THERE was heartbreak for Clare in round seven of the National Ladies’ Football League on Sunday in Tubbercurry when their opponents, Sligo, struck for a goal in injury time to snatch victory.
It was a cruel blow to Clare, who needed to win to retain their position in Division 2 for next season.
Clare were the better team in the first half, enjoying a greater share of possession, and they were full value for their three-point interval lead. All of the Banner girls’ scores in the opening half came from play
A goal from Louise Henchy, who had an outstanding performance, gave the visitors a tonic start after just three minutes. By the eighth minute Áine Kelly had extended the lead with a fine point.
Noelle Gormley converted Sligo’s opening score in the 13th minute and five minutes later Stephanie O’Reilly found the Clare net with the game’s equalising score following a solo run by her midfield colleague Siobhán O’Sullivan.
Niamh Keane put Clare back in front with a long-range point after Louise Henchy had given her a perfect pass from a placed ball. Emma O’Driscoll kept Clare in the game with a superb save and Eimear Considine, who was one of Clare’s stars on the day, finished the half with two points from play to leave Clare ahead, 1-4 to 1-1, at half-time.
Late in the half the Clare management introduced Michelle Delaney at left-half back for Ciara Cleary and Ailish Considine for the injured Marie Considine, while Sarah Hoey replaced Niamh Greene at half-time.
Sligo got down to business immediately from the resumption of play and with only six minutes played had turned the game around to lead by three points. A few missed chances proved costly for Clare and these included a free which hit the upright and an attempt at goal from Ailish Considine, which went across the Sligo goal and wide. Further points from a Gormley free and one from midfielder Bernice Byrne put Sligo 2-4 to 1-4 ahead.
Clare had to wait until the 11th minute of the half for corner-forward Áine Kelly to raise a white flag before Grace Lynch came in to the attack for the injured Ailish Considine.
A superb long-range free from the in-form Louise Henchy, who was now operating a centre field, closed the gap to the minimum. Katie Keoghan from West Clare Gaels came in to the side for Rachel Lenihan and with her first touch rattled the Sligo net after the ball had rebounded off the crossbar. This score put Clare ahead by two with seven minutes of normal time remaining.
Sligo attacked again and Clare conceded a free, which Noelle Gormley pointed. Clare attacked again and Katie Keoghan, who was operating at full-forward, tapped it over to restore the two-point lead.
There had been a number of stoppages during the second half and some additional time was expected. As the game progressed to over six extra minutes, Clare were battling to hold possession and had 14 players in their own half. As Clare broke away with the ball, possesion was lost and Sligo sent in a high delivery which Emma O’Driscoll did well to see and gather but as she cleared out to her right Stephanie O’Reilly somehow managed to win it and despite three Clare defenders around her sent a pile-driver into the Clare net.
The final whistle sounded on the kick-out and the Clare players fell to the ground in disappointment. A few seconds earlier it looked like victory would be theirs.
For Clare, Louise Henchy and Eimear Considine were outstanding while Emma O’Driscoll, Sinéad and Áine Kelly also did well.
With the league now over for this year, Clare will turn their attention to the Munster Senior Championship in June when they face Tipperary in the semi-final at a Clare venue.
Clare: Emma O’Driscoll (Banner Ladies); Sinéad Eustace capt, (Coolmeen), Lorraine Kelly (Fergus Rovers), Laurie Ryan (Banner Ladies); Ciara Cleary (Coolmeen), Sinéad Kelly (West Clare Gaels), Niamh Greene (Coolmeen); Eimear O’Connor (Coolmeen), Fiona Lafferty (St. Joseph’s Miltown); Marie Considine (Liscannor), Louise Henchy 1-1 (Banner Ladies), Niamh Keane 0-1, (Banner Ladies); Áine Kelly, 0-2 (Fergus Rovers), Eimear Considine 0-2, (Kilmihil), Rachel Lenihan (Crusheen).
Subs: Michelle Delaney (Banner Ladies) for C Cleary; Ailish Considine (Kilmihil) for M Considine (inj); Sarah Hoey (Banner Ladies) for N Greene; Grace Lynch (Coolmeen) for A. Considine (inj); Katie Keoghan, 1-1 (West Clare Gaels) for R Lenihan.
Sligo: Emma Cullen; Cammi Kennedy, Ciara Doyle, Eithne Flanagan; Ruth Gudwin, Tracy O’Hara, Fiona Maye; Siobhán O’Sullivan, Bernice Byrne, 0-1; Elaine O’Reilly, Stephanie O’Reilly 2-0, Sinéad McTiernan; Áine Gormley, Noelle Gormley 1-4 (0-4f), Nicola Fowley.
Referee: Mel Kenny (Mayo)