Clare’s Ladies footballers are through to the Intermediate championship All-Ireland Semi-final after taking their biggest scalp of the season so far, the current Ulster Champions, Tyrone.
By Alan Copley
Venue: St Lomans GAA, Mullingar
Played in horrendous weather conditions, the drama started in the opening game of the quarter final double header in Mullingar last Saturday, when the half time interval of the Tipperary Wicklow game continued for a full hour amid rumours of abandonment. Eventually the game resumed (Tipp winning) and although delayed by seventy five minutes, Clare took to the field to give a master class in team cohesion that seems to be increasing with every outing, a quality that was very much needed to take this victory on this day.
Tyrone started with two dangerous goal attempts and when repelled ended up, via a spritely passage of play, over the bar for Niamh O’Dea’s first point of the day. Niamh Keane pushed the lead to two points on the fourth minute but when Tyrones’s Emma Hegarty’s effort ended up in the hands of Clare keeper Ciara Harvey, another fast paced reaction by the defence found its way via Louise Henchy into O’Dea’s hands who added Clare’s third unanswered point.
With Clare playing possession football, the recycling of the ball was hard earned in such water-logged conditions but O’Dea released Ciara Hickey who was denied by a lovely save from Tyrone custodian Shannon Lynch. This launched an O’Neills County attack which ended with Cara McCrossan shooting in reverse over her shoulder for their first point on ten minutes. One Tyrone and three missed Clare frees followed but at the end of the first quarter Ailish Considine pointed 0-4 to Tyrone’s 0-1.
A piercing attack from the rear by Roisin Considine ended with an inspirational point in an otherwise grinding but effective Clare performance. A good spell from Tyrone yielded two points from Niamh O’Neill and Emma Smyth and with five minutes left to the break, Tyrone were trailing 0-3 to Clare’s 0-5.
After the next Saffron & Blue attack, Tyrone were working the ball out but an interception by Niamh Keane, ended up with O’Dea picking out Grainne Nolan who cooly side-stepped to send it low into the net on twenty seven minutes. O’Dea would take her third point of the game with the last kick of the ball as both teams looked forward to a warm drink and a change of gear. It was 1-6 to 0-3 in favour of the Banner County when Kevin Corcoran blew the half-time whistle.
With the Clare forwards working hard defensively all day, Referee Corcoran issued Sarah Bohannon with a ten minute sin-binning within the first minute of the restart and immediately Tyrone had a near-miss for a goal. Maria Canavan (niece of Peter the Great) pointed with style from the Clare kick-out and as the Red Hand held a tight grip on the game in this spell, continued pressure yielded a goal from a high-lobbing ball that snuck in between Ciara Harvey’s fingertips and the cross-bar.
Having seemed to weather the Red storm and with Bohannon back on the field, two minutes later Clare half-forward Niamh Keane was side-lined for ten minutes and Clare were down a player for two thirds of the second half. Noticeably, not settling to hold on, the Banner County stepped up the pressure and engaged Tyrone in their own quarters for these ten minutes, holding the Northerners scoreless. Indeed, with the introduction of prolific forwards Aoife Keane and Caoimhe Harvey, Clare had two free opportunities in this period, a sign of their tenacity and attacking ambition but failed to convert. Ailish Considine pointed on twenty two minutes (1-7 to 1-4) and within minutes of Keane’s return to the field of play she tacked on an insurance point.
Tyrone didn’t respond to this last phase of Clare aggression and senior rookie Caoimh Harvey pushed the gap to five points with a confident point on thirty one minutes. Harvey started the last Saffron & Blue attack on her own forty meter line, only to track the play up the field and eventually received the pass from Ailish Considine to slot it low into the Tyrone net for the last action of the game.
Both teams and the referees team must be complemented for providing a very entertaining game in atrocious conditions. Fortunately, St. Loman’s of Mullingar is a well developed pitch and although partly waterlogged by relentless rain, remained in perfect condition throughout.
A developing Tyrone lineout now bow out of this year’s All-Ireland championship campaign having taken the Ulster title. The Clare team progress to their first All-Ireland Championship semi-final since their 2009 Intermediate title win. This performance is one that will go straight into the bank not only for the mental resolve to perform under tough physical conditions but to maintain composure and carry the fight to the opposition, albeit scoreless, while being a player down for twenty minutes of the second half. A dangerous situation to get in to, no doubt, and one that could have foiled Neil Moynihan’s master plan. However, challenges that may or may not be foreseen will come from left field but the ability to maintain focus and composure is one quality the Clare ladies seem to be improving upon with every round.
Clare: Ciara Harvey, Eva O’Dea, Laurie Ryan (Capt), Grainne Harvey, Roisin Considine (0-1), Ellie O’Gorman, Claire Hester, Louise Henchy, Kayleigh McCormack, Sarah Bohannon, Ailish Considine (0-2), Niamh Keane (0-2), Ciara Hickey, Niamh O’Dea (0-3), Grainne Nolan (1-0) Subs: Aoife Keane, Caoimhe Harvey (1-1), Shauna Harvey, Becky Mahon, Emma O’Driscoll, Laura Egan.
Tyrone: Shannon Lynch, Karen Quin, Joane Barrett, Eimear Quinn, Christiane Hunter, Neamh Woods (C), Tori McLaughlin, Shannon Quinn, Meabh Mallon, Catherine McNabb, Emma Smyth (0-1), Emma Hegarty, Maria Canavan (0-1), Niamh O’Neill (1-1), Cara McCrossan (0-1).
Referee: Kevin Corcoran (Mayo)
All photos by Raymond O’Mahony