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Howard banks on Tipp’s “will to work” in bid to end 20-year title drought against three-in-a-row chasing Galway

Mon 01st Apr

Daragh Ó Conchúir

County, Latest

By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Róisín Howard says that Tipperary’s camogie squad will be focusing only on the controllables as they prepare for the Very National League Division 1A final against three-in-row chasing Galway at Croke Park on April 14.

For Denis Kelly’s panel of players, that is about knuckling down in the trenches from first minute to last.

This will be Tipp’s first appearance in a national final of any kind since losing the 2009 League decider to Wexford, while they will be attempting to bridge a 20-year gap since their last elite success, in a year that saw them securing a League and Championship double in 2004.

The Premiers were winning a fifth All-Ireland in six seasons that September but have endured fallow times since, albeit the improvements have been evident in recent years.

They cemented their progress with a 4-19 to 0-7 victory over relegated Clare at Cusack Park. While that result was expected, they had to make sure they treated the Clare challenge with respect, particularly having endured so many heartbreaking defeats when on the brink of a major breakthrough in recent years,  and the scoreline was evidence of their professionalism.

“Through the years we’ve come out on the wrong side of things by the smallest of margins so we didn’t change anything going into the game,” Howard explained.

“We kept the same mindset and were very focussed going in so we got the job done and that was the main thing.

“There’s only two national titles in a year and when you’re in a position to go for those titles or to get to the finals, you absolutely want to do it. We were in that position so we definitely wanted to when the opportunity was there.”

They did it the hard way, turning their fortunes around following a stuttering defeat to Waterford. The only three counties to win national senior titles since Wexford completed their All-Ireland three-in-a-row in 2012 were next up but Tipp overcame the odds to beat them all.

“It was a disappointing start against Waterford and it wasn’t likely that we would make a final when you’re told you’ve Cork, Galway, Kilkenny in the next three games,” Howard admits with a chuckle.

“But on the following Tuesday, when we went training, the attitude and the application of all the players was just really good. We just didn’t lie down.

“Going into the second game against Galway, we were giving ourselves every opportunity to compete in that game by the energy and the attitude that was brought to training after the Waterford loss.”

Tipperary have appeared in nine League finals but only won two. They will face a stern examination from champions Galway, who they defeated by three points at The Ragg in the group stages, if they are to improve that strike rate

“We’ve come across Galway a good few times in the last few years playing League and Championship. They’ve great players and classy players all over the field. In the backs they’ve Áine Keane, around midfield you’ve Aoife Donohue, and the McGraths and Carrie Dolan up front. They’re good players and they bring great energy and workrate.

“But we’ve good belief in what we have inside in our own dressing room too. On the day we’ll just look for a huge will to work. Games take a life of their own as well so we’ll control what we can control going into the game and on the day itself and see where it takes us.”

Carrie Dolan was unerring with her shooting, providing ten points as Galway defeated Cork by 0-14 to 0-9 at Duggan Park in what was essentially a straight shootout for the other final berth.

It is the westerners’ fifth consecutive appearance in the final and they are looking to join elite company by bagging a third crown on the trot as well as a fourth in five renewals.

“It’s a similar situation to last year, we got beaten by Tipp but this team has great grit and great determination and we’re back in the same position as last year and we’ll be going to try win another League final,” said Dolan after being named Very Player of the Match.

“Tipp are a great team but we’ll be looking to do a bit better than we did the last time we played them.”

Niamh Kilkenny, the former player of the year who sat out last season after giving birth to her son, was introduced to a large cheer for her first Gaway appearance since the 2022 All-Ireland semi-final, and it certainly was an experienced and effective midfield unit the Maroons finished with, as Kilkenny was joining the excellent Ann Marie Starr.

It was the character of the players that stood out for manager, Cathal Murray, however.

“They’ve shown that in the last three games, against Kilkenny, in the second half against Waterford – we were under pressure against the gale – and again today, that game had to be dug out. We really had to work hard for it.

“Our scoring efficiency was 80% in the second half. We really took our chances. We were probably in situations in the first half and didn’t take the chance to shoot but I’m really happy with them. It was a real tough game and that’s always going to be the way against Cork. They’re brilliant All-Ireland champions. It’s good to get the win and it’s nice to be in a League final.

“We know we’re up against it with Tipperary. We went down to The Ragg last year and got bet by nine points and we went down again this year and got bet by three and were really lucky to be only bet by three because they got Róisín Howard sent off in the second half.

“So, we’re up against it. Tipperary are the form team and it’s going to be a massive battle in two weeks’ time but it’s lovely to be there and lovely to be going to Croke Park.

In the third Division 1A tie, Kilkenny won the local derby with Waterford at the SETU Arena by 2-10 to 0-13.

The Very League Division 1B final will be contested by Wexford and Dublin on April 13 as a result of the other weekend action, while the Division 2A decider, which will form a double-header with the Division 1A final the following day, will involve Westmeath and Derry.

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