Former Wexford Camogie player, four times All Ireland winner and All Star corner-back, Claire O'Connor writes for Camogie.ie in her first installment of this season's Liberty Insurance Championship Diary. The road to All Ireland glory begins this weekend, but for all of this year's teams, preparations began months ago in the depths of Winter. It's now a case of quelling those pre-game nerves and getting ready for throw-in.
If I were lacing up my Championship boots this weekend, what would my outlook be? Of course, there would be nerves, fitness fear, mistake malady. (If you are one of those players, I feel your pain.) Yet my contrasting, camogie playing self would be brimming with confidence, eager to get the first touch in and get through the first game,relatively pain free, with a win of course.
The anticipation to throw in has been building for the past week and probably at this point in time, you are eager to get going. Teams have trudged through league campaigns, trained on bitterly cold winter nights. Perhaps even made a trip to the ditch, to relieve themselves of the stomach churning nausea that goes with winter training! But fear not ladies, you are over the worst of it and nothing feels greater than the anticipation of an hour long challenge, the smell of fresh cut grass, the strength in your legs and the hunger for the championship.
Preparation for battle has many different aspects-physical, mental, nutritional and planning and strategy. Essentially though, it is only you who can truly prepare yourself for the Championship. If you happen to tick all or most of the above boxes in any one year, then it is bound to be a good year for you personally. Now multiply that by a panel full of players and you've got an All Ireland in the bag! Easier said than done!
One positive aspect of our senior camogie championship is the grouping system and equal opportunity for all teams,irrelevant of provincial championships. The league seems like a distant memory and a new chapter has begun- 'The business end of the Year' and one that every player looks forward to.
Championship is a whole different experience and the stand-out event in your camogie calendar. This weekend serves up a platter of competitive games, where various camps will test one another and themselves. Results will be scrutinised and form will be studied. Cork will be coming off the back of their league win, Kilkenny will be pleased with their recent Leinster victory and while other counties have been under the radar, they’re not to be dismissed lightly. The Road to Croker is upon us, let the games begin.
Follow Claire O'Connor on twitter @clairnichon and her Liberty Insurance Championship Diary every weekend on Camogie.ie