Camogie championship: Tipp bid for opening day win
Excitement is building across the country for the coming weekend as the resumption of intercounty action nationwide looks set to happen despite the uncertainty of recent weeks.
The Tipperary Camogie team will be amongst the first teams in the county to taste championship action when they welcome Clare to The Ragg at 2pm next Sunday, with Dublin waiting in the wings to make up Group Three; which is the only three team group in the competition.
Expectedly, the challenges of preparing an intercounty team have also hit the Tipp camp this year and Manager and Ballinahinch native, Bill Mullaney, says it has been an unusual build up but that the team has been preparing as well as can be expected given the circumstances.
“We’ve had to deal with it like everyone else,” said Mullaney.
“In all honesty we didn’t think we’d be back at all this year so we’re delighted that we are and we’re just trying to make the best of it.
“It’s been a challenge trying to pull things together with the club championship still going on. We’ve been training as best we can with the girls who were gradually getting knocked out, so we’ve just been trying to keep the girls sharp and getting used to one another again as a group,” he mentioned.
An inconvenient interruption to Tipperary’s league campaign will have caused annoyance throughout the Camogie scene, and indeed management, in the county as the Premier ladies were motoring extremely well and had qualified for the Division One League final for the first time in 11-years and this was frustrating for Mullaney, explaining:
“It was very unfortunate alright,” he bemoaned.
“To play the final would have been fantastic, and we were playing really well but that’s just the way it is.
“Look, it’s hard to know where we are form wise in relation to earlier in the year and with the restrictions we have around training and not having a full panel in the lead up to championship it’s difficult to know.
“But a lot of girls who otherwise mightn’t get noticed have put their hands up in the club championship and that has been pleasing,” he added.
For Mullaney it has been an unwelcomed disruption to his return, after his own health scare last year meant he had to take a step back from the hot seat in the middle of the season, but despite the inconvenience of the year that’s in it, he is refreshed, highly motivated and enjoy being involved again.
“It’s great to be back in it for sure. I think I’m a lot fresher after the break and in a way, it’s been a help in that it’s similar to last year where there’s been that split with new players holding their hands up which otherwise mightn’t have,” he remarked.
With Drom & Inch retaining the Bernie O’Dowd Cup in September, the club championship concluded along expected lines with the Mid Tipp ladies hardly putting a foot wrong, but despite this it was a massively competitive championship, according to Mullaney, and it certainly gave him and his management team food for thought with the senior intercounty on the horizon.
“I think it’s fair to say that the standard amongst the clubs has improved markedly in the last few years and a lot of credit has to go to the individual clubs and managers for working hard to get all the players up to a high level.
“It was great to see so many quality games and it was great to see Clonoulty back in a final again after so many years, so we’ve had a lot to chew on in terms of selection which is a testament to the club scene around the county,” he highlighted.
Players have been added after impressing management during club action with Mairead Eviston capping a brilliant campaign with Drom & Inch to earn a call up, along with an unexpected but exciting inclusion of Cahir and Tipperary ladies football star, Aisling Moloney, who comes onboard to bolster a squad which has also seen the return of Sarah Fryday after her cruciate knee injury earlier this year.
Clare provide the first obstacle for Tipperary in the Ragg on Sunday and with Dublin to come the following week, the Premier ladies will fancy their chances of topping the group and nailing down a semi-final spot over two teams they have a good record over in recent years.
But Mullaney was quick to add that Clare and Dublin will look at the opposition before them with their own rose-tinted glasses on and will fancy their chances of coming through the group too, with a lot of heavy hitters populating the two four-team groups.
Mullaney said: “If we had to choose the group, I think it’s fair to say we would have taken what we have and it represents a great opportunity to progress to the knockout stages.
“But I think I’d imagine both Clare and Dublin would have picked us too so there’ll be two tough matches in it for us and we’ll be hoping we can perform and we hope we can come out of it,” he finished.