Inagh triumph raises Banner
Breakthrough junior title an 'amazing achievement' for Clare
INAGH'S breakthrough to win the All-Ireland junior title will give camogie in the Banner County a massive shot in the arm, according to experts within and outside of the county.
A second-half goal blitz earned the tiny Clare club a famous 5-4 to 2-4 victory over Tara of London last weekend to finally break the county's losing streak in the grade.
Three other Clare clubs -- Newmarket, Kilmaley and Corofin in 2010 -- had contested camogie's All-Ireland junior final since 2005, but all had come home empty-handed.
But Inagh, led by All Star nominee Fiona Lafferty and 17-year-old centre-back Christina Glynn, finally brought the cup back to the little Clare village where celebrations look set to continue for some time.
And they pulled it off without captain Michelle Wynne, who broke her leg in the county final and had to sit out their entire All-Ireland campaign.
"It's a really amazing achievement for a small club like ours and a huge boost for the game in the county," delighted Inagh secretary Noreen Shannon said yesterday.
The tiny mid-Clare side draws players from Inagh, Kilnamona and Cloonanaha.
Managed by Flann Garvey, Ann Wynne and Noel Hehir, and featuring two of this year's senior camogie All Star nominees in Lafferty and her sister Siobhan, Inagh have made huge progress in recent seasons.
They were a junior club just four years ago and lost the county shield final in 2009, but they won the Clare intermediate championship this season to clinch their senior status for next year and trumped all their previous achievements with this famous All-Ireland final victory.
Yet, a minute into last Sunday's final things did not look good when Grace Hamilton goaled for the Exiles to rock the Banner club's title hopes.
County dual star Fiona Lafferty then led from the front, top-scoring on 1-4 (0-3f) and setting up Emily Lynch's goal after nine minutes to put them back in the driving seat.
Inagh's defence kept Tara scoreless for the remainder of the first half, but they still had it all to do as they only led by three points (1-3 to 1-0) at half-time, struggling to break down the opposition defence where Tara's Kilkenny star Angela Kenneally did a great job as sweeper.
The Clare side then looked on their way to victory when a long delivery from Patricia O'Loughlin saw Lafferty goal after 39 minutes.
Yet the Londoners, led by Kenneally and ex-Galway senior Denise Gilligan, battled back bravely again to cut the deficit to just two points.
Then the Banner girls really hit their stride, scoring a barrage of goals to put them on the road to victory, the first from O'Loughlin and another two in quick succession from Helen Hehir and Tara Rynne.
Even a late Gilligan goal for the Londoners wasn't enough to spoil the Inagh party.
The Clare club had already knocked out Waterford champions An Rinn and then dispensed with Roscommon's defending All-Ireland champions Four Roads, and are now officially the best junior camogie team in the country.