*Aoibheann Malone. Photograph: Gerard O’Neill
Banner Ladies were literally powerless to stop Mourneabbey from completing a third successive victory over the Clare champions in Mallow on Sunday afternoon.
Mourneabbey (Cork) 3-15
Banner Ladies 3-5
Venue: Mallow, Cork
Having just been pipped to Munster glory in the 2014 decider, the Banner have witnessed Mourneabbey’s development path at first hand, with the gap widening in the 2016 final to where the perennial Cork champions currently reign supreme as back-to-back All-Ireland Senior club champions.
Their bid for a seventh consecutive Munster crown certainly began in commanding fashion as their physical superiority was a crucial factor in keeping the Banner at arm’s length throughout.
The Ennis side obstinately made life difficult for their opponents through timely goals but thanks to an ever-impressive display from Doireann O’Sullivan who scored eight points and provided the assist for all three goals, Mourneabbey never wavered from their task.
Captain Emma O’Driscoll made a superb point blank save just before the first water break, a pivotal stop as only seconds later Niamh O’Dea had the ball in the net at the other end to lessen the damage to two at 1-5 to 1-3. Mourneabbey had raced into an early advantage predominantly through O’Sullivan and Laura Fitzgerald’s eighth minute goal against the conditions and would set about rebuilding that advantage with five of the next six points to open up their biggest to date early in the new half at 1-10 to 1-4.
Bounding back off the ropes, Grainne Nolan pounced upon a defensive error from Niamh O’Dea’s free to finish a ground shot to the net and halve the deficit to just three by the 34th minute. However, Mourneabbey’s answer was swift and decisive as from the kick-out, O’Sullivan powered through before offloading to Ellie Jack to grab a goal before an almost identical move, this time with Ciara O’Callaghan the finisher, effectively sealed matters by the two-thirds mark at 3-11 to 2-4.
There was a glimmer of light when Mourneabbey’s robust tackling was punished with the sinbinning of Anna Ryan entering the final ten minutes. However, if anything, Mourneabbey only stretched their advantage before the finish despite the Banner raiding for a late Aoibhin Ryan goal.
Laurie Ryan, Clare Hehir, Aoife Keane, Grainne Nolan, Niamh O’Dea and teenage substitute Caoimhe Cahill all did their utmost to stem the tide over the hour but the Banner won’t be the only side to struggle to halt Mourneabbey’s juggernaut, with chief rivals Ballymaccarbry (Waterford) up next in the last four this weekend.
Mourneabbey: Meath O’Sullivan; Kathryn Coakley, Eimear Meaney, Aisling O’Sullivan; Anna Ryan, Maire O’Callaghan, Emma Coakley; Niamh O’Sullivan, Eimear Harrington (0-1); Ellie Jack (1-2), Doireann O’Sullivan (0-8, 5f), Brid O’Sullivan; Ashling Cronin, Laura Fitzgerald (1-2), Ciara O’Callaghan (1-0)
Subs: Deirdre Cronin for N. O’Sullivan (44), Roisin O’Sullivan for Jack (45), Aoife Walsh for K. Coakley (47), Molly Burke for Ryan (51), Katie O’Toole (0-2) for Fitzgerald (54)
Banner Ladies: Emma O’Driscoll; Sinead O’Keeffe, Clare Hehir, Siobhan McMahon; Laoise Ryan, Laurie Ryan, Eva O’Dea; Sarah Ní Cheallaigh (0-1), Aoife Keane; Shonagh Enright, Grainne Nolan (1-1, 1f), Louise Woods; Aoibheann Malone, Niamh O’Dea (1-2, 1f), Aoibhin Ryan (1-1)
Subs: Caoimhe Cahill for Enright (13), Alannah McNamara for Laurie Ryan (38, inj), Ryan for Ní Cheallaigh (47)
Referee: Seamus Mulvihill (Kerry)