*PHOTOGRAPH: Banner Ladies Niamh O’Dea with Ballymacarbry’s Maeve Ryan. Burren Eye Photography
Banner Ladies’ decade long bid to reclaim the Munster Senior Club honours will have to wait at least another year after being lowered in this year’s final by roll of honour leaders Ballymacarbry in Mallow on Sunday afternoon.
Banner Ladies 1-9
Having finally broken Mounreabbey’s provincial strangehold, Ballymac and the Banner’s wrestle for supremacy to succeed the Cork superpowers both went the Waterford side’s way as an 0-8 to 0-5 final struggle twelve months ago made way for a much more convincing victory this time around.
It was convincing on paper at least but not necessarily in terms of possession or chances created as while the excellent Brid McMaugh powered through for seven points from play for the defending champions, Ballymac were equally grateful to goalkeeper Lauren Fitzpatrick who once again proved a major source of frustration for the Clare champions with three superb second half stops.
Had any of the three or indeed a sumptuous lobbed effort from Grainne Nolan that just cleared the crossbar managed to beat the Tipperary native, the second half narrative might have been much different. However as it was, Ballymacarbry proved much more clinical in front of the posts as a brace of Clare Walsh goals entering the final quarter effectively put paid to the Banner’s hopes of overturning the leaders, despite a late consolation goal for substitute Grainne Burke.
Niamh O’Dea, Nolan, Louise Henchy, Laurie Ryan, Clare Hehir, Louise Woods and Caoimhe Cahill all fought valiantly to try and turn the tide but essentially failed to curb the marauding McMaugh as Ballymacarbry just seemed a little slicker than their Clare opponents.
They were more streetwise too as while Banner Ladies did their utmost to maintain their discipline throughout, the Waterford champions were much more cynical in stopping Banner counter-attacks in order to get players behind the ball. The concession of 23 frees over the hour was an inordinate amount that were punished to the full at any stage by referee Eamon Moran.
Winning the toss, Ballymac opted to take the advantage of a strong wind, with McMaugh central to their running gameplan when kicking four first half points and ensure a 0-7 to 0-4 interval lead.
While the first half failed to yield a single goal chance, in contrast there were seven carved out in the new half, five of which fell the Banner’s way, only to score one of them.
Half-time replacement Burke, Niamh O’Dea and teenager Caoimhe Cahill were all somehow denied by the defiant Fitzpatrick while down the other end, Ballymac created and scored both of their opportunities through full-forward Clare Walsh.
At the two-thirds mark, Louise Woods’ slaloming run teed up Burke to shoot from close range, only for Fitzpatrick to pull off a point blank save.
The goalkeeper was caught stranded from the restart but Grainne Nolan’s lob just inched over the bar with the goal-line empty. The 42-in-a-row Waterford winners did score from a similar intercepted kick-out at the other end as Walsh’s effort for a point dipped into the top corner of the net at 1-11 to 0-6 in the 48th minute.
Banner came roaring back with Niamh O’Dea picking up a rebound in the right corner and cutting inside but her attempt was brilliantly tipped away by Fitzpatrick.
Instead, Walsh scored her second goal in the 54th minute to put ten points between the sides so while Grainne Burke did finally beat Fitzpatrick with a scrambled effort following good work from O’Dea a minute later, Caoimhe Cahill’s subsequent shot was frustratingly parried clear by the resilient Fitzpatrick as Ballymac secured their 16th ever provincial senior crown.
Scorers for Ballymacarbry: Brid McMaugh (0-7); Clare Walsh (2-0); Kellyann Hogan (0-4, 2f); Aileen Wall, Summer Peters (0-1 each)
Scorers for Banner Ladies: Grainne Nolan (0-7, 5f); Grainne Burke (1-0); Aoibhin Ryan, Niamh O’Dea (0-1 each)
1: Lauren Fitzpatrick
2: Gretta Nugent
3: Michelle McGrath
5: Karen McGrath
4: Maeve Ryan
6: Louise Ryan
18: Grace Carrigan
8: Kellyann Hogan
15: Ruby Browne
10: Aileen Wall (Captain)
7: Brid McMaugh
13: Sadhbh Hallinan
11: Summer Peters
14: Clare Walsh
12: Muireann Boyce
9: Aoife Barron for Carrigan (HT); 19: Orla Barron for Boyce (47); 17: Michelle Ryan for Peters (61); 20: Ava Ryan for Walsh (63)
1: Shannen O’Donovan
4: Sinead O’Keeffe
3: Clare Hehir (Captain)
2: Aleisha Malone
5: Laoise Ryan
8: Laurie Ryan
12: Keelin Fitzgerald
6: Louise Henchy
9: Niamh O’Dea
7: Emer Burke
11: Caoimhe Cahill
13: Louise Woods
15: Aoibhin Ryan
14: Niamh Keane
10: Grainne Nolan
20: Grainne Burke for Keane (HT); 19: Caoimhe Ryan for A. Ryan (43)
Referee: Eamon Moran (Kerry)