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FEATURE: Maths whizz Quirke hoping to help Tipp find the final formula

Sat 04th Mar

Daragh Ó Conchúir

County, Latest

By Daragh Ó Conchúir
When you think of four twenty-somethings living together, images of party central are conjured up fairly quickly.

That wasn’t the case as Clodagh Quirke shared domesticity with her Clonoulty-Rossmore and Tipp colleagues and close friends, Sarah Fryday and Cáit Devane, along with an assortment of like-minded, committed camogie compadres taking up residence at various times.

The craic was 90, but the revelry was more organic than artificial, for the majority of the year at least, when foam rollers, bands and ice packs were de rigueur.

“There was four of us from Clonoulty at one stage,” details a chuckling Quirke. “But there were a few different people in with the three of us. Miriam Campion was there for a while and Andrea Loughnane from Thurles. So at one stage, we were all playing with Tipp. Loads of training was all we were doing.”

Devane and Fryday were teaching in Presentation Secondary School in Thurles. A maths whizz, Quirke had gone another route but was drawn, professionally and in terms of lifestyle, to what her buddies did.

Now 28, she is in her final year, currently doing teaching practice in the Pres, where she went to school along with Fryday and Devane. Maths and economics are her subjects.

“I did a maths degree in college and I worked away in finance for a while before deciding to go back and change. I wasn’t really getting a buzz from it. Living with Sarah and Cáit, they were working away in school and you could see them being off all summer and that added to the attraction, but I was thinking about it anyway.

“Also with teaching, you’re not too late into the evening and it works well in training. But I’m looking forward to it and like it. I’m glad I did it.”

But the Three Musketeers and whoever acted as their D’Artagnan in any given period, have been split up.

“Sarah went to Abu Dhabi and when I went back doing the teaching in college and not working any more, I had to move back home for a while, back to mammy and daddy,” offers Quirke, laughing.

She was named joint-captain of the Tipp squad with Karen Kennedy by new manager Denis Kelly at the beginning of the year and it’s a role she’s comfortable with having had the armband before.

After suffering a torn cruciate in 2021 that left her cheerleading as the Premier pushed subsequent champions Galway to the wire in the All-Ireland semi-final, she feels in peak condition now, although she did return to the team in last year’s championship, having enjoyed a straightforward rehab under the watchful eye of Paddy O’Brien.

“It’s very hard coming back during the season. It doesn’t really matter how much work you put in on your own, it doesn’t replicate the work that you do when they’ve all been training together at championship pace. So it’s nice to have had a full pre-season and a good, competitive long club season under the belt too this year.

“Last year, I think it was our third championship game against Wexford I came back and then Cork I played a full game. The pace of it is so high at that stage of the year.”

The cruciate curse has reached epidemic proportions in camogie and in women’s team sports generally. Devane and Fryday (twice) both went through it, for example.

In Cork, Ashling Thompson, Katie O’Mahony and Olivia McAllen are currently out with it. Galway have Ciara Donohue, Orlaith McGrath and Rebecca Hennelly sidelined. For McGrath it’s a second time, for Hennelly a third.

Kilkenny won last year’s All-Ireland without the Doyle sisters. Kellyann was another to go down a third time with the cruciate, Aoife being felled not long after.

And on and on it goes. Studies are being carried out and there is information linking the issue with physiology (e.g. different pelvic width), the smaller size of women’s ACLs, core strength and possibly even menstrual cycles.

“In our own club at Clonoulty, we’ve had an awful bad run of it. I’ve heard more strength and conditioning coaches talking about it but at the minute, it’s still being learned about.

“But there is an emphasis on knowing yourself at this level especially, if you’re not feeling 100 per cent, you need to say that. There’s tracking now on how people are feeling day to day, which I think is a big thing, because it is fairly evident that it’s an issue among women. So it is something that needs to be factored into the playing and the training.

“It is coming from the older girls to the younger girls now, to let management know if it’s the case, if you aren’t feeling 100 per cent and that’s accepted now. I’m sure there’s loads more research will be done and will start to come into play.”

Quirke was introduced to the squad in 2011 by current Limerick boss John Lillis, as was Fryday, when they were both minors. Much has changed since but the real progress came under Bill Mullaney, who stood down after five years, with Kelly, his former trainer taking up the mantle.

“It’s a long time ago now since I first played. You think you’re still young and then you look around and you’re not really.

“When I think back to the start of Bill’s five years, we were at the stage where if we won a group game in the championship, we would have been happy. Getting to the quarter-final was a big thing. He did a brilliant job.

“Last year, it was one blow after another. We started well in the League and then there were girls gone away, and we’d three did cruciates, so it was like one thing after another going against us.”

The Very League Division 1A campaign has begun splendidly under the new regime. Beating Galway by three goals was excellent and they followed up with a strong second-half showing to account for Dublin. Galway beat Kilkenny the same weekend, to add value to that first result.

“Some of the younger girls have been going really well, coming in from schools even. And at the start of the year, I was wondering if the likes of Moll (Mary Ryan), Cáit and Ereena (Fryday) would come in but they have.

“It’s early days, and I wouldn’t be getting carried away or anything, but it’s nice to start off on a good note and touch wood, we’ve no major injuries. We’ll take it one step at the time but it would be nice to get to a League final and put ourselves in the position to actually try and win something.

“There’s a big emphasis on workrate. That was evident against Galway. If there was a ball breaking, there was two or three around it the whole time. There was good energy. And it starts in the forwards, on turning over ball and then with the ball in support play too.”

Free-scoring Cork travel to The Ragg this afternoon (3.30pm throw-in and streamed live on the Camogie Association YouTube channel) for a top-of-the-table clash Quirke and her teammates are relishing.

“Cork will be a big test for us now. It’s great to be going in to play them with two wins, but we’d be under no illusions that it’s going to be a really tough match. They seem to be in great form at the minute and seem to be after blitzing the two teams they played (Dublin and Clare).

“Division 1A is really competitive now which is brilliant. There’s nothing better now than getting really good games early in the year. And it will give us another indication of what we have to work on and where we’re at and seeing players.”

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