*Louise Henchy will be lining out in Sunday’s final. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill

Banner Ladies are expecting a strong opposing support for Sunday’s county final as they deal with the favourites tag.

Kilfenora GAA clubman J.J. O’Dea has been involved with the Banner ladies club since his daughter Niamh was six years old. “We had no girls playing football in Kilfenora so it was the Banner or Miltown. I knew Pat Crotty in the Banner and he was the connection. Sitting in the car while training and matches are going on is the worst thing ever so you get involved in doing something if it’s only picking up the water bottles”, said the man who has managed Banner ladies to numerous successes in the past decade.

O’Dea’s backroom team includes well known Galway camogie player Orla Kilkenny who teaches in Kilrush and lives in Ennis, Martin Nolan and Dorothy Meeneghan.

“This team won a few Féile titles which resulted in us travelling to Derry and Tyrone for the national finals. They have come up through the ranks. There are new girls coming into the squad all the time,” he noted.

He was critical of both the camogie and ladies football finals taking place on the one weekend. “It’s a killer on players who play both camogie and ladies football who are expected to play games on Saturday and Sunday most weeks. A number of the girls who will be involved in the ladies football finals on Sunday are facing camogie deciders on Saturday”.

The Banner boss is adamant that he is “not thinking about anything other that Sunday’s final. We got caught two years ago and we were hurt over that. It will be a different game this year. When we met in the group match it was only cat and mouse stuff. They (Kilmihil) will be up for this. County finals are not easily won. You could be the better team but it’s not easy to win. We saw that with the intermediate football final last Saturday. To win you have to win the 50/50 challenges. Football is still a simple game, put the ball over the bar. Nowadays they have laptops and all that stuff but it’s all about who puts the ball over the bar at the end of the day”.

Heading into the final he is concerned about the fitness of his daughter Niamh O’Dea. “I can’t see her being able to play. She broke a bone in her ankle and also did ligament damage. She only got the boot off last week”.

“A lot of the girls have stepped up to the mark this year such as Aoibheann Malone. Look, they are a great bunch. They listen and they take things on board. It concerns me that they are being made raging hot favourites. Human nature being what it is, everyone in the county will be hoping that we are beaten. There will be a big crowd which will benefit Kilmihil”. He also said that if the pick up was allowed in the men’s game it would speed up the game a lot.

Emma O’Driscoll has been part of all of the Banner ladies senior championship successes and this year she captains the side from the goalkeeper’s position. “It’s a great honour to have been chosen as team captain and it’s an honour that a number of players have had over the years”, she told The Clare Echo.

Asked where the hunger comes from each year she said “it comes from the group of players that we play with and every year we get an injection of youth and that brings a new energy to the group. When you are at the top you are there to be knocked and we know that we can’t take anything for granted and you never know whata will happen. The core group has been there for a long time and that stability with the injection of fresh players every year is a good formula”.

While she accepts that the Banner ladies carry the favourites tag she stressed that “Kilmihil have a superb panel of players, they have a wealth of talent and we can’t take anything for granted. We will have to perform as best we can. We know how hard Kilmihil have been working and they know what it feels like to win. They have had a taste of it. When they beat us two years ago they had all their home work done. We have to do what we have been doing all along. We have had some very good wins and we are looking to continue doing that”.

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Subscribe for just €3 per month

If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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