One point was the difference as Clare suffered a heartbreaking defeat to Kildare in the All-Ireland Intermediate Ladies Football Final.
Venue: Croke Park
Use of possession and accuracy in front of goal proved to be the big difference between the sides as Kildare edged out Clare in the All-Ireland decider.
Having shown great hunger to claw their way back from seven points down there was hope Clare would continue to add the scores as the game progressed. However missed chances on their behalf at the beginning of the second half damaged their hopes of being crowned All-Ireland Champions.
Roisin Byrne and Grainne Nolan exchanged scores at the beginning of the tie. Efforts from Maria Moolick and Eadaoin Connolly were cancelled out at the other end with Niamh O’Dea and Ailish Considine pointing. Considine’s shot was pushed over the cross-bar by an excellent save from Mary Hulgraine.
Eadaoin Connolly setup Noelle Early for the first goal of game inside the first quarter and the Lilywhites began to take control with Ellen Dowling, Byrne on the double and Earley raising white flags to extend their lead to seven points.
Clare showed their character kicking the final five scores of the half with Niamh O’Dea, Grainne Nolan and Ciara Hickey all splitting the posts. O’Dea almost had a goal only for Hulgraine to deny her with a point blank save. Kilmihil’s Ailish Considine made no mistake as she buried the ball to the back of the net to leave the sides level at the break.
Momentum was with the girls in Saffron and Blue at the beginning of the second half but crucially they missed their first five scoring chances on the resumption. One of those was a penalty from Grainne Nolan which was comfortably saved by Mary Hulgraine.
Captain Aisling Holton, Maria Moolick and Ellen Dowling built up a three point lead for Kildare early on. It took Clare ten minutes to settle and kick their first score of the half with Sarah Bohannon slotting over a much needed point.
Ellie O’Gorman made a vital tackle as she blocked an Emer Fogarty kick which would have extended the gap between the teams. Nolan steadied the ship with a pointed free at the other end which came on the back of the sin-binning of Aisling Savage.
Ellen Dowling and Niamh O’Dea swapped scores at the fiftieth minute mark to leave just one point between the teams. Dual-player Grainne Nolan equalised a minute later landing a spot kick.
Holton and Molly Price kicked further points for the Leinster Champions as did Niamh O’Dea for Clare but it wasn’t enough to stop Kildare from claiming victory.
Beaten finalists twelve months ago Kildare were determined from the outset to return to Croke Park and make amends. That they did with key players such as Noelle Earley, Aisling Holton, Maria Moolick and goalkeeper Mary Hulgraine to the fore.
Ultimately for Clare they failed to take their chances with a total of twelve wides, many of which were very scoreable opportunities. On the big days all chances need to be taken. Niamh Keane, Kayleigh McCormack and Laurie Ryan stood out for the Munster and All-Ireland finalists.
Kildare were boosted by fresh legs from the sideline while with only a panel of twenty one, two of whom were injured Neil Moynihan and his management hadn’t the same level of energy to inject. Going forward a bigger panel of players will be needed from the Banner County.
Overall 2016 was a positive year for the Clare Intermediates. A return to Croke Park is a plus added in with more exposure received by younger players.
The biggest thing to be taken from their campaign is that panel members were playing with more confidence and belief in themselves as a result of a relatively good start to the year. If they can come back stronger and with more bodies there is nothing to suggest that history won’t repeat itself with Clare losing the All-Ireland in 2008 before setting the record straight in 2009.
Kildare: Mary Hulgraine (Leixlip); Trina Duggan (Suncroft), Paula Keatley (St. Laurence’s), Rachel Cribbin (Balyna); Shauna Kendrick (Sarsfields), Aishing Savage (Leixlip), Michaela Nolan (Castledermot); Erica Burke (Balyna), Aisling Holton Capt. (Balyna) (0-02); Róisín Byrne (Sarsfields) (0-03 1f), Maria Moolick (Leixlip) (0-02), Eadaion Connolly (Rahangan) (0-01); Mikaela McKenna (Na Fianna), Noelle Earley (Sarsfields) (1-01), Ellen Dowling (Suncroft) (0-03 1f). Subs: Emer Fogarty for Byrne (38), Molly Price (0-01 f) for McKenna (52), Rachel Corrigan for Savage (64), Grainne Lyons for Connolly (57).
Clare: Emma O’Driscoll (The Banner), Kayleigh McCormack (Burren Gaels), Laurie Ryan (The Banner), Shauna Harvey (West Clare Gaels); Róisín Considine (Liscannor), Ellie O’Gorman (Kilmihil), Gráinne Harvey (West Clare Gaels); Louise Henchy (The Banner), Becky Mahon (Kilmihil); Sarah Bohannon (Shannon Gaels) (0-01), Ailish Considine (Kilmihil) (1-01), Niamh Keane (The Banner); Ciara Hickey (Kilmuury Ibrickane) (0-01), Niamh O’Dea (The Banner) (0-05 1f), Gráinne Nolan (The Banner) (0-03 2f). Subs: Caoimhe Harvey (West Clare Gaels) for S Harvey (HT), Aoife Keane (The Banner) for Hickey (43).
Referee: Keith Delahaunty (Tipperary)