In Kilmallock last Saturday, the Banner led from start to finish, booking their place in the decider for the first time. Facing Kilkenny, it will be the curtain-raiser to the NHL decider in Thurles on Sunday.
Titleholders Cork got to within two points with five minutes left. The Clare of old would have buckled. But not this team. They closed out with points from standout players Niki Kaiser and Chloe Morey. Built around solid defending, wing-back Morey in particular produced a virtuoso performance — her free-taking impeccable.
Winning boss Colm Honan was delighted with Clare’s work ethic.
“They defended as a group. If one girl is beaten, there is another girl coming in and that is the way they work. Individually we don’t have stars but as a group, they are hard to beat. And the goal was a real combination effort. Three different players beat a Cork girl and set up one another. In terms of Chloe and how she strikes the ball, you can see from her frees, they were just fantastic.”
Morey’s brace got Clare off the mark. Upping the tempo, Fiona Lafferty cracked home a fine goal in the 16th minute after linking with Ellen Horgan and Laura McMahon. When Marie O’Neill scored Cork’s first point from play nine minutes later, the Banner were 1-3 to 0-3 ahead. Laura McMahon and Jennifer O’Leary traded points to leave the score, 1-4 to 0-4 at the interval.
Then Morey landed a huge free into the wind to restart. Laura McMahon pointed soon after, leaving the Rebels five behind. However, Katriona Mackey and Orla Cotter reduced the deficit to three points at the three-quarter stage but Kaiser and Morey came to the rescue once again. Cork responded to make it 1-10 to 0-11. Maire McGrath, Niamh O’Dea and Kate Lynch were inspirational though as Morey and Kaiser fired Clare four points clear.
Kilkenny will be another big test. “It is brilliant,” responded Honan. “A big day out for us. It will be an interesting game. They beat us already. They scored four goals on us but we were only beginning to develop as a group. Clare are harder to beat now. Kilkenny are hard to beat too no doubt. But I’m delighted that camogie is getting the slot they deserve (Semple Stadium). It is brilliant for the game. People don’t appreciate how good these players are, and how hard they work. I see it in my own house. I have a young fella (Darach) involved in the county team. I see these girls working every bit as hard. You don’t get to be that good without the work.”
Scorers for Clare: C Morey (0-6, frees), N Kaiser (0-4, three frees), F Lafferty (1-0), L McMahon (0-2).
Scorers for Cork: O Cotter (0-4, two frees, one 45m), J O’Leary (0-3, frees), K Mackey (0-2), M O’Neill and J Casey (0-1 each).
CLARE: D Lynch; R McMahon, M McGrath, C O’Leary; C Morey, N O’Dea, E Considine; K Lynch (Capt), O Duggan; C Hennessy, F Lafferty, D Murphy; N Kaiser, L McMahon, E Horgan.
Subs: C McMahon for C Hennessy (45), L Loughnane for E Horgan (59).
CORK: A Murray; L Treacy, A Geary (Capt), J O’Callaghan; G O’Connor, S Hayes, E O’Sullivan; R Buckley, A Thompson; J White, D Cronin, J O’Leary; M O’Neill, O Cotter, K Mackey.
Subs: B Corkery for M O’Neill (37), K Hickey for D Cronin (39), J Casey for J White (52).
Referee: Ger O’Dowd (Limerick).