals certainly separated the sides and by half-time, Clare held a sizeable 3-7 to 0-8 cushion.
The second half saw Clare revert to a more reserved and cautious approach, which told in their return of only 1-1. However, once Kerry began to slash the deficit, with Hannah O’Donoghue’s free finding the net to lower the arrears to just three, the home side simply had to come out of their shells.
And they did, with Tara Kelly exemplifying Clare’s grit and determination while captain Laurie Ryan as ever led by example, even raiding for the pivotal fourth goal to restore a welcome six point lead.
The said, Kerry seemed much more comfortable on the ball throughout the game, making more use of the kickpass to try and move the Clare defence around as they searched for scores. Emma Dineen in particular was excellent from play, scoring four points. Sarah Houlihan also scored three from play in addition to six frees. Kerry had a better spread of scorers from play, with five of their six starting forwards getting points from play, compared to only two of Clare’s forwards.
It ensured that the visitors would eventually whittle down the arrears with points from Dineen and Brosnan by the turn of the final quarter. So while Clare substitute Eimear Keane would arrow over a much-needed point in the 46th minute, it was to be Clare’s last troubling of the umpires.
Instead, Kerry threw everything at their hosts for the reminder and with Houlihan in unerring form, she would kick three unanswered points to cut the gap to just one with time rapidly running out.
Unfortunately for Clare, after two outstanding blocks by Laurie Ryan and Ellie O’Gorman, Kerry were awarded a soft free to equalise, one which Sarah Houlihan inevitably converted to deny Care a famous win.
Player of the game
Tara Kelly (Clare)
Scoring hero Sarah Houlihan was Kerry’s main leader while captain Laurie Ryan was also hugely inspirational. However, for the amount of tireless work she got through in repeatedly carrying possession for the home side especially into the conditions, Kelly’s contribution epitomised Clare’s unquenchable character.
Won & Lost
In the end, neither eventuality occurred as Clare’s brave bid to lower their Munster rivals just fell agonisingly short at the final hurdle. However, in hindsight, the Banner will certainly glean significant confidence from this performance when facing the remaining four senior sides over the next two months.
It wasn’t expected to be this close but Clare definitely hadn’t red the script as they ad-libbed their way to the brink of a memorable victory, only for Kerry to alleviate the scare with a storming finish to dig out a share of the spoils.
Ciara Harvey (West Clare Gaels); Eva O’Dea (Banner Ladies), Ellie O’Gorman (Kilmihil), Grainne Harvey (West Clare Gaels); Roisin Considine (Liscannor), Sarah Bohannon (Cúil Gaels), Siofra Ni Chonaill (St Josephs Doora/Barefield); Roisin Looney (Cooraclare) (0-1), Caoimhe Harvey (West Clare Gaels); Tara Kelly (Cúil Gaels) (1-0), Laurie Ryan (Banner Ladies) (Captain) (1-0), Eimear O’Connor (Cúil Gaels); Grainne Nolan (Banner Ladies) (1-4, 4f), Catriona Callinan (Kilmihil), Fidelma Marrinan (West Clare Gaels) (1-2) Subs Aine Keane (St Joseph’s Miltown) for O’Dea, Eimear Keane (St Joseph’s Miltown) (0-1) for O’Connor, Cliodhna Blake (Doonbeg) for Callinan, Carol O’Leary (Newmarket-on-Fergus) for Considine, Aisling Reidy (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield) for Caoimhe Harvey
Sinéad Warren (Rathmore); Eilis Lynch (Castleisland Desmonds), Aislinn Desmond (Rathmore), Sarah Murphy (Rathmore); Aishling O’Connell (Éire Óg), Laoise Coughlan (Rathmore), Bríd Ryan (Rathmore); Lorraine Scanlon (Castleisland Desmonds), Amanda Brosnan (Dr. Crokes) (0-2f); Patrice Diggin (Finuge/St Senan’s) (0-1), Emma Dineen (Glenflesk) (0-4), Sarah Houlihan (Beaufort) (0-9, 5f); Andrea Murphy (Castleisland Desmonds) (0-1), Ciara Murphy (Miltown/Listry), Hannah O’Donoghue (Beaufort) (1-0)
Subs Megan O’Connor (Na Gaeil) for A. Murphy, Miriam O’Keeffe (Finuge/St Senan’s) for Diggin, Aoife O’Callaghan (Rathmore) for Dineen
Referee Shane Curley (Galway)