BY NIALL SHERRY, SPORTS EDITOR
Victory a must in game two
Glen Dimplex Senior All-Ireland Camogie Championship
Saturday, Parnell Park, 2pm
Dublin vs Kilkenny
Brian Dowling’s side make the trip to the Capital tomorrow, knowing that they will need to improve on their opening group game draw with Wexford last time out, if they are to secure maximum points and get their O’Duffy Cup challenge back on track.
Standing in their way tomorrow are the Dublin camogs who had a disappointing afternoon at The Ragg against Tipperary in their first outing in this year’s championship, going down by some 16-points to Denis Kelly’s Premier County side. Both sides know that tomorrow’s game is vital as they seek to gain much much-needed momentum in this year’s campaign.
The blue-clad ladies were well under par, especially in the first half against Tipp and manager Gerry McQuaid alluded to this when speaking to the assembled media afterwards. “We just didn’t get going today, for some reason, we were flat and just didn’t reach the standard that we can.” The Monaghan native will be demanding much more of his team as they take on Kilkenny tomorrow.
The Dubs had a poor Very League campaign, losing four games and drawing one as they saw themselves relegated from Division 1. They managed to pick up the pieces following the early season slump and got themselves going in the Leinster championship. First up for the Dubs was the visit of Wexford to the Trinity Sports Grounds Dublin. McQuaid’s side stood up to the physical challenge that the Slaneysiders provided and emerged two points to the good.
The catalyst for their victory was their tailswoman, Aisling Maher who top scored with 1-8, a tally which included a vital second half penalty. St Vincents clubwoman Maher will be one of the main threats to the Noresiders defence tomorrow, and manager Dowling will need to get his match-up right to try and minimise Maher’s influence on proceedings at Parnell Park. If the Stripeywomen can keep the free count to a minimum, they will leave themselves in a good position to leave the Captial with maximum points tomorrow afternoon.
In the provincial semi-final fixture with Meath, Dublin showed the gulf in clash and dispatched the Royals with ease, cantering to a 16-point win in a game hosted by the Trim GAA club. The name Aisling featured heavily in the facile win, with Maher, O’Neil and Gannon contributing 16 points to the winner’s tally of 1-23. These three ladies will no doubt look to provide the impetus to really trouble Brian Dowling’s team.
Kilkenny took on tomorrow’s opponents in this season’s Leinster final just over a month ago in UPMC Nowlan Park, and it was a much more difficult task than many had expected. Indeed, it took a late goal from star forward Julieann Malone to put a little bit of daylight between the sides, as the home side ran out 4-point winners.
Again, the Aisling trio contributed all but two of the Dub’s 13-point tally, another indication of the influence that this trinity of players provides to their county.
Along with the Aisling’s, Gerry McQuaid will hope for big games from the likes of Grace O’Shea, Elyse Jamieson Murphy and St Vincents Muirinn Kelleher. Castleknock’s Eabha Mooney is likely to get the nod in the netminder position ahead of Lucan Sarsfields Mairi Moynihan and will hope that the Dublin rearguard gives her adequate protection from the potentially potent Kilkenny attacking unit.
For our senior ladies, tomorrow represents the opportunity to banish the wrongs of that opening day draw with Wexford. Dowling’s ladies were cruising at home to Colin Sunderland’s side, 10 points to the good at one stage but somehow managed to allow their opponents back into the game, conceding 3 majors across the course of the game.
Dowling’s disappointment was evident when he addressed the press after the frustrating draw.
“We’re very disappointed,” the Kilkenny bainisteoir admitted. “I think we went ten up at one stage and looked like we were in complete control. We totally took our foot off the gas and in fairness to Wexford they kept plugging away. We knew coming in they were a very good team and the girls were focused on it but I don’t know what happened there in the last 15 minutes, very disappointing on our part.”
The O’Loughlin’s clubman will be keen to see his team put in a more solid performance defensively and knows that Dublin have the players to trouble the Nowlan Park scoreboard if given the chance. Kilkenny will need the likes of Michelle Teehan, Claire Phelan and Grace Walsh to step up and lead by example and give their defence the platform to nullify the blue threat tomorrow.
It looks like Steffi Fitzgerald and Kellyann Doyle are beginning to forge a decent partnership in the engine room of midfield and I for one, would like to see this duo given another chance to build on recent displays when they run out at Parnell Park on Saturday.
St Martins Katie Nolan top scored for the Noresiders last day out with 6 points and the sharpshooter shared 8 successful placed balls with Windgap’s Denise Gaule. Clearly, the absence of Player of the Year Miriam Walsh is hurting this Kilkenny side. The Tullaroan players leadership, battling qualities and undoubted skill are sorely missed as the Stripeywomen battle to retain the O’Duffy Cup. In her absence, the likes of Aoife Prendergast, Jenny Clifford and Aoife Doyle have all tried to negate the All-Star’s unavailability.
Seasoned campaigners Densie Gaule, Katie’s Nolan and Power will need to step up and guide the black and amber attack through what appears to be challenging times for the reigning All-Ireland holders and the Kilkenny faithful will be hoping that their season kicks into gear with victory in the Capital tomorrow afternoon.
>> SHERRY SAYS…
We should be running out onto the Parnell Park pitch tomorrow with a win under our belts already. Surrendering a huge lead to Wexford at home was not what we have come to expect from our senior ladies over the past 2-3 seasons. However, this season has been a little stop / start and inconsistent for Dowling’s panel. The boss is realistic enough to know that improvements are needed and soon.
Looking at our rivals, Cork, and Galway are certainly ahead of Kilkenny at present. The likes of Tipperary, Wexford and Waterford are catching up with the so-called bigger guns. Again, that’s why the Dublin match is crucial for our ladies to set down a marker for the other pretenders to our crown.
I expect a reaction from the panel tomorrow. Win in the Captial and we can then plan for an evening tussle with The Premier County Saturday week in UPMC Nowlan Park. Home comforts, only if maximum points are gained against the Dubs.
• Congratulations to our Intermediate camogs who topped group 1 with three straight victories. Seamus Kelly’s charges had 8 points to spare over Galway to build on wins against Cork and Dublin. They can now look forward to the knockout stages of this year’s championship.