BY NIALL SHERRY
Clare next up as Cats seek second win
Littlewoods Ireland Camogie League Division 1 Group 2
Clare vs Kilkenny
Brian Dowling will take his panel to Clare for their second round Littlewoods Ireland Camogie League fixture on Sunday as he looks to make it back-to-back wins for the Senior Ladies.
Having seen off the spirited challenge of the Treaty County in Callan earlier this month, Dowling will be hoping to further improvement from his squad as they seek to continue the defence of their league title.
Standing in the Marble County’s way will be the Banner, under the joint stewardship of Conor Dolan and John Carmody. For the first time since Clare’s arrival into senior camogie in 2009, the adult panels have merged their coaching and training resources to form a twin-pronged approach the season.
Joint senior captain, Clare Hehir in her second year leading the Banner seniors has spoken highly of the dual approach being taken by the camogie hierarchy and believes the large numbers at training coupled with new voices in the coaching set-up, can only enhance the players development.
Hehir will have to do without her co-captain Niamh O’Dea, who will miss the entire league campaign due to a broken wrist, but her absence will present opportunities for others within the panel. Speaking to local media ahead of her county’s league campaign, the captain knows that the depth is there and that the squad will need to be ready.”
“The intensity of training is unbelievable, the hits are going in and training at the weekend, you’d definitely know that the first round of the league is coming up this weekend. And that’s what is needed, for the junior players to push the seniors on and who knows you might even see them lining out at senior before the year is out”.
The full-back added: “Injuries can come at any time of year but they do give the opportunity for other girls to put their hand up and if they want that position badly enough, it will give the management a headache. We’ve two big tests coming up with Cork and Kilkenny both coming to Clare in the space of a week so it’s just about showing what we’ve been working on in training over the past few weeks.”
The Banner’s opening round game with Cork in Ennis, ended in an 8-point defeat, but the Rebel County’s second goal came in injury time and somewhat flattered the Leesiders, who experience probably just saw them home. Clare had decent performances from captain Hehir, along with the half-back line in front of her and keeper Clarecastle club woman, Doireann Murphy. In the attacking third, Truagh-Clonlara duo, Aine O’Loughlin and Eimear Kelly looked lively throughout.
Like all recent sports action, the weather elements have played a huge part in the quality of produce served up across the Island.
The most talked about action from Clare’s defeat to Cork was probably the red cards shown to Cork mentor Davy Fitzgerald and the home sides Conor Dolan in the closing stages of the game.
Sixmilebridge’s Chloe Morey is a very talented camog, and will be well known to the Cats players. Morey was one of the Banner’s top scorers last season, and will hope to trouble the Kilkenny defence this weekend. Clare should also be boosted with the return of the Scariff Ogonnelloe contingent, following their All-Ireland Senior Club Championship Semi-Final defeat to Oulart the Ballagh in Clonmel recently.
While Clare opened their league campaign with that defeat to Cork, Kilkenny picked up maximum points in Callan with an 8-point win over Limerick in Callan. The reigning league champions were out through their paces by the Treaty County, but had a little too much class for the visitors. Last season’s shining light, Katie Nolan was very impressive and finished with a personal tally of 1-8, including five scores from the placed ball and an exquisitely taken goal in the opening period. The St Martins attacking star is certainly on an upward trajectory, and can have another productive season with the stripey women.
Keeping Katie company in the scoring stakes was Tullaroan’s Miriam Walsh. The powerful forward notched 0-4 in Callan and looks hungry to help get her county back to the form which saw them claim the All-Ireland crown in December 2020. Not only a scorer, Miriam is vital at linking the play for the Cats attack and also assisted in other scores in the opening round victory over John Lillis’s side.
Brian Dowling’s team had something like eight different scorers weighing in last time out, and that will have pleased the O’Loughlin’s club man, as he looks to spark that fuse that saw them triumph in 2020. Katie Power, who was introduced from the bench against Limerick, will be pushing for a starting berth against the Banner, and like the Kilkenny Gaels, her manager will be hoping our ‘special K’ stays fit for the season ahead.
Also catching the eye in Callan was James Stephens Niamh Deely and Young Irelands duo and sisters, Steffi & Tiffi Fitzgerald. Incidentally, all three were recently named on the CCAO Third Level Camogie All-Star team along with Dicksboro’s Ciara O’Shea and Jane Cass. Sarah Crowley also lined out for the seniors, following a cracking intermediate campaign last season. The Kilkenny boss has also welcomed Julianne Malone back to the panel, following a stint down under. The Mullinavat camog made her senior debut for the Cats back in March 2016, and Dowling will be hoping that Malone’s experience will add a new dimension to his side.
This weekend’s encounter with Clare will give the Cats bainisteoir a chance to cast his eye over his squad ahead of the next match with Cork, who defeated Kilkenny is last season’s All-Ireland semi-final. Beating Clare will set the stripey women up nicely for the Rebels a fortnight later.
>> SHERRY SAYS………..
A trip to Clare is a good test for Brian Dowling’s panel at this early stage of the season. It is quite possible conditions will once again be difficult, and this can sometimes be a great ‘leveler’.
The camogs appear to have retained the vast majority of last year’s panel, and this will hopefully help the panel gel quickly as the league campaign develops. Sarah Crowley & Tiffi Fitzgerald have stepped up from John Scott’s intermediate side and will be keen to cement their places in the senior squad.
Tiffi’s performances for NUIG in the higher education tournaments, have certainly caught the eye, and ended up with both herself and sister Steffi (DCU) being named in the CCAO Third Level Camogie All-Star team.
Hopefully this weekend will see St Martins Katie Nolan cause havoc in the Clare defence and allow both her and the attacking unit to run up a good score ahead of a trip to face the Rebel County. First we’ll take Clare, then we can conquer Cork.