Inagh (Clare) 5-4 Tara (London) 2-4
at Donoughmore, Ashbourne, Co. Meath
By Eoin Brennan
The romance and prestige of the All-Ireland Club Championships hit home for Inagh on Sunday as they became the first ever Clare camogie side to claim a national title. That achievement in itself deservedly puts Inagh on a pedistal of their own but the real satisfaction of the victory is that this was an immense local effort transferred to a national stage where the parish of Inagh, Kilnamona and Cloonanaha combined to reach the pinnacle.
In what was a whirlwind six week period, Inagh captured three different crowns, with sheer momentum, hard work and a never-say-die attitude catapulting them from the county final through the provincial and All-Ireland series culminating in Sunday’s unprecedented success.
What seemed like romance to Inagh on Sunday could be more aptly summised as an unrequieted love affair in previous campaigns as Newmarket-on-Fergus, Kilmaley and Corofin all fell at the final hurdle. However, the difference on Sunday was that Inagh, bolstered by their near exit in the semi-final, appeared a side that refused to be beaten and were willing to leave everything on the field in the pursuit of that goal.
Of course, every final needs leaders and while this was a team effort of tireless endeavour, two players must be singled out for special mention. Centre-back Christina Glynn belied her mere 17 years to produce one of the most mature displays ever seen by a Clare player in a national final. She was seemingly everywhere over the hour, comfortable in sweeping up at the back as she was marauding forward to set up attacks while the undoubted player of the game was All-Star nominee Fiona Lafferty who was at the heart of all things positive for Inagh. In all, she was instrumental in all but one of Inagh’s scores, grabbing 1-4 herself and through her incessant movement and incisive runs, Tara were simply not able to deal with her all afternoon.
It wasn’t as if the opposition were substandard either as London champions Tara, likely aided by vast Irish emigration, had all the appearance of an inter-county or national side, with players from over ten different counties making up the team.
Tara had a romantic angle of their own as the three-in-a-row London champions were bidding to complete their 25th anniversary with an All-Ireland in what was a London representative’s first ever appearance in an national club decider.
And they couldn’t have been handed a better platform to build on either after Grace Hamilton batted to the net for Tara in the opening minute of the game to stun the Clare champions. However, scorewise at least, that was as good as it got for the three-in-a-row London champions despite the best efforts of Bid Grennan and Angela Kenneally who were their standout performers on the day.
Instead, wind-assisted Inagh, led inspirationally by Lafferty, would keep their opponents scoreless for the remainder of the half while tacking on 1-3 themselves. The dual star grabbed the three points while she also set up the goal for Emily Lynch in the nineth minute when her delivery from halfway went over the top of the full-back line with the onrushing corner-forward putting the finishing touches from close range.
Inagh had successfully bounced back from three points down to lead by the same amount at 1-3 to 1-0 at the interval but in truth, it should have been a more convincing advantage after hitting six wides in the opening half while also seeing four goal chances repelled by a stubborn Tara rearguard.
Playing deep as a sweeper, Kilkenny native Angela Kenneally was to the fore for Tara in frustrating the Banner outfit and on the turnover, was just as instrumental back in the forward line despite her side falling six points behind after Fiona Lafferty grabbed a 39th minute goal. This time Patricia O’Loughlin picked up a break around halfway before finding Lafferty to pull to the net via the stick of goalkeeper Niamh Dolan.
It should have made things more comfortable for Inagh but instead, in what was their best period of the game, Tara responded with four successive points in a seventh minute purple patch, two from Kenneally and two from their top scorer Denise Gilligan. Inagh couldn’t have grumbled had one or two of those efforts ended up below the crossbar either as Tara began to find their rhythm and had the deficit back to just two.
However, they were to be sucker-punched, only seconds after their fourth point when a Lafferty free from 45 metres broke for Patricia O’Loughlin to finish to the net for the Clare side and still reeling from that blow, conceded two more in the next seven minutes that ultimately sealed their fate.
The first came in the 53rd minute when Helen Hehir received a pass from Emily Lynch to cut in from the right and beat Dolan at the near post. And only two minutes later, a flowing move involving Glynn and Lafferty set up Hehir once more but her rasping shot crashed off the crossbar to where Tara Rynne controlled majestically before sending it back goalwards.
With that, it was simply a matter of counting down the clock for Inagh while still mindful of what they themselves did to Four Roads in the All-Ireland semi-final with an injury-time raid. Tara to their credit did fight admirably to the end but with a mountain to climb, even an injury-time Denise Gilligan goal from distance couldn’t halt Inagh’s charge to the title to cap off the perfect championship year.
It seems romantic Ireland isn’t dead and gone after all.
Inagh: Brid McCarthy, Gillian Lafferty, Siobhan Lafferty, Jennifer Griffin, Noelle Arthur, Christina Glynn, Patricia McCarthy, Sinead O’Loughlin (Capt.), Rose-Ann O’Loughlin, Sharon Rynne, Fiona Lafferty (1-4 3f), Patricia O’Loughlin (1-0), Emily Lynch (1-0), Helen Hehir (1-0), Tara Rynne (1-0)
Tara: Niamh Dolan, Niamh Keating, Ann Gleeson, Sheila Fernandes, Catherine Higgins, Bid Grennan, Karen Fitzpatrick, Meabh Brennan, Rosie Cusack, Joanne Hamilton, Helen Murphy, Yvonne Donnelly, Angela Kenneally (0-2), Denise Gilligan (Capt.) (1-2, 1-1f), Grace Hamilton (1-0)
Subs Siobhan Convery for J. Hamilton (23 mins), Joni Traynor for Fitzpatrick (46 mins), Donna Gallery for G. Hamilton (56 mins), Susanna Gill for Fernandes (56 mins)
Player of the Game Fiona Lafferty (Inagh)
Referee Donal Ryan (Dublin)