KILMIHIL Ladies Football Club secretary Rosie Currane has plenty to think about this week.
Wing-back on the Kilmihil team preparing for Saturday’s county final against champions Banner Ladies, Rosie has to plot how she is going to stop the likes of Louise Henchy or Naoimi Carroll from decisively influencing the game.
Before a ball is even thrown in however, herself, club chairperson and centre-back Fiona O’Neill and their playing colleague Sharon O’Gorman, (club treasurer) have to ensure that the day runs smoothly.
Not alone are Kilmihil competing in their first senior county final; the West Clare village is also hosting it.
Making their impending final date even more remarkable is the fact that this is Kilmihil’s first year competing at senior level. Last year’s county intermediate champions, who went on to capture the Munster and All-Ireland junior titles, have beaten Cooraclare, Miltown, West Clare Gaels and Fergus Rovers to secure their final place.
Yet Rosie Currane is adamant that playing in a county senior final was not on Kilmihil’s agenda when they heard that they had drawn Cooraclare, Miltown and West Clare Gaels in their championship group.
“I remember the draw for the groups, myself and Fiona (O’Neill) were at the meeting. We didn’t even think we’d get out of that group. I think we looked at each other and said ‘there’s no hope’,” Rosie said.
Having beaten Cooraclare and Miltown they drew with West Clare Gaels before winning the play-off.
This meant that Kilmihil had to play Fergus Rovers in the semi-final, while the Gaels played Banner Ladies.
“I think everyone is still tired from the West Clare Gaels games. I know it’s two weeks ago but they were fairly draining and were within three days of each other. It was complete luck at the end because they were ahead by five points with a couple of minutes to go,” Rosie acknowledged.
Although they were tipped to beat Fergus Rovers in the semi-final last Sunday, Rosie says Kilmihil didn’t look at it that way.
“We would never have written off Fergus Rovers because they’ve been senior for years, winning several championships. That attitude definitely wasn’t there. It was only in the last few minutes, when we pulled away from them. It was anyone’s game,” Rosie stressed.
While Kilmihil might have been favoured to reach the final, they definitely won’t be expected to win it. “It’s a massive task,” Rosie said. “The Banner are a super team. They’re the best of the ladies teams at the moment. We’ll be underdogs.”
“It will be great to have home support but then again we still have to go out and play. They’ve loads of county senior girls and I don’t know how many of the Clare minor girls that got to the All-Ireland they had. The players they bring on are nearly as good as the players on the field,” Rosie said, suggesting that the reigning champions will take beating.
Waterford man Stephen Quinn, who works in Moneypoint, is training Kilmihil this year, assisted by Thomas McMahon and Kevin O’Halloran.
“I’d say he didn’t know what to make of us when he met us first. He has done a good job so far anyway,” the club secretary concluded, hoping that their season will extend further into autumn, even if Banner Ladies are virtually unbackable favourites.
Sonya prepared for Kilmihil showdown back out west
BANNER Ladies head west to Kilmihil on Saturday and are expected to bring their senior championship crown back to Ennis with them later that evening. Their task, however, will be made considerably more difficult by the fact that the match venue is also the home ground of their opponents.
Last year, the Banner girls beat West Clare Gaels in Cooraclare to win their first senior title. A year later, they face a Kilmihil team whom they have never met in the championship arena before.
If Kilmihil weren’t at home and hadn’t won Clare, Munster and All-Ireland titles in 2008, the Banner would be expected to walk it. They will be favourites but that doesn’t mean that Kilmihil have no hope.
“They’ve some outstanding individual players and they’ve been obviously strengthened significantly by the addition of the Doonbeg girls,” Banner Ladies captain and club chairperson Sonya Maher said of Kilmihil.
“There are an excellent outfit, we absolutely will not be taking them for granted. They potentially could have beaten us twice already this year in the league,” she added.
Banner Ladies beat Kilmihil by a point after extra time in the senior league semi-final.
Although they defeated West Clare Gaels 4-12 to 2-8 in last Sunday’s championship semi-final in Quilty, Sonya Maher points out that a few key moments turned the game in her side’s favour.
“Last Sunday’s game was definitely the toughest game we’ve faced so far in the championship. That game could have gone either way but for an own-goal on their part and an opportunistic goal from a Louise (Henchy) free-kick,” she said, noting that West Clare Gaels also missed a penalty.
In the group stage of the championship Banner Ladies recorded comprehensive wins over Crusheen, Coolmeen and Fergus Rovers.
“We’ve done well and we’ve put up high scores and we’ve improved with every game, which I think is probably the most important thing,” Sonya said.
While they won their first senior title last year, the Banner had been threatening to make the breakthrough for a couple of seasons.
“We’d been there or thereabouts for the three years previous. We’d got to a final and a semi-final but it wasn’t really until the younger group from that Féile championship-winning team came through that we really competed. That really strengthened the panel for us,” she said.
Every one of the Banner’s starting team last Sunday has played for Clare at some level. Although this statistic is an impressive one, it makes club training difficult to organise.
“That is a big problem for us, unfortunately. We’ve six players on the Clare intermediate team and they’re training Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It’s very difficult to get those girls to come out two more nights during the week. And we’ve a huge number of players on the U-16 and minor teams that went to the All-Ireland this year. So getting numbers to training is an issue for us,” Sonya said.
As for Saturday’s county final, the Banner Ladies forward is certain that their resolve will be closely examined in Kilmihil by the home club.
“We’re absolutely up against it on Saturday in the sense that we’re playing in Kilmihil. They’ll have everybody out in support of them. We’ll be playing them on the field but we’ll also have the crowd backing them, which will be difficult,” Sonya predicted.
Saturday’s senior final will throw in at 4.15pm in Kilmihil. The senior B final, Cooraclare v Miltown, will throw in at 2.30pm at the same venue.