Clare’s elusive quest to regain their senior ladies football status enters a ninth year this Sunday when making their competitive bow in the National League away to Sligo in Curry GAA (2pm).
Understandably contrasting priorities between competitions in 2022 saw the Banner relegated Division 3 of the National Ladies Football League for the first time in 12 years before being agonisingly edged out by Laois after extra-time in the All-Ireland Intermediate Championship Semi-Final last July.
It has been a bitter pill to swallow, particularly as Laois went on to eventually secure the Mary Quinn Memorial Cup in Croke Park. However, backed by a new management team under Wayne Freeman and a lot of fresh faces amidst his 37 player squad, that trauma has been firmly placed in the rearview mirror as Clare look to rebuild and re-arm for another summer assault.
Even the sizeable absence of the talismanic figures of Niamh O’Dea and Laurie Ryan from the League panel is offset by Freeman’s need to uncover new talent and no better place than Division 3 to conduct that reconstruction work.
Freeman, who as Louth manager orchestrated a famous All-Ireland Championship victory over Clare in Cusack Park last June, is joined on his backroom team by fellow Kildare natives Brian Willis and Lee Hunt who have forged a strong managerial partnership over the past six years.
Having applied for the position himself, Freeman is acutely aware of Clare’s potential and is determined to turn that latent promise into tangible silverware.
“I’m definitely more optimistic now than before I arrived here first.” Admits Freeman. “We’ve done two and half months training, predominantly in the gym, since the trial period and it has been going really well.
“We have a great mix of youth and experience in the squad. There will be plenty of girls making their adult breakthrough as well as a few players have come back into the set-up which have really boosted the squad.
“Caoimhe [Harvey] our captain is just sensational so it’s super news for us that she decided to come back so soon after having her first baby.
“Orla Devitt too is in college up in Belfast but is committing to us for the year in whatever capacity she can. So there’s a lot of positivity around the group and there’s a great bond there so we’re really happy with the way it’s going and are looking forward to finally getting going this Sunday.”
Clare Ladies Football Panel: Caoimhe Harvey (West Clare Gaels); Cliodhna Blake (Doonbeg), Lyndsey Clarke (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield), Sinead Considine (Liscannor), Lauren Conway (Doonbeg), Aoife Corey (Éire Óg), Orla Devitt (Éire Óg), Laura Griffey (Burren Gaels), Joanna Doohan (Kilmurry Ibrickane), Rebecca Doohan (Kilmurry Ibrickane), Megan Downes (Cooraclare), Lauren Griffin (Fergus Rovers), Louise Griffin (Fergus Rovers), Grainne Harvey (West Clare Gaels), Shauna Harvey (West Clare Gaels), Emma Healy (Burren Gaels), Emer Hynes (Clooney-Quin), Aine Keane (Miltown Malbay), Eimear Keane (Miltown Malbay), Amy Lenihan (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield), Roisin Looney (Cooraclare), Fidelma Marrinan (West Clare Gaels), Ciara McCarthy (Kilmurry Ibrickane), Caoilinn McCormack (Burren Gaels), Alana McInerney (Éire Óg), Chloe Moloney (Kilmurry Ibrickane), Aisling Morrissey (Cooraclare), Jenna Murphy (Kilrush), Siofra Ní Chonaill (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield), Norah O’Dwyer (Burren Gaels), Shauna O’Gorman (Cooraclare), Sarah Redmond (Éire Óg), Aisling Reidy (St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield), Lizzy Roche (Burren Gaels), Amy Sexton (Kilmurry Ibrickane), Aine Slattery (Fergus Rovers), Rae Wall (Éire Óg)
Management: Wayne Freeman (Manager); Brian Willis (Coach), Lee Hunt (Coach & Analysis), Eoin McMahon (S&C), Diarmuid Tobin (Physio), Edel Conway (Female Liaison Officer)
2023 Lidl Ladies Football League Division 3
Eight teams, round-robin format, with top two contesting the final and bottom team relegated.
Round 1 (Sunday, January 22nd) – Sligo v Clare at Curry GAA, 2pm
Round 2 (Sunday, January 29th) – Clare v Wexford at Shanahan McNamara Park Doonbeg. 2pm
Round 3 (Sunday, February 5th) – Clare v Kildare at Shanahan McNamara Park Doonbeg, 2pm
Round 4 (Sunday, February 19th) – Offaly v Clare at Offaly Venue TBC, 2pm
Round 5 (Sunday, February 26th) – Clare v Down at Cusack Park Ennis, 2pm
Round 6 (Sunday, March 19th) – Clare v Louth at Shanahan McNamara Park Doonbeg, 2pm
Round 7 (Sunday, March 26th) – Longford v Clare at Longford Venue TBC, 2pm
Final (Sunday, April 16th) – 1st Placed Team v 2nd Placed Team