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Clare's Niamh O’Dea shoots for the posts. Photograph by Eugene McCafferty

LADIES FOOTBALL: Stuttering start for leaky Banner in All-Ireland championship

All-Ireland Intermediate Ladies Football Championship Round 2
Leitrim 4-7 Clare 2-9

CLARE’S bizarre opening round hoodoo continued this afternoon when ambushed by a ravenous Leitrim who deservedly topped the group in Duggan Park in Ballinasloe, reports Eoin Brennan.
Following first round reverses against Wexford (2019) and Kildare (2020), Division 4 finalists Leitrim completed the Banner’s unwanted hat-trick to cause the biggest upset of them all as prior to last week, the Connaught side had not won a championship match since 2017.
They certainly made up for lost time as four perfectly timed goals provided consistent sucker-punches that accumulated into too big a mountain to climb for a Clare side that just couldn’t get out of second gear at any stage.
The stifling conditions certainly zapped the energy levels and can be held accountable for some of the handling errors but ultimately it was the same for both sides and Leitrim, despite contesting their second championship match in eight days, appeared the fresher side going down the final straight.
All that after an ideal start in which early points from Niamh O’Dea were bolstered by a 13th minute goal for Fidelma Marrinan who slipped the ball under advancing goalkeeper Michelle Monaghan to give Clare a 1-2 to 0-1 cushion by the water break.
Monaghan denied O’Dea from point blank range on the resumption as Clare extended the gap to five through Marrinan. Amazingly however, it would be level by the break after a Michelle Guckian inspired recovery as Leitrim’s talismanic poacher scored a point, hit the crossbar and also floated in a lineball that was caught and finished to the net by Muireann Devaney at 1-4 apiece.
Half-time couldn’t come soon enough for Clare as they regrouped with dual star Niamh O’Dea at the edge of the square for the new half, a move that resulted in four of the first five points by the two thirds mark at 1-8 to 1-5.
If Clare thought that they had weathered the storm, they would be sorely mistaken as a never-say-die Leitrim were initially denied an advantage goal before redressing the balance themselves through Guckian who emphatically fired 1-1 before the final water break to hit the front for the first time at 2-6 to 1-8.
A stunned Clare would be further damaged by another Guckian goal on the restart before Laura O’Dowd put the icing on the cake with a fourth major in the 49th minute to open up a six point lead.
Chloe Moloney would pull a goal back from the penalty spot after Niamh O’Dea was brought down entering the final ten minutes. However, Clare were unable to make any further inroads and worse still, lost O’Dea to a straight red card alongside marker Ailish Comyn in injury-time for an off-the-ball exchange that was dictated by the linesman.
Instead it was Leitrim and more significantly Guckian that provided the insurance point to clinch top spot in Group 2 and a place in the All-Ireland Quarter-Finals, leaving Clare embroiled in a winners-takes-all final round showdown with Fermanagh for the other last eight place in Longford next Sunday.

Leitrim: Michelle Monaghan (St Francis’); Ailish Comyn (St Francis’), Sinead Tighe (Kiltubrid), Siobhan McCartan (St Joseph’s); Rebecca Rooney (Glancar-Manorhamilton), Clare Owens (St Joseph’s), Carla Le Guen (St Brigid’s); Áine Heslin (St Joseph’s), Chalene Tyrell (Mohill); Laura O’Dowd (Ballinamore), Michaelle Guckian (Kiltubrid), Elise Bruen (St Mary’s); Muireann Devaney (Glancar-Manorhamilton), Ailbhe Clancy (Glancar-Manorhamilton), Leah Fox (Glancar-Manorhamilton)
Subs: Roisin McHugh (Ballinamore) for Bruen (24), Vivene Egan (Annaduff) for Heslin (45), Bronagh O’Rourke (St Joseph’s) for Fox (59)

Scorers: Michelle Guckian (2-4, 2f); Muireann Devaney, Laura O’Dowd (1-1 each); Leah Fox (0-1)

Clare: Micaela Glynn (Kilmihil); Rebecca Doohan (Kilmurry Ibrickane), Siofra Ní Chonaill (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield), Ellie O’Gorman (Kilmihil); Orla Devitt (Éire Óg), Tara Kelly (Cúil Gaels), Roisin Considine (Liscannor); Chloe Moloney (Kilmurry Ibrickane), Roisin Looney (Cooraclare); Niamh O’Dea (Banner ladies), Aisling Reidy (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield), Fidelma Marrinan (West Clare Gaels); Caoimhe Harvey (West Clare Gaels), Catriona Callinan (Kilmihil), Eimear Keane (Miltown Malbay)
Subs: Carol O’Leary (Newmarket-on-Fergus) for Looney (39), Chloe Towey (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield) for Keane (42), Grainne Nolan (Banner Ladies) for Doohan (46), Cliodhna Blake (Doonbeg) for Callinan (51)

Scorers: Niamh O’Dea (0-6, 3f); Fidelma Marrinan, Chloe Moloney (1-0 Pen, 1f) (1-1 each); Catriona Callinan (0-1)

Referee: Kevin Corcoran (Mayo)

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