Eoin Brennan previews the senior and intermediate ladies football championships which get underway this weekend
With a vice-like grip over the Clare senior ladies football championship over the past 15 seasons, will Banner Ladies latest challenge be a potentially lucky or unlucky 13th title bid?
With their age profile rising with every passing year, the Ennis-based side still possess a vastly experienced core and remain the team to beat but what do the chasing pack hold in terms of threat to potentially knock them off their perch?
Having contested five of the last six senior deciders, Kilmihil, who managed to take the Banner’s scalp in a historic 2019 final breakthrough, are the main contenders.
The only other side to lower the Banner were West Clare Gaels in 2010 but there were precious few survivors for the peninsula amalgamation when humbled by the Banner in the 2020 final.
Senior B winners St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield look to be the side best placed to mount a serious long term challenge but having soared up through the levels and even brought Kilmihil to extra-time in last year’s semi-final, the time is now to really make an impact on the title race.
Kilmurry Ibrickane, who after making a senior semi-final in their first season back in the top flight will be gunning to at least emulate that achievement.
Cooraclare, following a brilliant first season back at senior in 2020 require a renewed jolt while newcomers Burren Gaels will also be seeking a momentum-fuelled bounce if they are to halt their seesawing between the first and second tiers.
With only four semi-final places on offer, negotiating the taxing six matches in seven weeks group campaign will require strength-in-depth, especially for dual clubs as the adult camogie championships will be running parallel to the ladies football equivalent almost ever weekend.
Meanwhile in the intermediate championship the initial surprise of Cúil Gaels’ withdrawal was soon surpassed by the scattering of their players, with senior side Kilmihil being the main beneficiaries in their bid to finally reel in the Banner Ladies once more.
Following Burren Gaels 2021 intermediate success, perennial bridesmaids Miltown Malbay, following the utter heartbreak of three consecutive final defeats will be automatically installed as favourites to finally get over the line.
However, that will hinge on the availability of the Keane twins, Aine and Eimear, after their travels this year were already missed in Clare’s flagship set-up.
Fergus Rovers are another side itching for a breakthrough or even a final appearance at this stage, having contesting five of the last seven semi-finals without ever getting over the line.
Backed by a new wave of underage talent and success, Kilrush are arguably the team to watch in the intermediate championship, having soared to the penultimate stage in their first year back at the grade in 2021.
Their Junior A winning predecessors Doonbeg are also on an upward curve thanks to green shoots emerging from their underage ranks.
Liscannor, who garnered last year’s Intermediate Shield, will be eager to get back vying for championship honours once more while dual clubs such as Clooney-Quin, Newmarket-on-Fergus and Éire Óg present an unknown entity which will only be revealed this weekend, a week ahead of the adult championship lift-off.
Senior Championship Round 1:
Friday August 5
Doora Barefield 1 (H) V Banner Ladies 1- Gurteen GAA @ 8pm – Ref Ciaran Sheehan
Sunday August 7
Cooraclare (H) V Kilmurry IB – Cooraclare GAA @ 7pm – Ref Frank Culleton
West Clare Gaels (H) V Kilmihil Ladies – Kilkee GAA @ 6pm – Ref TBC
Burren Gaels 1 Bye
Intermediate Championship Round 1:
Sunday August 7
St. Joseph’s Miltown (H) V Newmarket on Fergus – Miltown GAA @ 6pm – Ref P. Hickey
Fergus Rovers (H) V Clooney-Quin – Lissycasey GAA @ 7PM – Ref John O’Connell
Kilrush Ladies (H) V Doonbeg – Kilrush GAA Pitch @ 7pm – Ref Michael Talty
Liscannor (H) V Éire Óg – Moher Pitch @ 10:45am – Ref TBC
Junior A Championship Round 2:
Sunday August 7
Kildysart Ladies V Banner Ladies 2 – Shannon Gaels GAA @ 12pm – Ref TBC
Doora Barefield 2 (H) V Crusheen – Gurteen GAA @ 6pm – Ref TBC
Wolfe Tones (H) V Clarecastle – Wolfe Tones GAA @ 6pm – Ref TBC
Junior B Championships Round 2:
Sunday August 7
Éire Óg 2 (H) V St. Joseph’s Miltown 2 – Eire Óg GAA @ 2:30pm
East Clare Gaels (H) V Burren Gaels 2 – 7:30pm – Ref TBC
Minor A Semi–Finals
Tuesday August 9
Kilrush v Doora Barefield, Kilrush GAA @ 8pm – Ref P. Hickey
Fergus Rovers v Banner Ladies, Lissycasey @ 7:30pm – Ref John O’Connell