BY NIALL SHERRY, SPORTS EDITOR
Bid to retain crown starts at home
Glen Dimplex Senior All-Ireland Camogie Championship
Kilkenny vs Wexford
UPMC Nowlan Park, Saturday 6pm
The reigning All-Ireland champions begin the defence of their O’Duffy Cup crown tomorrow evening when the roll out the welcome mat for the visit of Wexford at UPMC Nowlan Park (6pm throw-in). Retaining the title is never easy and given the fact that some key members of last year’s winning panel are not available, Brian Dowling’s charges will know the challenge that the remainder of this season will bring.
The Noresiders have been drawn in in Group 2 of this year’s championship which will see them face-off against Dublin, Tipperary and tomorrow’s opponents Wexford. The Dublin game will see the stripeywomen head to the Captial, most likely Parnell Park on June 24th before finishing the group stages at home to the Premier County on July 1st.
Aside from the travelling Mary O’Connell, Dowling is without the services of Camogie player of the Year Miriam Walsh who is in rehab mode following her recent surgery. The Tullaroan player is in good spirits and determined to come back stronger when she returns. Despite the injury Miriam has been attending the training sessions and helping to drive-on her team mates as they seek back-to-back titles, something the Noresiders haven’t managed since the early 90’s.
The good news for the manager has been the return to action of the Doyle sisters, Kellyann and Aoife following a long spell on the sideline through injury.
The O’Loughlin’s clubman will no doubt look to his trusty lieutenants, Katie Nolan, Claire Phelan, Grace Walsh and multiple All-Star Denise Gaule to provide the necessary drive and leadership to push Kilkenny to at the very least, the latter stages of the championship.
The Fitzgerald sisters will bring bite and energy to the team, while Niamh Deely, Laura Murphy and Michelle Teehan have all been ticking along nicely. Throw in the experienced Katie Power and Julieann Malone and the black and amber ladies have quality all over the park.
This season sees the team captained by Sinead O’Keefe. Following her club’s Senior championship win, the Thomastown woman has been given the honour of captaining her county. This is the 21-year-old UL student’s second year with senior squad, having been promoted from the intermediate ranks following the 2021 final.
O’Keefe will be hoping to follow in footsteps of Dicksboro’s Aoife Prendergast and lift O’Duffy Cup number 16 later this summer.
Colin Sunderland’s Wexford side will arrive in the Marble City as huge underdogs for their clash with Kilkenny, but the Slaneysiders will hope to give it a good lash in UPMC Nowlan Park. Despite being comprehensively beaten by The Deise in the 1B league final earlier this year, Wexford put in a really encouraging performance in Leinster when going down narrowly to the eventual beaten finalists Dublin.
Captained by the talented Anais Curran tomorrow’s visitors possess some players that have the ability to cause Kilkenny problems. Along with Curran, There’s St Martin’s trio Linda Bolger, Chloe Foxe and Ciara O’Connor, the lively Kate Kirwan and the recently returned defensive lynchpin, Ciara Storey.
Brian Dowling will have primed his charges for the challenge that lies ahead tomorrow and will want to see his side lay down an early championship marker by securing a home victory and get the group stage off to a winning start.