It was a one point defeat in the end for the Banner county
Kildare and Clare went the full distance on Sunday as the Banner were narrowly beaten in the intermediate All-Ireland final.
Kildare 1-13 to Clare 1-12
By Jackie Cahill at Croke Park
Goalkeeper Mary Hulgraine was the star of the show as Kildare atoned for last year’s TG4 All-Ireland ladies intermediate final defeat by going one better at Croke Park on Sunday afternoon.
The Lilywhites edged out Clare by just a single point to win the Mary Quinn Memorial Cup – despite losing centre back Aishling Savage to the sin bin for ten minutes in the second half.
Hulgraine performed heroics throughout to keep Clare at bay, as the Banner County were denied a first intermediate crown since 2009.
Kildare will return to the senior grade next year and will do so on the back of a first All-Ireland win since the junior success back in 2004.
It’s a first-ever intermediate crown for Kildare and they had to battle for it after Clare came from seven points down in the first half to draw level at the break.
Kildare looked winners all over as they opened up a 1-7 to 0-3 lead in the first half but Clare hit 1-4 without reply to get level by half-time.
Image: Clare's Ailish Constidine celebrates scoring a goal.
Noelle Earley’s goal in the seventh minute, set up by Eadaoin Connolly, was a crucial score for Kildare and with Hulgraine keeping the Banner at bay at the other end, Alan Barry’s charges were in control.
But Clare finally breached Hulgraine’s goal in the 28th minute when star forward Niamh O’Dea supplied Ailish Considine for a fine goal.
That was the final score of the half, as the sides went in level at 1-7 apiece, but Clare were presented with a glorious chance to move ahead three minutes into the second half.
Gráinne Nolan was fouled and the corner forward assumed penalty responsibilities herself.
But Nolan failed to connect as she would have liked and Hulgraine got down to her left, executing a decent save.
That was a pivotal moment as Kildare registered the next three scores – inspirational captain Aisling Holton, Maria Moolick and Ellen Dowling (free) on target.
But after Kildare lost Savage to the sin-bin, Clare worked their way back and were level at 1-11 each down the home straight.
Image: Clare's Caoimhe Harvey dejected after the game
Kildare responded with points from Holton and sub Molly Price (free) – as O’Dea’s fifth point, a free in stoppage time, proved mere consolation as time ran out for the Munster champions.
Teams & scorers:
Scorers for Kildare: N Earley 1-1, R Byrne (1f) & E Dowling (3f) 0-3 each, A Holton & M Moolick 0-2 each, E Connolly & M Price (f) 0-1 each.
Scorers for Clare: N O’Dea 0-5 (1f), A Considine 1-1, G Nolan 0-4f, S Bohannon & C Hickey 0-1 each.
Kildare: M Hulgraine; T Duggan, P Keatley, R Cribbin; S Kendrick, A Savage, M Nolan; E Burke, A Holton; R Byrne, M Moolick, E Connolly; M McKenna, N Earley, E Dowling.
Subs: R Reidy for Keatley (h.t.), E Fogarty for Byrne (38), M Price for McKenna (50), R Corrigan for Savage (52), G Lyons for Connolly (55).
Clare: E O’Driscoll; K McCormack, L Ryan, S Harvey; R Considine, E O’Gorman, G Harvey; L Henchy, B Mahon; S Bohannon, A Considine, N Keane; C Hickey, N O’Dea, G Nolan.
Subs: C Harvey for G Harvey (h.t.), A Keane for Hickey (42). Referee: K Delahunty (Tipperary).