*Clare captain Caoimhe Harvey will be lining out with West Clare Gaels. Photograph: Burren Eye Photography
On par with waiting for a bus, two have come along at once with adult championships kicking off this weekend in both ladies football and camogie.
Six teams contest the senior ladies football championship with the top four progressing to the semi-final and the bottom team fighting for their survival in the top tier. Winners of the semi-finals will advance to the county final while the defeated semi-finalists will be in action in the senior b decider.
Top of the pile and deserving favourites to retain their crown as county champions are the Banner Ladies who are bidding to a win a tenth senior title in eleven years. Although Niamh Cavanagh and Niamh Keane are not part of their panel this year, the Ennis based outfit will still be able to call on the quality of Niamh O’Dea, Grainne Nolan, Louise Henchy and Louise Woods.
Holding the tag of favourites is of little significance, Banner boss JJ O’Dea stressed, “You can’t pay heed to the favourites tag, when you are favourites you are going to be knocked, you have to deal with it as best you can, every other club and neutral are against us, the favourites tag means nothing, the first round of the championship is very hard to win, it is like a county final and that’s how we will be treating it”.
Kilmihil were the side to deny Banner Ladies a ninth consecutive title back in 2019. They are no longer able to call on the Considine sisters Eimear and Ailish while Newmarket-on-Fergus duo Carol O’Leary and Jenny Kelly have returned to their native club so manager Kevin Callinan rightfully points out that a lot of players have been from their championship winning side in what he now describes as “a very young team”.
Any slippage will be punished with the quick succession of games, Callinan maintained. “We have to take every game on its own, every game is going to be a big game, five games in five weeks in a row, we will have to have everyone on their toes from the start of the campaign right down to the right round robin. Every game is going to be treated like a final and hopefully we’ll still be in the championship when it comes to the round robin”.
Evan Talty was this week reappointed as manager of the Clare intermediate side, he carries this role along with managing his native Kilmurry Ibrickane. With the likes of Chloe Moloney, Ciara McCarthy and Amy Sexton making their mark at county level, the Bricks will certainly be capable of causing an upset or two.
He is looking forward to seeing new players put their hand up for county selection while also seeing how Kilmurry Ibrickane cope at the senior ranks following their intermediate success over St Josephs Miltown last year. “It is a strange one, no more than inter-county, there is a huge gap between senior and intermediate, our main goal is to consolidate senior status by getting a win or two. Kilmurry Ibrickane have been a yo-yo team, we’ve been going up and down”. He viewed their opponents this weekend Kilmihil as consistently “the second best team in Clare”.
With the addition of twelve players from the underage ranks to their panel, Cooraclare captain Ann Marie Callinan rightfully pointed out that they are a very young outfit. The loss through injury of Keeva Corry continues to be a major blow to the Milesians.
West Clare Gaels are fully aware of the task they face as they welcome Banner Ladies to Cross for their championship opener, club secretary Pat Walsh acknowledged, “The name on everyone’s lips is the Banner but there are other teams in the championship, we’d be underdogs but we know what we’re going in to do”.
Crusheen based Kieran Ryan is in his second year over St Josephs Doora/Barefield, the age-profile of the panel was something that surprised him but while optimistic for the club’s future, he stressed the need to retain young players.
Away ties in Quilty and Kilmihil don’t come easy for clubs like Doora/Barefield, Kieran felt. “It is because of the tradition they have, you will see an awful lot of kids at the game, they can’t wait to be the next star in Cooraclare or Kilmurry Ibrickane, we have kids that don’t see a lot of matches because they are going from rugby to soccer to hurling which is great but they may not get the feeling for a tight-knit parish all supporting the one sport but I wouldn’t change what we have because we have well-rounded athletes”.
Nine teams will compete in the intermediate championship across two groups while seven sides will battle it out in the Junior A championship and four teams in the running for Junior B honours. The Intermediate Final will be played as a double header with the Senior Final on November 14th while the Junior Finals will be played on October 24th and October 31st.
Chairman of Clare LGFA, Seán Lenihan noted the positive development of clubs fielding second sides. “We are delighted to see a number of Clubs putting in a second team this year which shows the great work being done at Club level throughout the County to promote and grow interest in playing Ladies Football”.