By Daragh Ë Conch·ir
All-Ireland junior club championship final
Inagh (Clare) v Tara (London)
Donaghmore Ashborne, 2.30pm
Referee: Donal Ryan
Not even in their wildest dreams, could anyone involved in Tara Camogie Club have dreamed at the beginning of the year that they would put themselves in a situation where they would be little more than an hour’s worth of playing time away from winning an All-Ireland.
Mind you, the exact same could probably be said of Inagh. Everyone has their dreams, but becoming county champions tends to be as far as people dare to hope for. Maybe a good run in the provincial campaign after that. But to go all the way?
Well, one of these two teams is going to do just that, and whichever manages it, will have pulled off a remarkable achievement. To be fair, just being part of All-Ireland day is something to savour.
It is amazing, given all the possible permutations of who could have reached the final, that there is a very close link between both clubs.
Inagh full-forward, Helen Hehir has been a key factor in their advance. Little did Ann Hehir know, as she cheered her daughter on in every game, that it would be the club she lined out for in the late æ80s and early æ90s that would stand in Helen’s way of ultimate glory.
Inagh are a quality outfit, with strength in every sector. Perhaps their best trait is their determination however, as they have shown incredible reserves of character to get to this point.
They endured an early setback when giving best to Truagh/Clonlara in the Clare intermediate league final but rather than wallow in the disappointment of that reverse, used it as a spur for the remainder of the season.
After coming through the group stages without much fuss, Inagh got their opportunity for revenge in the championship final and made no mistake to win by 2-8 to 0-7. They were 11 points the superior outfit over Waterford champions An Rinn in the Munster final before accounting for Four Roads in a cracking All-Ireland semi-final by two points.
There was real drama in that encounter as Four Roads were leading by four points with 58 minutes of the game elapsed. Inagh’s never-say-die spirit came to the fore one more however, as goals from SinÚad O’Loughlin and Sharon Rynne snatched a victory that songs are likely to be sung about in the future.
Inagh are blessed with plenty of power up through the spine of their team. Siobhan Lafferty, Christine Glynn, SinÚad O’Loughlin, Fiona Lafferty and Helen Hehir have all made vital contributions to the Bannerwomen’s progress during this campaign.
Fiona Lafferty is their scorer-in-chief but proved her versatility when moving from centre-forward to centre-back with excellent results in the semi-final, while Glynn prospered when switched to the 40.
Tara are an experienced outfit with plenty of strength up the middle as well. Denise Gilligan lines out at full-forward and the team captain, who was the two-goal hero as a teenager when Galway won their only All-Ireland senior camogie title in 1996, is the Exile’s scorer-in-chief. If Siobhan Lafferty were to keep Gilligan quiet, it would go a long way to deciding this tie.
Ann Gleeson and Bid Grennan are the defensive anchors for Tara and their battles with Hehir and Fiona Lafferty could be worth the admission price alone.
Certainly, Gleeson, Grennan and Gilligan were central to the Tara cause as they overcame Croydon in the county final (1-13 to 0-3), RuairÝ Ëg of Antrim in the All-Ireland quarter-final (2-9 to 0-11) and Carlow champions Myshall in the semi-final (2-6 to 0-6).
Australian-born Rosie Cusack has formed a hugely effective midfield partnership with MÚabh Brennan. Cusack played for London in Croke Park four years ago, as they lost the All-Ireland junior ladies football football to a Kilkenny team that included current team-mate Angela Kenneally.
As can be expected from a Noresider, Kenneally is gifted with a hurley too, whether operating in the attack or as a defensive sweeper, a role she filled to such outstanding effect against Myshall.
Tara are celebrating the 25th anniversary of their establishment and whatever happens today, they have done justice to the landmark in style. Now that they are in an All-Ireland final though, you can bet that they want to go the whole way and add an exclamation point to a year of unprecedented success for Gaelic games in London.
But then Inagh have the same goal and only one team can walk away with the silverware. With so little between the teams, it seems certain that the resultant fare will be of the highest quality for the travelling supporters.