*Photograph: Burren Eye Photography
It’s as you were for a new decade, just as it was in 2010 at the same venue when familiar foes Banner Ladies and West Clare Gaels locked horns.
Banner Ladies v West Clare Gaels @ Shanahan McNamara Park Doonbeg, Sunday 4.30pm
While the Ennis side have collected the previous two titles at the Gaels’ expense, the first senior titles in the Banner’s short history, the roles were finally reversed when the West Clare side exacted full revenge by 4-10 to 1-14 to also carve their names into the Clare Ladies Senior Roll of Honour.
The backlash would be considerable though as the Banner went on to annex the next eight crowns including three more over the Gaels in 2011, ’14 and ’15 before being unceremoniously halted by Kilmihil last year who had their own three final grievances.
And that’s the key to Sunday’s rematch as while in 2010, West Clare Gaels provided an ambush to blitz their opponents into submission, Kilmihil’s historic feat last October has only poked the bear as the Banner Ladies are doubly determined to make amends and won’t even entertain a shred of complacency on their quest to reclaim an 11th title in 13 seasons.
Indeed, there are shades of Inagh-Kilnamona’s senior camogie redemption last weekend about the Banner’s ravenous mission and not just because of dual roles for Clare Hehir, Sinead Power and the Ryan sisters Aoibhin and Laoise.
Championship defeats while rare, clearly cut deep and consequently a refocused Banner will understandably enter as strong favourites.
Therefore, with the element of surprise appearing futile, West Clare Gaels will have to match the Banner’s hunger and work-rate and much like 2010, not just set out to contain their opponents but go for the jugular of goals.
The Harvey sisters Ciara, Grainne, Caoimhe and Shauna are strategically positioned throughout the team to utilise all their experience while Fidelma Marrinan is a potential match-winner in her own right.
But while passing tests against Cuil Gaels, St Joseph’s Doora/Barefield and a momentum-filled Cooraclare, West Clare Gaels did have one glaring blip when comprehensively defeat by Sunday’s opponents in their group decider last month.
And therefore, bearing in mind that result, the vast experience of Niamh O’Dea, Niamh Keane, Louise Henchy, Louise Woods, Laurie Ryan, Emma O’Driscoll and captain Grainne Nolan allied to their renewed hunger, it’s difficult to look past the Banner Ladies commencing the new decade with a return to the summit.
Verdict: Banner Ladies