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Murray hails “huge asset” Mallon

Mon 24th Jun

Daragh Ó Conchúir

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Galway manager Cathal Murray has labelled new recruit, Niamh Mallon (pictured above) “a huge asset,” after the former Down star earned player of the match honours in Galway’s 3-19 to 0-7 victory over Clare at Kenny Park, Athenry on Saturday.

The result confirmed the westerners’ qualification to the knockout stages of the Glen Dimplex All-Ireland senior camogie championship.

Mallon transferred to All-Ireland club champions Sarsfields mid-way through the Very League, having found it untenable to continue the commute she had been making to play for Down and Portaferry over the years since work took her Corribside.

Alongside her ground-breaking efforts as a research scientist in the area of bio-analytics for elite female sports performance at Orreco, the 29-year-old’s added qualifications in the sport, exercise and nutrition sector earned her a role as part of the backroom team with Galway’s senior footballers.

Although yet to win an All-Star, Mallon has long been recognised as one of the best in the business over the past decade and her impact has come as no surprise.

Lynda Daly clears under pressure from Niamh Kilkenny (INPHO/James Lawlor)

The supreme finisher scored 1-4 from play in the first half against Clare and added another goal early in the second to be named player of the match. She was not on hand to accept the award, however, having left for Pearse Stadium after her substitution to link up with Pádraic Joyce’s men in maroon prior to their championship victory over Monaghan.

Team captain, Róisín Black collected the award on Mallon’s behalf and hailed the prodigious talent’s influence.

“Niamh has brought a great amount of experience to the team and has added greatly to the team as well,” said Black. “She brings us on, she drives us on. She’s raised the standard for us as well.”

Murray concurred, while also praising the improving fluidity of the attack in general.

Galway manager, Cathal Murray

“She’s a huge asset,” said Murray of Mallon. “The two goals were really good to get. Niamh Kilkenny did brilliant to set up the one in the first half and Ailish (O’Reilly) did brilliant to set up one in the second.

“She’s a brilliant, brilliant player. We’re obviously really lucky to have her. She’s in Galway for six years at this stage, even longer. With the job with Galway footballers and her job with Orreco, it’s not possible for her to get back to Down. It’s a huge loss to them but a huge asset to us. She’s a really great player.

“I thought the forwards as a unit were good, they used the ball well in the first half. We got 15 shots off in the first half and scored with 13 of them so that’s really good. It’s building but we’ve a massive challenge coming up and we’ll know how good we are playing Cork next week in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.”

Progress to the semi-finals as Group 2 winners is the prize on offer in that tie. A similarly juicy clash with a similar reward available will take place in Group 1, as Kilkenny, who also cemented their knockout berth, will battle League champions, Tipperary.

A first minute goal by Julianne Malone and two in the last quarter by Aoife Prendergast gave the Cats a comfortable triumph too over Derry, by 4-17 to 0-7.

Grace O’Brien scored 4-1 as the Premiers, like Cork, maintained their 100% record by blitzing relegation-threatened Limerick by 7-18 to 0-6 on the day Tipp club, Boherlan Dualla won the Division 1 Féile title in Wexford.

As for the Rebels, they produced the performance of the day in dismantling Dublin by 4-22 to 0-5, Amy O’Connor and Katrina Mackey combining for 3-12 between them.

With Méabh Cahalane picking up a late injury, Laura Hayes took on the captaincy. While pleased with the performance, and the fact she was part of a defensive effort that prevented Dublin from registering any score from play, Hayes quickly turned her attention to next weekend back at SuperValu Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Interestingly, the St Catherine’s athlete signposted a different mental approach by Ger Manley’s squad as a result of ending a lengthy barren spell against Galway by defeating them in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final.

“We’ll take that any day of the week,” said Hayes of the rearguard dominance. “It’s something we pride ourselves on. We want to set the standard at the back and the forwards would feed off that, so that stat we’re delighted with and long may it last.

“We’re just trying to build on our own performance, week-on-week. I know it’s a cliché but we’re just really focusing on ourselves. We want to get the best of ourselves so when Galway come to town, we will be focusing on mainly our own performance but at the end of the day, we want to top the group, we want to get to the semi-final so we’ll be looking for a huge performance.

“Last year was about getting the monkey off the back, getting that win over Galway but I don’t’ think we can go in with that same attitude this year. At the end of the day, we were the ones who won the All-Ireland. We want to be stamping our authority on them down here in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. We don’t ever like losing in Cork and we want to make sure that won’t happen next week.

“It’s a huge honour to be captain of the Cork senior camogie team. It’s unfortunate poor Méabh got injured. The quicker she gets back and takes over the role, I’ll be delighted to lead in behind her but it’s an honour.”

Pride Round highlighted diversity and inclusivity

Two knockout positions remain up for grabs with Waterford moving ahead of Derry in Group 1 after a 3-18 to 1-8 defeat of Antrim in which Beth Carton’s 11 points and Mairéad O’Brien’s continuing goal run – the Modeligo forward raised a green flag for her fourth consecutive championship outing with her sixth major – were the highlights for last year’s runners-up.

Jerry Wallace’s side play the Oak Leafers next weekend to determine the destination of the third qualifying spot.

Dublin remain in pole position in Group 2, despite their forgettable performance by the Lee but play Down next weekend, with the Mourne women facing the prospect of relegation as basement dwellers. Limerick or Antrim could make the drop from Group 1 and will play one another in the final game in a bid to avoid that fate.

Shelley Kehoe scored 4-3 as Wexford made light work of Down, 7-12 to 0-7 and remain in position to capitalise on any slip-up by the Dubs, if they can account for Clare.

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