Drom forewarned for Munster semi-final re-match
DROM & INCH v DE LA SALLE
Sunday, 19th November
Throw-in @ 1.30pm (E.T.)
Referee: Andy Larkin (Cork)
By Thomas Conway
Here we go again! Time for another ride on the Drom & Inch rollercoaster.
County title in the bag, the five-in-a-row proudly sealed, their legacy written - but not yet completed. Far from it in fact. This Drom side is on the verge of immortality - they’ve crafted their own identity, with their flamboyant gameplan and pure-camogie philosophy. But they’re still searching for the one title that has eluded them in years past. The big one.
The reason Drom have yet to win an All-Ireland is pretty simple. They’ve come up against better sides, like Sarsfields of Galway, who were just that little bit more mature and finely polished. But on this year’s evidence, Drom have reached a new stage in their development.
They parted ways with Pat Ryan, their former manager, at the end of last year. In his place has stepped Matthew McGrath, a man who has brought his own unique blend of drive and ingenuity to the set-up. Ryan deserves to be lauded. He laid the foundations. But there is a sense that maybe, just maybe, McGrath can take them one step further.
The quest for All-Ireland supremacy begins this Sunday against De La Salle of Waterford. Drom are the reigning Munster champions and of course the red hot favourites to retain their title, but provincial championships can often prove tricky.
De La Salle can prove tricky, as they demonstrated last year in an epic semi-final battle down in Waterford. McGrath himself is aware of the strengths which De La Salle possess, the assets they have at their disposal. Drom will be tested, but with the aid of home advantage, he’s confident that they can come out on top.
“De La Salle are a team we’re familiar with. We came up against them last year,” he began.
“They were after winning their county final for the first time, and we had to go down to Waterford and played them down there. And it was tight, they pushed us all the way to extra-time, and we only just escaped in the end. So, we’re under no illusions in terms of the massive challenge which we’re facing.
“Waterford camogie is on the up at the moment, it’s in a good place. Beth Carton was obviously named Player of the Year and she’s on this De La Salle team. They also have the likes of Abby Flynn and Keely Corbett-Barry at centre-back. But the fact that we’re playing them at home should be a slight comfort. It won’t be the decisive factor, but it will definitely be a help to us I reckon. It’s going to be a massive test but a test that we’re obviously looking forward to.”
Drom & Inch have been pushed to unprecedented limits this year. Their county final win over Clonoulty-Rossmore came down to the finest of margins, but the Drom boss believes that game, in particular, highlighted one of his sides key strengths - their resilience. He praises his players lavishly, lauds their work-ethic and togetherness, but above all he cites their ability to close out games in tight, difficult circumstances. That’s something all the great teams specialise in - finding a way to win when the going gets tough. McGrath reckons this Drom team has that ability, and they illustrated it in that county final.
“Psychologically, it was massive,” McGrath added.
“I suppose in that particular game we started very well, went in at half-time five points up. And probably could have had more on the scoreboard going in as well. But then in the second-half Clonoulty started strongly, they got a foothold in the game and came back at us. And it took everything from a mental point of view just to get over the line. We just about survived their momentum at the end of the game.
“But I think if that had been five or six years ago, the outcome would have been different. We might have wilted during the final stages. But the mental characteristics of this team are just so strong now. We know how to grind out a win in narrow games, in tough circumstances.”
Drom enter this game in pristine condition. There are no looming injury concerns, no potential last-minute withdrawals. They’re in good shape, and McGrath feels they’re also well equipped to cope with the type of weather conditions that characterise the club championships at this time of year. Winter camogie is a very different game to what takes place during the summer months. It requires grit, and lots of it. But McGrath firmly believes his girls have it in them. They believe it themselves too, believe they can beat De La Salle and retain Munster, and perhaps go a step further this time around.
“To be fair to our girls, we do have the ability to play both types of game, depending on whether it’s winter or summer,” added the Drom boss.
“But those girls will die for each other out there. There’s a real bond that has developed between them over the past couple of years, a never-say-die attitude. And that has been really obvious towards the end of games this season. The players back each other to get over the line, and that’s why we’ve been finishing games so strongly.”