THE Clare lady footballers made an impressive start to their Division 3 league campaign in Miltown last Sunday. Niamh O’Dea’s goals were the game’s key scores.
The game had been due to be staged in Cooraclare but heavy rainfall resulted in the fixture being moved to Hennessy Memorial Park.
Naomi Carroll was the sole Clare debutante at full-forward while Louise Woods returned to the team for her first match since the All-Ireland intermediate final win over Fermanagh in September 2009. Colette Corry also had her first start since picking up a knee injury against Waterford in the Intermediate Munster final in July 2009 while Grace Lynch returned to the starting 15. However, for the rest of the year, Clare will be without Fiona Lafferty and West Clare Gaels full-back Sinéad Kelly from the team that ran Dublin so close in the All-Ireland senior quarter-final last August.
Louise Henchy opened Clare’s account from a free before Naomi Carroll stretched the lead. Down centre-forward, Kayla Trainor pointed her side’s opening score. The same player caused many problems for the Clare defence. She added three further points, putting her side 0-4 to 0-3 ahead with over 20 minutes played before Eimear Considine levelled. Prior to this, Liscannor’s Marie Considine notched a fine point.
Wing-back Louise Woods ended a strong run from the half-back line with a point to put Clare back in front and from here, the home side never lost their lead.
A good Clare move, involving Eimear and Marie Considine, was finished to the net by Niamh O’Dea to send Clare in leading 1-5 to 0-6 at half-time with all of Down’s scores coming from Trainor.
The opening 20 minutes of the second half produced just one score from each side. Clare’s point came from Eimear Considine with Paula Gribban raising the white flag for Down. It may have taken 20 minutes but this score seemed to get Clare going and Ailish Considine justified her introduction when she immediately followed her sister’s score with a fisted point before Niamh O’Dea finished her second goal after Eimear Considine had done the spade work. O’Dea followed with a point and the last score of the game fell to All-Star nominee, Louise Henchy to see Clare run out comfortable winners in the end.
While Clare won by eight points, it was in the closing minutes they pulled away. Little separated the sides on the scoreboard up until then. Down kicked a number of wides while Clare missed some glorious goal-scoring opportunities with Niamh O’Dea hitting the crossbar and Eimear Considine denied on a number of occasions. In all, three players were sin-binned for yellow-card offences, corner-back Kathyrn Boden from Down was first to leave the field of play inside the opening quarter while Clare Hester of Clare suffered the same fate shortly before half-time. Down’s wing-back Sinéad Fegan became the third player to have to sit out 10 minutes of playing time. Emma O’Driscoll pulled of a fine save for Clare at a crucial time in the second half, Louise Woods and Sinéad Eustace were Clare’s best defenders on the day. Eimear O’Connor, whose brother Cathal was in action with the Clare footballers in Carrick-on-Shannon, was switched to centre-back for the second half in an effort to curb Kayla Trainor. Colette Corry and Louise Henchy worked hard at midfield while the team captain Niamh Keane toiled ceaselessly at centre-forward. Niamh O’Dea, Naomi Carroll and Eimear Considine were dangerous in the full-forward line and while they did score 2-4 from play between them they could have scored much more.
Kyla Trainor was Down’s best player on the day while their goalkeeper Katie Farrell did very well to limit Clare to two goals with some fine saves.
Clare: Emma O’Driscoll (Banner Ladies), Clare Hester (Fergus Rovers), Sinéad Eustace (Coolmeen), Laurie Ryan (Banner), Grace Lynch (Coolmeen), Carmel Considine (Liscannor), Louise Woods (Banner) 0-1, Colette Corry (Shannon Gaels), Louise Henchy (Banner) (0-2, 0-1f), Eimear O’Connor (Coolmeen), Niamh Keane (Banner), Marie Considine (Liscannor) 0-1, Niamh O’Dea (Banner) 2-1, Naomi Carroll (Banner) 0-1, Eimear Considine (Kilmihil) 0-2.
Subs: Niamh Greene (Coolmeen) for Lynch (25th), Ailish Considine (Kilmihil) 0-1 for Hester (38th), Róisín McMahon (Newmarket-on-Fergus) for C Considine (50th), Anne Marie Callinan (Cooraclare) for O’Dea (58th), Kayleigh McCormack (Burren Gaels) for Carroll (58th), Áine Burke (Liscannor) for E Considine (60th), Carol O’Leary (Newmarket-on-Fergus) for M Considine (60th), Martina Scales (Liscannor) for Ryan (60th)
Down: Katie Farrell, Hannah Murray, Niamh McGowan, Kathyrn Boden, Emma Mulhern, Kerianne McGee, Sinéad Fegan, Clara Fitzpatrick, Áine McCurry, Cassie Moana, Kyla Trainor 0-6, Orla Fegan, Louise Kelly, Eimear Kane, Paula Gribban 0-1.
Referee: Ritchie O’Connor (Tipperary).