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THE oldest  camogie competition, the Ashbourne gets underway this wekend in Jordanstown, Belfast with the holders UCD taking on NUIG while last year’s Shield winners Garda take on WIT on Saturday in the semi-finals with the finals taking place on Sunday.
This is the first time that the holders UCD will go in as champions since their three in a row from 1986 to 1988 inclusive. UCD Manager David Kennedy is excited about this prospect “” it is a nice feeling, it carries some pressure with it though, it is always difficult to retain an Ashbourne, but we have reached our goal this year again and that was to be here at this stage of the competition””.
There is huge pride in owning an Ashourne medal and so all players who take part over the weekend will be out to win, so the competition will be tough. The Dubs College will have to enter as favourites as they still carry a lot of very experienced players from last season including four All-Stars, the Leacy sisters, Mary and Una, and Mags d’Arcy of Wexford with Cork’s Rena Buckley making up a strong foursome. Playing in her first Ashbourne is new Dubs kid on the block the exciting Alison Maguire who had a brilliant quarter final game against UL, add to her Kilkenny player Julie Ann Woodcock, Tipperary’s Mairead Lutterell and Galway player Terese Manton and one can see the girls from the capital will be a force to reckon with.
However, NUIG Manager Adrian Hassett is happy that his side will enter this match as underdogs and is delighted that the Galway University have reached this stage of the competition “” Galway have not reached the semi-finals in recent years and so it is a great boost for us to be here and taking on the champions””. Their semi-final opponents UCD may have their stars but in fairness Galway also have plenty of household names, such as Galway players Susan Earner, Colette Gill, Caitriona Cormican together with Derry player Treasa Mc Peake and Clare’s Laura Linnane to name but a few.
While this semi-final promises to be close it would be a major shock if the Dublin college went out at semi-final stage. 

The second semi-final between Garda College and WIT promises much and for one family there will be mixed feellings after the game as the Shortt sisters of Tipperary will play on opposite sides. Playing for Garda is Michelle while her sister Therse will wear the Waterford jersey!. The fact that Garda are competing in the Ashbourne cup this year is the result of a lot of hard work over recent years. Last year was the first time they won the Ashbourne Shield. What may stand to them in Saturday’s semi-final is the fact that they had a very tough quarter final against the host College UUJ with just a point to spare.

The Garda College is vey different to the other colleges taking part as each time a training session is called players like Fiona Connell must make the long trek from Letterkeny to Templemore while according to co mentor Sandra Gillick other players travel from Wicklow, Wexford while her two mentors must travel too – Valerie O’Keeff travels from Cork with their third mentor Ciara Moran coming from Roscomon. Despite, this Sandra Gillick has no complaints, “” this is just fact and the players just get on with it, and so we will not be travelling on Saturday to make up numbers, we are delighted to be in action in the Cup on Saturday and  will give it our best shot””. In action for WIT is Wexford star forward Ursula Jacob who most times finds the back of the net and causes problems for defenders. 

There is talk of a possible WIT victory here but with Garda having done so well in the quarter final one must not rule out a Templemore appearnce in the final on Sunday.
It is hard to believe that UCC are just taking part in the Shield, considering they were so strong some years ago, but as with colleges it always depends on what students enter the college each year. They will take on the host side, UUJ who have one of the game’s most stylish players Fionnuala Carr, daughter of former Down duel player Ross Carr. UCC with Cork players Caitriona Foley, Orla Cotter and Premier County star Jill Horan will start as favourites but any college hosting Ashbourne is always anxious to reach the Final and so UUJ will not go down without a fight.
The scond Shield semi-final will see UL and CIT against each other. UL are managed by Mike Chawke who gave years to the famous Limerick Club Granagh Ballingarry. The Limerick side had one major roblem in the quarter final and that was to score as DÚise star  Aine Lyng got all their scores. CIT may shade this game and if Galway star forward Brenda Hanney can knock enough over the bar they may find themselves in the Ashbourne Shield Final on Sunday.

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