BY NIALL SHERRY
Knock-out time as cats seek to advance
Brian Dowling and his team make the long trip to Páirc Uí Chaoimh in Cork tomorrow for the quarter-final clash with Wexford (Throw-in 5pm).
For those without tickets, the game will be live on RTE2 from 4.30pm.
Both teams came through the group stages in second spot, ensuring they would go into the draw with Kilkenny, Waterford and unlucky round-robin winners, Tipperary, for the last six clashes. The winners from the two ties will go into the draw with Cork and Galway to determine the semi-final line-up.
It has been far from plain sailing for the cats in the championship this year, as opponents have raised their game when facing the defending champions, something that all-star defender Claire Phelan alluded to in her interview with the Kilkenny Observer earlier this week.
Dowling’s team began their campaign in Sixmilebridge against the Banner, and emerged winners on a score line of 0-22 to 0-16, but had to battle hard to earn the opening day victory, with Windgap’s Denise Gaule top scoring with ten points. The second group game saw the team hit the road again, this time to TEG Cusack Park in Mullingar, where they faced-off against Darren McCormack’s Westmeath.
This was probably expected to be the easiest of the round-robin games, but in true sporting fashion, the Lake County hadn’t read the script and put in an incredible display and led up until the second-half water break, when a superb Miriam Walsh goal kick-started the cats and pushed them on to record a nine-point victory, 2-17 to 1-11.
Kilkenny welcomed last year’s beaten finalists, Galway to John Locke Park, Callan for the stand-out tie of the group stages. In a titanic battle, reminiscent of December’s decider at Croke Park, Galway player for almost 45 minutes with fourteen player and outfought their rivals to secure a one-point win, and in doing so, secure a semi-final berth and send the cats into a quarter-final shoot-out with the Slaneysiders.
In the aftermath of the defeat, manager Dowling spoke of his disappointment at seeing his side outfought by the tribeswomen. I expect his side will not be second best in terms of desire or hunger for the remaining part of the season.
Wexford come into tomorrow’s game as massive underdogs, but no doubt, Kevin Tattan will have his team primed for their toughest assignment of the season so far. Wexford will point to the cats difficult outing in Mullingar, when Westmeath were the better side for large chunks of the game, before the cats pushed on after the second water break.
Having beaten Westmeath with ease in the league earlier this year, Tattan will know his charges are at a level above Darren McCormack’s side, and he will hope that this translates on the Cork turf tomorrow.
At the time of writing, neither manager has declared their starting XV, but both will have a useful array of talent to choose from.
In Katrina Parrock, Wexford have a player who has a keen eye for goal, and the four-time All-Ireland winner will pose a serious threat to the cats defence. The Wexford boss has introduced a number of your camog’s during this year’s campaign, including dual star Sarah Harding-Kenny. The Shelmalier club-woman has cemented her place in the defence and is proving to be a great marker and a player that picks up a lot of breaking ball.
The Sinnotts, both Maeve and Orla have announced themselves on the camogie inter-county scene with some fine performances in defence and midfield respectively.
Tattan will be aware that his side will need to rack-up a decent total to seriously trouble the Nore siders. To that end Wexford will look to Parrock, Joanne Dillon and Chloe Foxe to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
Kilkenny will know what lies ahead at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. The tactics will have been drawn up to deal with the physical challenge that tomorrow’s opponents will bring.
To secure a place in the last four, Kilkenny will look to the ‘usual suspects’ to shoot them to victory. Denise Gaule, Katie Nolan and Aoife Doyle will look to show their clash and quality against the yellowbellies defence and will certainly be hopeful of raising a green flag or two.
The midfield will try to provide a platform for the forwards to shine, but more energy and tempo will be required to win the engine room battle.
In defence, Claire Phelan will look to anchor the full-back line, where she should be ably assisted by Michelle Teehan and Davina Tobin. They will need their wits about them in dealing with a lively Wexford attack spear-headed most likely by Katrina Parrock.
Thomastown’s Meighan Farrell will captain the side from the number 6 berth and look to drive the team on and dominate possession.
As defending champions, there is a different kind of pressure attached. You are there to be shot at. Opposition this year have Kilkenny in their sights, and the team will have to respond in the manner of champions. Training since the Galway defeat has been ramped up. All players know that the person in form will get the nod and take the jersey, and that is clearly a motivating factor in each training session.
As shown in the win against Westmeath, manager Brian Dowling is not one to shy away from making changes, if things are not going well. In that group game, four of the five subs were used by the 37th minute.
At Launch of the 2021 Camogie Association Knockout Stages of the All-Ireland Camogie Championships with Charity Partner ISPCC Childline, Claire Phelan said that the pressure of being both League and All-Ireland winners is not weighing heavily on the squad. “Look, it’s a position of strength that we are coming from, whereas in the past we were probably coming into these games from a different angle.”
Brian Dowling will not allow his panel to rest on their laurels, he demands more and this team wants more. Expect the cats to purr tomorrow.
>> SHERRY SAYS………..
Ok, it’s not the most direct route to Croke Park, but games are better than training – aren’t they?
While Cork and Galway use the break in action to rest up and treat any niggles, our ladies hit the road again with a trip to the banks of the Lee. lying in wait are neighbours Wexford.
It will be a competitive physical battle as Kevin Tattan’s team have somewhat of a ‘free-shot’ at the champions. The yellowbeliies are now in bonus territory.
The defeat to Galway will have hurt the team. Dowling will be hoping his team gets another crack at the westerners before the season concludes.
This bunch of players has navigated through some difficult situations both last year and this season.
They know they have the ability. Desire and hunger will be the ingredients required to make the last four.
The hunt to reclaim the O’Duffy takes us to Cork. Let’s quiten the ‘noisy neighbours’.
Empty the tank girls.