Banner Ladies 3-8 Kilmihil 3-7(2009 Clare Senior League)

Date: 17 May 2009
Time: 2.00pm
Venue: Coolmeen GAA Grounds
Credit to both teams for serving up a classic match in terrible weather conditions in Coolmeen. Though played in a continuous downpour this game had everything as both teams battled earnestly to gain a place in this year's senior league final.

So even were both sides that at the end of regulation play they were deadlocked at 2-6 apiece. Both sides were happy to walk away and return another day given the conditions but the competition rules stated that extra time had to be played so both teams had to give it their all for a further two ten minute periods.

The Banner Ladies started the game brightly and dominated the early exchanges but failed to register a score and indeed it was Ailish Considine who opened the scoring for Kilmihil with a seventh minute pointed free. Despite the torrential rain the game flowed freely from one end of the field to the other and there was some fantastic passages of play and also some remarkable high fielding despite the greasy ball. Niamh Keane levelled affairs on ten minutes with a good point from play only for Kilmihil to regain the lead two minutes later with a Joan O'Halloran point.

Next up was an incredible passage of play which yielded three goals in as many minutes. Firstly a sweeping Kilmihil move led to Denise O'Halloran being put in on goal - a despairation tackle by Laurie Ryan and goalkeeper Emma O'Driscoll led to the Kilmihil forward being upended in the large square and referee Michael Bohannon immediately pointed to the penalty spot. Ailsih Considine confidently dispatched the spot kick low and hard to the right corner of the net.

Kilmihil celebrated a four point lead but their joy was short lived when almost from the kickout the town team swept down the field and Louise Henchy put Niamh O'Dea through for an excellent goal. Less than a minute later O'Dea struck for a second Banner Ladies goal to leave the score 2-1 to 1-2 after twenty minutes. Kilmihil battled bravely after this double setback and closed the half with points from sisters Eimear and Ailish Considine to leave the teams level at the break 2-1 to 1-4.

Kilmihil were again first out of the blocks in the second half with two quick points from Ailish Considine. A Niamh O'Dea free on thirty five minutes pulled one back for the Banner Ladies and newly introduced substitute Shonagh Enright levelled affairs on the forty minute mark. County star Louise Henchy then kicked the town side in front with an excellent score from play on forty five minutes but the Ennis side were rattled five minutes later when Úna Downes took advantage of a rare moment of confusion in the Banner Ladies defence to find the net and give Kilmihil a two point advantage with time running out.

True to their pedigree as reigning county league champions the Banner Ladies threw everything at the reigning All Ireland junior champions in the final frantic minutes. Niamh O'Dea narrowed the gap to a single point with two minutes remaining and a minute later Shonagh Enright hit the equalizer. Shortly later Michael Bohannon signalled full time and both teams were out on their feet from exhaustion and expected to head for the showers and retun another day to settle affairs. All present would gladly have accepted this option but the competition rules dictated otherwise and extra-time was signalled.

The Banner Ladies dominated the first period of extra time and Jane Kennedy put them in front for the first time since the fifty second minute with an opportunistic goal three minutes in. Niamh O'Dea followed up with a point two minutes later to leave the score 3-7 to 2-6 in the Banner Ladies favour following the first period of extra time.

Katie Cahill added another point for the eventual winners shortly after the resumption of play and with a five point advantage the Ennis side looked home and hosed. Kilmihil had other ideas however and showed just why they won the All Ireland junior title last year as they mounted a formidable comeback.

Ailish Considine blasted a twenty metre free to the roof of the Banner Ladies net on seventy five minutes and a minute later she rifled over a point to leave just the minimum between the teams again. In a frenetic final few minutes Kilmihil laid siege to the Banner Ladies goal and had a shot rebound off the crossbar with a little under a minute remaining. The Ennis side held out however for the narrowest 3-8 to 3-7 of wins.

Excellent for the winners were Laurie Ryan, Aoife Martin and Michelle Delaney in defence while up front Niamh Keane and Niamh O'Dea stood out. Substitutes Katie Cahill and Shonagh Enright also did well on their introduction while captain Sonya Maher worked hard throughout.

For Kilmihil Una Downes and the Considine sisters Eimear and Ailish had great games. However all the players in both sides deserve immense credit for serving up such an enthralling game in terrible weather conditions. A mention also to Coolmeen GAA Club for having such an excellent playing surface available in spite of the huge ampunt of rain that flooded the county over the weekend.

Referee Michael Bohannon refereed the game very sensibly and made suitable allowance for the prevailing underfoot conditions.

The Banner Ladies will now play West Clare Gaels in a repeat of last year's league final. The Gaels overcame Cooraclare by 1-12 to 0-6 in the other semi-final played in Kilmihil.

Scorers:
Banner Ladies: Niamh O'Dea 2-3, Jane Kennedy 1-0, Shonagh Enright 0-2, Niamh Keane, Louise Henchy and Katie Cahill 0-1 each.

Kilmihil: Ailish Considine 2-5, Una Downes 1-0, Eimear Considine and Joan O'Halloran 0-1 each.