'Up for the final' - The Big Interview with Clare's Joanna Doohan

April 06, 2024

Joanna Doohan in action against Sligo

By Daire Walsh  

After gradually coming to grips with the pressures and demands of the inter-county game during the past three years, 2024 has seen Kilmurry Ibrickane’s Joanna Doohan establishing herself as a key figure for the Clare ladies footballers. 

An All-Ireland Minor ‘C’ Football Championship winner with the Banner County back in 2022, Doohan first sampled life in Clare’s adult ranks with substitute appearances against Kerry and Meath in Division 2 of the Lidl National Football League a year earlier. While she did go on to start the occasional game across the two seasons that followed, it wasn’t until this year’s NFL Division 3 campaign that Doohan properly nailed down a starting spot for her native county. 

With team captain Caoimhe Harvey relocated to a more advanced position, a place opened up at centre half-back in the Banner side. Although she had mainly been used as either a midfielder or a half-forward previously, Doohan has made the number six jersey her own throughout this year's third-tier. 

She is set to fulfil this pivotal defensive role at Grant Heating St Brendan’s Park in Birr later today as Clare face off against Roscommon in a Lidl NFL Division 3 decider (throw-in 4pm). 

“I’m delighted and honoured really to be playing in centre-back. It’s big shoes to fill. Caoimhe Harvey was there last year and she was very good for us. Big shoes to fill, but I’m enjoying it. The lads are very encouraging and all the girls are very encouraging as well. I’m really enjoying being part of the starting team this year,” Doohan said of her 2024 to date. 

Whereas Clare entered last year’s Division 3 showpiece against Kildare at Parnell Park needing a win in order to gain promotion to the second-tier of the NFL, a new structure ensures that both themselves and Roscommon are already assured of spots in next season’s Division 2 before their meeting in Offaly this afternoon. 

Nevertheless, having lost out to the Lilywhites by a single point in both the NFL Division 3 and TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate Football Championship finals in 2023, Doohan and her Banner colleagues have their sights set on acquiring national silverware in the current year. 

Roscommon have ambitions of their own, of course, and enjoyed an unbeaten march towards today’s final. This includes a 1-7 to 1-7 draw with Clare at Cusack Park in Ennis on February 11, when their Munster counterparts recovered from a seven-point interval deficit to earn a share of the spoils. 

“They’re a tough side. They’re a very athletic team and they were up for it as well in that February game. They were ahead by a good bit in the first half and we had a bit of a comeback in the second half. 

“I suppose a lot of us were disappointed with a draw as well, because we knew we were well capable of playing better or playing to more of our ability. Hopefully that will show up in Birr. We know we are well capable of our abilities and we just have to show that on the day.” 

With league promotion already in the bag regardless of today’s result, Clare will also hope that 2024 sees them earning an upgrade to next year’s TG4 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship. 

In addition to finding new roles for Doohan and Harvey in a bid to give his side an extra edge this year, Clare manager Wayne Freeman has been able to call upon two players who had represented the county with considerable distinction in the past. 

Following a six-year absence as she pursued a successful career in Australian Rules Football, winning two AFLW Premiership titles with Adelaide Crows, Ailish Considine returned to the Banner fold in advance of this season’s NFL campaign. 

After lining out for London last year, her namesake Roisin Considine has also returned to the Clare set-up in 2024 — despite still being registered with the Tir Chonaill Gaels club in the English capital. 

“It’s my first year playing with Ailish. I know she had a massive career with Clare before she left. I think it was about six years ago, so I never really crossed paths with her for Clare. She’s a great person to come into the squad, great experience. She does bring that professionalism. She’s great with encouragement to the younger girls," Doohan said. 

“Roisin Considine, all you can do is thank her for the commitment she does. Because she’s flying over and back just to come train and play matches with us. It shows her dedication really and she’s a great asset as well.” 

In the same year (2021) that Doohan made her senior debut for Clare, her older sister Rebecca did likewise. They are part of a sizeable Kilmurry Ibrickane contingent within the Banner squad that also comprises Chloe Moloney (albeit she has encountered injury problems this year), Amy Sexton, Ciara McCarthy and Ciara Hickey. 

Whilst she isn’t currently a member of the Clare panel, Doohan has also been playing alongside another of her sisters, Jessica, in a different sport. Though Gaelic football very much remains her priority, the past few months has seen Joanna taking up Tag rugby with UL Wolves and she has reaped significant benefit from this new pursuit. 

In tandem with Jessica, who has represented Ireland in Tag on the international stage, she was part of a successful UL team at an inaugural Intervarsity tournament that was held in Limerick at the beginning of last month. Yet it is the fun element of the sport — essentially a non-contact form of rugby — that really appeals to Doohan. 

“I actually only started it because of my sister this year. Just for a bit of craic. Football can be very serious at times, but it’s nice to have an outlet as well. A lot of the girls said that they started out with tag and now they’re doing really well in rugby,” Doohan added. 

“I found that my agility has improved a lot in football since I’ve been playing Tag as well, because you always have to be nipping in and out and side-stepping people. I’ve found my agility has actually improved a lot from it. It’s enjoyable as well, so there’s definitely qualities you’d like about it.” 

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