Derry camogie captain Grainne McGoldrick is hoping that the boost of retaining their Ulster Senior title will help propel them to a first ever All-Ireland senior championship win this weekend, writes Ciaran Woods of Gaelic Life. It’s a first outing at the highest level for the Oak Leaf county when they take on Clare in Ashbourne on Saturday afternoon, and marks a huge step up for the Derry outfit which last year claimed the All-Ireland Intermediate crown to elevate them to the top tier for the first time.With Galway and Wexford still to come, many people would say that Clare are Derry’s best chance of picking up a win. However, McGoldrick insists that a quick look at Clare’s recent form should dispel such notions.
“We haven’t played Clare at all since we beat them in the 2007 Junior final. So much has changed for us since then, only about six of our girls are still on our panel from that game, and I’m sure it’s the same for them. We know they are a very good team, a team who took Cork to extra-time in the Irish Daily Star National League semi-final, so we know how tough it’s going to be. They’re very strong.”
Derry retained their provincial crown with a commanding win over Down, a power-packed performance from the Oak Leaf side ensuring victory. It was the first time in ten years that the Ulster final was hosted in Derry, and although the weather conditions were against them at Owenbeg, the Derry captain was delighted with the outcome.
“The conditions made it incredibly difficult for both teams. We haven’t had that many games since the National League finished up, apart from a few friendlies with Dublin, so it was good to get a competitive game under our belts and to get that run-out before the All-Ireland gets underway.”
Half-way venue rules mean it’s another trip to Ashbourne for Derry on Saturday, a pitch which has become a home from home for Ulster sides. With Antrim’s match against Cork being played immediately afterwards, the Derry captain is urging supporters to make the effort for the double-header and help propel the Ulster representatives to glory.
“Of course you would hope that the two sets of supporters will weigh in behind each other. At the end of the day, Ashbourne isn’t that far away, so hopefully a good crowd will travel down and help create a bit of an Ulster atmosphere down there, which hopefully will help push ourselves and Antrim on.”
It’s going to be an historic day for Derry camogie, regardless of the outcome, but naturally McGoldrick is hoping that they can achieve a fitting result for their Senior Championship debut. The hard work has been done behind the scenes, and now it’s time to deliver on the pitch.
“This is what we’ve been focusing on since we started training back before Christmas. It’s the first time Derry have ever fielded a team at Senior Championship level. Our big hope is that we can do ourselves justice on Saturday, put in a good performance, and if we can put in the level of performance which we know we are capable of, then hopefully a good result will follow for us, fingers crossed.”
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Pictured: Katie McAnenly at the launch of the Liberty Insurance Camogie Championship