BY NIALL SHERRY – SPORTS EDITOR
Following a successful Littlewoods League campaign, Brian Dowling will be hoping his players can take recent form into their championship opener against Clare.
The Cats crowning as League champions has certainly whet the appetite as our ladies seek to secure back-to-back All-Ireland titles. Of course, it won’t be easy, but early indications are that the team have the necessary hunger and desire to have a successful championship.
First up the ladies is the challenge of Clare. Ger O’Connell’s team recently secured Division One League status following a much-needed play-off win against Dublin. O’Connell has since see his team lose in Munster to Limerick, but will be hoping that an early meeting with the current O’Duffy cup holders will bring out the best in his troops.
It will be interesting to see the starting XV that the O’Loughlin Gaels clubman selects, at the time of writing, Dowling is keeping his cards close to his chest. Undoubtably Kilkenny possess enough strength in depth to secure an opening day win against the Banner, but you can guarantee that the manager will have been preparing his charges with the same attention to detail as he would for the likes of Galway.
The end of the league campaign saw the return to action of 4-time all-star Katie Power, and I would imagine Dowling will be keen to get more minutes into Power ahead of more testing encounters.
Another Katie that will be hoping to continue excellent form is St Martin’s Katie Nolan. Recently she picked up the PwC GPA Women’s Player of the Month Award in camogie for the month of June.
Nolan hit three crucial scores on the league final win over Galway at headquarters last month and is acutely aware that very little separates the teams in the ladies code.
“Playing senior inter-county camogie, there’s nothing in it between a lot of the teams,” she says.
“We’ve been lucky enough to get to the [All-Ireland] final the last two times, but a small thing and it could have been another team. One thing when we do play Galway is that we’re two hurling sides. It makes for a good match.
“Preparation is going well. Training is intense. We’re taking lumps out of each other, the way it should be. It’s enjoyable as well. That’s an important part of it.”
Along with Nolan, Kilkenny have plenty of scoring threat all over the field, but in Aoife Doyle and Denise Gaule, they possess high caliber scorers. Expect the cats to really test Clare keeper, Doireann Murphy.
Clare will look to Sixmilebridge attacking star Chloe Morey to carry the fight to the Kilkenny defence. Morey top scored for the Banner with a tally of 1-9 in their league play-off victory over the Dub’s. Morey will look to Becky Foley and Eimear Kelly for scoring support.
With further games against Westmeath and nemesis Galway to come, Dowling will demand a winning start in Kilkenny’s bid to retain the O’Duffy Cup.
> SHERRY SAYS…
I hope our camogs don’t put management and supporters through the mill like their hurling counterparts did recently!
While many eyes will be on the much-anticipated re-match against Galway in the final group game, Brian Dowling will have his team focused on the task in hand – and that’s the Banner.
In an ideal world, the selected XV will perform well from the start and give the manager the opportunity to get some much-needed championship minutes into the wider squad, including Katie Power. Fans across the county will be hoping that Power can have an injury-free campaign, and I’m sure Katie wouldn’t mind that either!
The resilience this squad has shown over the last 18 months has been incredible.
Hopefully they won’t need to dig too deep into their reserves tomorrow. Beat the Banner, then switch the focus to Westmeath, we’ll deal the tribeswomen when the time comes.
VERDICT: Cats to secure victory.
** Don’t forget our U16 Camogs have a rather important game this weekend too. Seamus Kelly’s team take on Cork in the All-Ireland Final, following an impressive 4-17 to 4-11 win against neigbours Tipperary. Best of Luck to Seamus and the team! Bring it home!!!!